“Taiwan’s Santorini”, so says the guide book. Well that might be a bit of a stretch, but this little town, up in the hills an hour from Taipei, is a well-known and worthy day trip. Here are 10 things to do and eat in Jiufen.
1 – CLIMB MOUNT KEELUNG
Five minutes walk up the road from Jiufen Old Street is the trail leading to Mount Keelung, a nearby mountain that overlooks the town and coastline, and is high enough to even see Taipei in the distance.
2 – EXPLORE JIUFEN OLD STREET
This is the main reason tourists travel to Jiufen in their hordes every day. This narrow little street is classic old Taiwan – cute, colourful, noisy, and choc-a-block with food sellers punting all kinds of weird, wonderful and mostly delicious local snacks. Such as…
3 – FISHBALL IN A FISHBALL (IN SOUP)
Fishball soup is not uncommon in this part of the world but the fishball soup in Jiufen is unique for it’s double layered fishballs. Not only are they way tastier than the average fishball, they are concealing yet another fishball, with a bunch of herbs and spices, hidden away inside. Double fishball!! I know, I know. Incredible stuff. Try to remain calm.
4 – STINKY TOFU
The stinky tofu in Jiufen is a good introduction to stinky tofu for those who haven’t tried it or might be a bit put off by the mildly foul stench (to put it lightly). It’s crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, and is marinated in a sweet and sour, vinegary sauce with chilli and pickled vegetables thrown on top. Yum.
5 – PEANUT ICE CREAM WRAP
Inside this handful of loveliness is vanilla ice cream and a bunch of herbs and spices along with a load of peanut powder. It’s a delicious mouthful, not too sweet and with a strong peanut kick.
6 – TAIWANESE VEGETARIAN MEAT BALL
This is the only place in Taiwan I ever saw this dish and it’s very unique. It’s kinda like a rice roll wrapped around picked vegetables then covered in a sweet and sour sauce, topped with coriander. It tastes a bit like a savoury, fragrant mochi – really light and unlike anything I’ve eaten in Taiwan (or Asia for that matter).
7 – CENTURY EGG
This classic Chinese specialty is not for the squirmish. It looks a rotten egg. But it tastes incredible – extremely rich (like ridiculously so) and with an incredibly powerful egg flavour. Usually sprinkled over rice as a flavouring. Not really meant to be eaten like this. But have a nibble. It’s quite incredible.
8 – SPECIAL MOCHI
One of the most famous things to eat in Jiufen is from a seller at the far end. Mochi – a kinda soft and sticky rice thing with a suet-like consistency, with various things stuffed inside – usually sweet but sometimes savoury – and there are many types here, from pork to duck to all manner of sweet options. The savoury ones are my favourite though.
9 – ESCAPE THE CROWDS AND GO FOR A WANDER
Escape the gabble of tourists hanging around the Old Street and you’ll see the real side of this cute hillside town. Buildings covered in moss and ivy, little alleyways with people playing Chinese musical instruments, and chinese lanterns lighting the way.
10 – SHIFEN WATERFALL
Jump on a bus to Riufang Station then another to Shifen (or just take the easy option and get a cab), and you’ll get to Shifen, another cute little town (also with an old street with plenty of food to eat). Just 15 minutes walk away (or even faster on an electric bike which you can hire from the town) is a 40m high waterfall, cascading down rocks into an emerald green pool.
Please Like, Share and Follow Travelist, and if you have any questions or any great dishes you’d like to recommend to other travelers going to Jiufen, please make a comment below.