Hualien: Ziqiang Night Market 自强夜市

Website: Hualien Government Website
Address: Hualien County Ji-an Village, intersection between Heping Road and Ziqiang Road (花蓮縣吉安鄉和平路和自強路口)
Enquiry Tel: +886 3 832 2141
Operating Hours: 17:00 – 02:00 (Peak hour from 20:00 to 00:00)
Budget: NT220 – 300 (we spent NT250 for 2 pax)

Quick List of food at 自强夜市
1. Chiang’s Family Coffin Boards (蔣記花蓮式棺材板)(NT$45++ for each sandwich)
2. “Too Wonderful for Words” Fruit Juice Shop (“妙不可言”果汁店)(NT15 – 20 per cup)
3. North Harbour Spring Rolls (北港春捲) 
(NT 35 – 40)
4. Lee’s Cantonese Porridge (李記廣東粥) (NT$60 to NT$100 per bowl)
5. Number One BBQ (第一家烤肉串)(NT10 – 20 per stick)

ImageWelcome to Hualien Ziqiang Night Market!

Zi-qiang Night Market (自强夜市) is a must-visit for foodies in Hualien City. Incidentally, the night market is small and not too crowded, and we preferred it to the overcrowded and noisy night markets in Taipei. Although Zi-qiang Night Market might be physically smaller compared to its gargantuan Taipei cousins, this Night Market has everything you need to satisfy your craving for affordable and delectable food.

1. Chiang’s Family Coffin Boards (蔣家花蓮式棺材板)

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Chiang’s Family Coffin Boards (蔣記花蓮式棺材板)

ImageMenu: If you look hard enough, there are animal caricatures in the Chinese Characters 

If you expected the Taiwanese to be a superstitious lot who shuns at the thought of selling coffins or ‘coffin boards’, then you’re probably wrong. ‘Coffin boards’ or colloquially knowns as 棺材板 makes for a good starter at Ziqiang Night Market. They are made from thick toasted bread, with the centre portion removed to make space for anything ranging from beef, pork or seafood stew. The external crust is left golden crispy, with a flap opening like a mini coffin. Not sure if this was how it got its name, but it sure is an innovative yet appealing innovation.

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ImageFlap opening like a Coffin Board – The Taiwanese in Hualien sure aren’t superstitious. 

Our Seafood Stew Coffin Board (南瓜海鲜)(NT50) was a mix of succulent prawns and fresh squid with tasty pumpkin broth. (Apologies for the picture because I had a hard time turning the flap over while London Girl went to purchase her fruit juice). It was really tasty and we finished it in no time. We would advise you to look for a seat and dine in, since there is free flow milk tea and drinks!

ImagePreparing the Coffin Board – luckily it’s just bread.

ImageHualien Scissors-hands

2. “Too Wonderful for Words” Fruit Juice Shop (“妙不可言”果汁店)

ImageLong queues at the Fruit Juice Stall – Too wonderful for words?

While I was waiting for the Coffin Board, London Girl went over to the nearby  “Too Wonderful for Words” Fruit Juice Shop (“妙不可言”果汁店) to purchase her daily dose of fruity goodness. I can probably understand why this shop is so named. The fruit juice here is simply amazing! The fruits in Hualien are really exceptionally sweet and tasty and to squeeze them into a cup of liquid form is simply heaven for fruit juice lovers. That said, we do caution that local bloggers have commented that sometimes you may end up with a diluted cup, but I’m sure that’s once in a blue moon. 

3. North Harbour Spring Rolls (北港春捲) 

Image黄昏市场老店:北港春捲

We were just making our rounds in the Night Market when we chanced upon this gem: North Harbour Spring rolls (北港春捲).

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The friendly boss: Very affordable at NT45 each.

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Our prize for queuing: Spring Rolls!

ImageClose up of our om nom Spring Rolls

4. Lee’s Cantonese Porridge (李記廣東粥)

Operating Hours: 16:00 – 00:30 hours

ImageLee can cook! 

ImageMenu at Lee’s Cantonese Porridge 

Craving for some light porridge after days of binging at Taiwanese night markets? Look no further, Ziqiang night Market has the perfect option for you – Lee’s Cantonese Porridge. With Abalone Chicken Porridge, Fish Porridge and Century Egg Pork Porridge ranging from NT 60 to 90, Lee is definitely bound to make your stomach happy.

ImageGarden Vegetables Porridge 田园蔬菜粥

Every bowl of porridge at Lee’s comes free with pork floss topping or a choice of other toppings, so it’s really value for money. We opted for the Garden Vegetables  Porridge (NT60) as a detox option, but was pretty full after the spring rolls and coffin boards. Honestly, we felt that the texture of the rice grains was not as smooth as we wanted it to be, but the broth was sufficiently seasoned. That said, if you want a healthier option in Hualien, do consider Lee’s.

ImageCheck out the generous portion of pork floss topping

5. Number One BBQ (第一家烤肉串)

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The massive insane crowd in front of Number One BBQ

If you’re a protein buff or just simply a carnivore, head down to Number One BBQ (第一家烤肉串) right away. Touted as the must-try at Ziqiang Night Market, the queue is incredibly long (waiting time of 30min-1hr or more) and we would advise you to get a queue number, walk around and come back for your food. As you would have guessed, we didn’t try this at all since we couldn’t even finish our porridge (had to take-away) and didn’t quite fancy BBQ food. Well, perhaps next time we’ll be back for some beer and BBQ!

