Addictive Old-Time Eating, Beseeching Marriage at the City God Temple Tasting Dadaocheng
After being in the bakery business for nearly 20 years, many people ask me about my favorite Western pastries and breads. For the answer, we must start from Taipei’s old Dadaocheng (大稻埕) community, established well over a century ago, and where I was born. This neighborhood is home to Taipei’s oldest Western restaurant, Bolero (波麗路西餐廳). My favorite breakfast since childhood is the ham sandwiches with thin egg layer made by Shuang Fu (雙福食品), which was opened 71 years ago. Then there’s my best-loved teatime snack, cheesecake, from Jia Fu (加福). These opened up my taste buds to the West, and set me on the course to becoming a master pastry chef.
Feasting on Old-Time Shops’ Insistence on Old Ways
Way back 30-plus years ago, the era of the breakfast-store chain had not yet dawned. I was lucky enough to experience, each day, the freshest-possible toasted bread at Shuang Fu on Minsheng West Road (民生西路), with fresh-made mayonnaise, along with a golden-yellow fried egg and ham to create a sandwich. Over the past 30 years the price has risen from NT$8 to NT$16, but the same group of people makes up the kitchen team, meaning guaranteed quality.
You can see through to the central kitchen. The “elder sisters” I saw in the old days are now white-haired “aunties.” Each day they faithfully follow the old ways, doing everything by hand, and with each bite I get smooth and creamy mayonnaise and fragrant egg in a sandwich free of the greasiness served up at the average breakfast shop. Today, as it has always been, this is my first choice for breakfast. I often lose control, eating three one after another to satisfy my craving.
Walking from Minsheng West Road to Dihua Street (迪化街), you will first pass Yanping North Road (延平北路). Upon reaching this intersection there is the aroma of fresh-baked cheesecakes crafted by the Jia Fu Cheesecake Specialty Store ( 加福奇士蛋糕專門店) .
This enterprise has also long been in operation – over 30 years. In contrast to the standard cheesecake on the market, which is oily and thick-crusted, Jia Fu’s has a comparatively thin crust, and the cake is moist and soft. The crust also has a slight salty-butter fragrance. When eaten fresh from the oven, the cake melts people’s hearts. Eaten after being refrigerated, the cold crust so wonderfully complements the cool cake. The taste is even lighter and more refreshing!
Exploring the Old City’s Heritage Elegance
To visit these two old shops sporting the character fu (福; “good fortune”) in their names, take the Taipei MRT to Shuanglian Station (雙連站). First eat a sandwich, then head to Dihua Street for cheesecake. Along the way is the Taipei Xia Hai City God Temple (台北霞海城隍廟), where some people ask for help in finding their fated love and marriage partner, beseeching “peach blossom fortune” (桃花運), or romantic luck, and yinyuan (姻緣), the “happy fate which brings lovers together.” The temple also serves gratis “peace tea” (平安茶), made with such items sold at neighborhood Chinese-medicine shops as Chinese jujube, Chinese wolfberry, roselle, chrysanthemum, smoked plum, brewed with “happiness candies” (喜糖) added. Spend a little time soaking in the relaxed, happy festive atmosphere, and maybe “test fate” for yourself.
The area by the temple also has Taipei’s largest concentration of wholesale shops for regional specialty goods, Chinese medicines, and candies and biscuits, along with sellers of baking ingredients, where you can shop to your heart’s content. Alternatively, explore the cultural-creative shops and cafes, immersing yourself in the cultural-arts ambience. If you’d like to get some exercise, head to nearby Dadaocheng Wharf (大稻埕碼頭) and enjoy a walk in the riverside park there, watching the sunset. You can also rent a bike and ride the dedicated bike path north to Shezidao (社子島) or south to Wanhua (萬華), along the way enjoying the beauty of the riverside sandbars, green grass, and wild flowers. There are also many roosting white egrets. This is my favorite place to work off some calories after finishing my desserts. It’s free, with beautiful scenery to savor, and you can also bring a snack for a little picnic. True bliss!