For anyone who regularly visits Taiwan, the city of Tainan (台南) can easily be missed with the other major cites of Taipei, Taichung, and Kaohsiung. Yet, that would be a grave mistake if you consider yourself a foodie. A word of warning, driving in Tainan can be atrocious. There are only two major roads going into the city off of Highway 1. Nevertheless, I encourage you to brave the driving conditions or take the train (HSR or TRA). Make your way to the old historic district and you will be pleasantly satiated with Taiwanese small eats (台灣小吃). This time we were only in Tainan for half a day. We didn’t get to do as much eating as we liked – but our stomachs were happy nevertheless.
Let’s start with the noodles!
A great place to have noodles / won ton noodle soup is 福榮小吃店 Ramen / Noodle House. As typical with many great noodle shops in Tainan, this is next to the fabric district full of very small alley ways.
The preceding image is one of the alley ways to get to 福榮小吃店. It’s small, poorly lit, and can barely fit three motor scooters side-by-side together. Yet with scooters buzzing around, lots of noise, and people squeezing past each other – the line up to the shop was long and quite busy.
The reason for the patient waiting was because of the amazing noodle and won ton noodle soups this shop serves. The preceding image are dry won ton noodles while the following image is won ton soup with fish balls.
As typical with many of these shops, the selection is few because the owners specialize in just a few items. That is, it is a foodie paradise with items that are fresh, handmade, and delicious. Even better still, the dry won ton noodles was NT$ 45 – which translates to about USD $1.50! The dish seems small yet is quite filling. I didn’t really want it to be too filling since there are so many other amazing shops nearby.
Alas, some coffee and then I must bid Tainan farewell
Again, an all too short of a visit. There was only enough time to say hi to friends, eat, drink coffee and then we ran off. But what I like about the area is the prevalence of good Italian espressos. If you visit Taiwan enough – you’ll note that there are plenty of coffee shops – and plenty of machines that make espresso-like drinks whether it’s the local 7-11 (which are super popular here in Taiwan) or 85C (local Taiwanese chain that recently expanded to the US). Yet, finding a good espresso can sometimes be a serious chore (especially for a foodie).
And in the fabric district (also known as West Central District next to Hai’an Road Art Street – 海安路藝術街), there are a lot of old brick houses with wonderful small architectural details. Instead of taking them down and replacing them with modern buildings, many of these houses have been converted into coffee shops and/or mini art galleries that serve coffee (i.e., for Seattlelites, this just means coffee shop). Above is the entrance to 正興咖啡館 Zhengxing Café which has amazing ambience and allowed us to hide away albeit briefly from the hustle and bustle of the Tainan streets.
Enjoying the architecture with the coffee
As you can see from the foyer entering into the coffee shop, it’s basically the old front room or living room of a house that has been converted into the barista stand and gift shop.
But once you walk into the main seating area – its amazing how quiet and relaxing the coffee shop is. The old brick houses do a wonderful job keeping out the noise and have a nice dampening effect to so people can talk quietly without disturbing their neighbors. Looking up you can see old architectural features of the house from the bricks themselves to the ceiling beams to the lanterns.
What I particularly liked about this particular coffee shop is that it is also a Bed and Breakfast. The back door points to a small quaint court yard that is the entrance to your B&B. A small little bit of tranquility in the wonderful chaos of Tainan.
Until next time!
There is so much more to this city and this post hardly does it justice. Our visit to Tainan was far too short and we will have to return again – if for no other reason the amazing culinary variety that any foodie can enjoy!