Pls continue on to Hualien Part II: Itinerary (Day 7) (upcoming)

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Fill a Pita (Shenton House)

Official Website: Facebook
Address: 
01-02 Shenton House,  3 Shenton Way, Singapore, Singapore 068805 (Map[Opposite SGX Building]
Opening Hours:  Mon – Fri: 08:00 – 15:00; Sat: 12:00 – 14:00
Tel: 9835 1446 (deliveries available)
Budget: $4-$8 (cash only)
Recommendations: Falafel Sandwich (Menu)

ImageIf there is one word to describe Fill a Pita, it would be ‘sincerity’.

I first read about Fill a Pita on StretchCity, a yoga lifestyle website related to wellness and eco-living in Singapore. However, when I did a further search for more reviews on Fill a Pita, there seems to be sparse commentary on the eatery. As I had been craving for falafels (made of chickpea patties) the whole week, I decided to make a trip down after my weekly yoga retreat.

ImageThe Ordering Area

Launched in April this year, Fill a Pita operates within a coffee-shop located at the ground floor of Shenton House (i.e. opposite SGX Building). At first glance, one might be surprised to find the Middle Eastern eatery along-side traditional caifan (mixed vegetable rice) and tze-char (Chinese stir-fried) stalls in the vicinity; but if you look closer, the reason is simple. Catering to the business lunch crowd, its humble location is ideal to keep its prices affordable and competitive. In fact, if you compare the prices with The Soup Spoon, Pita Pan or other restaurants in Arab Street, Fill a Pita remain very affordable for its quality offered. As I was waiting for my freshly-made falafels, the kopi (coffee) auntie at the neighbouring stall casually asked for my order, and I called for a milo-bing (iced milo). And when my falafel sandwich arrived, a curious auntie at an adjacent table walked over and asked me if that was ‘fish or chicken’. Talk about the perks of situated in a coffeeshop.

ImageStretch City Promo: Complimentary Hummus Dip 

The employees at Fill a Pita have been extremely helpful and warm. When I ordered my Falafel sandwich, the server offered to add extra lettuce and tomatoes, and apologised for the wait since the falafels would be freshly baked. In addition, when I asked if the StretchCity promo was still on (i.e. Like their Facebook page to enjoy a free hummus), the server said he didn’t need to check if I’ve liked their page (although I did in advance), and he would just give me the complimentary hummus dip. Wow. It’s a pity that I didn’t get the opportunity to speak to the owner, Hassan, as StretchCity reports that he remembers your orders once you’ve visited his eatery for twice or more!

ImageFalafel Sandwich with Complimentary hummus Dip , extra falafel and Freshly toasted pita bread: all for the affordable price of $8

ImageClose up at the Falafel Sandwich

Now to the food. The Falafel Sandwich ($8/whole pita; $4.50/half pita) in whole meal pita bread was served with generous amount of fresh lettuce and tomatoes, 3 falafels and copious amounts of tahini sauce. The overwhelming tahini sauce was so much that they leaked out of the wrapper, though I am not complaining at all. An extra falafel and a few slices of freshly toasted pita bread were also served on the house. For the price of $8, I felt that I got a pretty decent meal for my Saturday post-yoga lunch. The whole-meal pita pocket was also freshly toasted, and they tasted impeccable even when I brought them home because I couldn’t finish the complimentary treats.

ImageThe extra Falafel that still tastes so good at home

Having had a whole pita bread with 3 falafels, I decided to pack the remaining falafel, hummus dip and one slice of bite-sized pita bread home. The pack-away containers were free-of-charge and to my pleasant surprise, the server even added an extra serving of tahini sauce! The last time I was overwhelmed by such hospitable service was in Taiwan or in Michelin-starred restaurants. And therefore, I think Fill a Pita is worthy of the compliment ‘sincerity’. (And while I wax lyrical about the five-starred service I enjoyed, I hope Hassan isn’t bothered by the fact that his employee gave away so many complimentary items!)

Verdict

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Middle Eastern food is hard to come by in Singapore, and decent ones even harder. While I would say that the falafel wrap at London Borough Market remains my top favourite, I think the falafels at Fill a Pita stands as a strong contender. My next stop for falafels would be Pita and Olives, which was recommended by Hungry Ang Mo’s reader as the best Israeli restaurant in Singapore. Hope to keep you updated of my food adventures.

Rating: 4.29/5 falafels

Tip for Vegans: they offer their falafels with no garlic upon request.

Taipei Eats: 一流清粥小菜

Official Website: Facebook
Address: 台北市復興南路二段104號 (Taipei City Fuxing South Road, Section 2, no 104) (View Map; located between Brown Line, Da-an and Technology Tower MRT Stations)
Operating Hours: 12pm – 3.30am (Closed on Mondays) (wef from August 2013)
Budget: about NT150-200/pax (Have a glance at the prices here)

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The spread at 一流清粥小菜

After days of feasting on 鲁肉饭, 豪大鸡扒 and other oil-laden food at the famous night markets, do you feel like having something light and refreshing for a change? How about Taiwanese porridge, where porridge is served with several dishes of your choice? That was exactly what London Gal felt like having after days of feasting in Taiwan, and also the best way to get her fix of dietary fibre. Continue reading