Keelung Miaokou Markets!

January 26, 2010 in Food, Taiwan, Travel by pacejmiller

The crowded Keelung Miaokou Markets

One of Taiwan’s more famous food markets is situated at the northern port of Keelung, about 40 minutes out from Taipei city.  It is known as Keelung “Miaokou”, or the “Temple Space” in Keelung.  What the name is really trying to convey is that the markets are situated right outside the Keelung Temple.

Anyway, we visited Keelung Miaokou on an overcast Sunday morning, expecting there to be quite a few people as (1) for once it wasn’t raining; and (2) it was a Sunday.

We were right.  By 12pm, Keelung Miaokou was jam packed with people.  The so-called food market really only had one long alleyway with food stores packing both sides and portable vendors cramming the middle.  On top of that, apart from the seas of people, you also have motorcycles occasionally threading through, so it was pretty crazy.  Apparently it gets much worse at night.

The markets are rather tourist-friendly, with each store having an English description and store number.  Because there are so many people and the stores are often quite small, expect to have to share tables.  The plastic bowls and metal spoons generally appear to be quite clean and you use disposable chopsticks.

Now, as for the food…well, it depends what you get, I suppose.  With so many places to choose from, a little luck is involved if you’re going for the first time.

(Click on ‘More…’ to see the food pics and read the verdict on the Keelung Miaokou markets!)

The first one we visited was store no. 29, which was supposedly famous for its braised pork rice (Lu Ro Fan).  We had one of those and a pork and fish paste soup (Ro Geng), which were both a little on the oily side, but rather tasty.  It was pretty darn cheap.  Like TWD 60 for the two dishes.

Food from store no. 29 at Keelung Miaokou

Next up, we tried a mini-sausage each (just TWD 5 for one), which was surprisingly succulent and juicy with garlic flavour.

Super cheap mini garlic sausages

By now, I was starting to get a bit full, but the long line at store no. 58, ‘Nutritious Sandwich’ enticed us to get one more thing.  And man, there is nothing nutritious about that sandwich!  Deep fried, filled with meat, tomato, some type of preserved egg and lots and lots of mayo.  However, it was freaking tasty, and only around TWD 50.

Nutritious Sandwich...more like fat city! Nevertheless...can't complain about the taste!

What happened next I have no explanation for.  We saw this vendor selling a flat, pan fried pork bun thingy and decided to get one.  At TWD 10, it was okay, but not as nice as the big, juicy ones I tried in Taipei.

Mini flat pan fried pork buns

Then, its was time to get some dessert.  The most popular one seemed to be this ‘bubble’ ice dessert (TWD 40 each), which is essentially ice blended with different natural flavours, such as lemon, passionfruit, peanut, milk, chocolate, etc.  We went for the peanut one, and it was delicious and refreshing, though too big for even two people!

Peanut ice dessert

Lastly, though we skipped the takoyaki stand I wanted to try, we went and got some mochi dish, covered with peanut powder.  Wasn’t my thing, but my wife liked it.

Taiwanese mochi snack

Our visit to Keelung ended on a real sour note.  Keelung itself already looks kinda sooty and dirty, but we were not prepared for what we witnessed heading through an underground tunnel from the markets.  So there we were, walking and minding our own business, when up ahead, we see a grown man (around 40 or 50) urinating front-on into the stairs.  This person was not homeless or mentally ill or drunk.  And he was not trying to cover up or piss in the corner or anything.  He was squared up, and he was peeing straight onto the stairs that we were about to walk up, speckles of urine flying everywhere.  The craziest thing was that there were a few people who didn’t wait for him to finish.  They simply walked past without batting an eyelid, urine probably splashing right into their clothes as they passed.  I guess it was a regular occurrence around those parts.

The verdict on Keelung Miaokou?  Good, but not really worth a special visit unless you have time. As it is outside Taipei city, you have to catch a train or bus to get there, and it could take anything from 30 minutes to an hour-plus, depending on traffic.  Some of the food is quite good, but it’s not exactly unobtainable elsewhere in the city.  And if you do go, avoid the underground tunnels!

[PS: more information at the Keelung City Government website]