My stomach tends to wake up before me, with a summons trembling throughout my entire being and calling me towards breakfast. I find my only salvation in food… good food.
Food to lift the spirits
Luckily for me, Keelung’s doors open as the sun rises, lighting the way down the river and to the Xinyi market, one of Keelung’s best traditional markets.
To my pleasure, I stumbled across a some quiet stalls along a side street and found one of Taiwan’s famous soy milk bars, titled ‘Simple Soy Milk’. Stylish and minimalistic, it was a comforting place where I could escape from the masses at the market. Approaching the till to order, I noticed many people collecting white parcels, and so I petitioned the proprietress for one of these along with a glass bottle of hot soy milk. I was informed I could exchange the bottle for 5 yuan upon return, which had me delighted.
Having bought my soy milk for the price of 25 yuan — somewhat less than you’ll find even in the foreigners favourite,7-Eleven — along with my quaintly shaped parcel, I took a seat. Unraveling my prize I was met with a perplexing purple ball of rice. Taking a bite into this ball, all sorts of flavors filled my mouth: sweet, savory, nutty. I found it full to the brim with large assortments of egg, tofu, meat floss and more.
The locals here, have given this snack a cool name too: ‘the ancient rice ball’. I like to think it’s because it has fed generations of the people, preparing them for the day to come. A sort of Ancient remedy.
This shop also offers a variety of hand made pancakes sweet and savory. They do sweet spreads like taro, sweet potato and sea salt chocolate peanut butter, for example. But one savory pancake stood out to me: baked tea, nuts and sweet potato. Given the low cost its worth trying a few.
As I mentioned earlier about the bottle recycling, I find it great how they put forward an initiative to protect the environment. Similarly they reduce their use plastic by suppling unused paper bags locals have donated to the store.
Enjoyed following me through Xinyi’s Morning Market? Well then, surely you must join us on a tour as we take you into the fish market waking from its slumber in the late hours of the night. Jointly gorge on numerous local delicacies as we guide through the best places to eat in Keelung’s Night Market and give you a feeling for it’s history in the city.
To book now for the Night Market tour Click Here and for the Fish Market tour click the banner below
Breakfast on the go
As tourists we don’t always have the time to spend on a long breakfast, which is why I recommend grabbing one of Keelung’s famed Scallion pancakes. I suggest a fried, bun-shaped pancake filled to the brim with scallions along with egg, if desired. I’d buy a few: they’re so easy to get down you can’t help wanting more.
Another pancake is with an American-style batter pressed onto a mountain dollop of sweet or savory filling, including red bean, sweet potato and pearls, custard and pearls, taro, shredded radish and tofu as well as corn cheese. My favorites have been the peppery shredded radish and tofu along with the sweet corn and cheese fillings. To recommend a particular spot, I would choose ‘Nong Nong’ Keelung’s Zhongzheng district that is open between the hours of 12:00 and 18:00 and offers an English menu.
These sweet treats can be picked up for less than 20 yuan a piece and are a good energy boost during a day of sightseeing.
Let’s Go For a Cuppa Joe
A number of new cafes and restaurants have popped up in the old business district along Yier road.
I’ll first introduce some stylish but cheap cafes found at the southern most tip of the street.
Cattown: Coffee Stand
This is a small, indie cafe at the back of the shops at the top of Yier Road. The comforting smell of roasted coffee and the company of friendly felines creates a cozy environment as you sink into a space on the sofa. I can’t pass my self off as a true coffee connoisseur, but you can find a cup of coffee priced at a reasonable 60 yuan here. The Americano I ordered had a well rounded taste and was probably the most pleasurable I’d tasted in my time here. For the common sort of joe stopping by, I think that’s all you can ask for in a cuppa joe.
Bucks Cafe is another option for a cheap roast coffee in a cozy environment, although this cafe has a more modern and minimalistic spin with its white marble furnishings. They also offer comprehensive meals if you are interested in brunch. I personally was drawn to their Bailey’s Coffee, a naughty treat of mine.
SUNBAY & Ramble Cafe
Neighboring each other you’ll find two take-away cafes, which both also provide pleasant indoor seating.
Opened by the century old tea shop “Taiwan Sanyi Tea”, SUNBAY offers a range of freshly brewed teas. If you ask a a member of staff they’ll provide you with a smelling pot before you order blindly. I opted for the the classic Taiwanese roasted tea on my first try and found myself pleased with the choice, and I recommend adding a thick creamy milk cap to your tea. Prices here range between 40 and 80 yuan.
Ramble Cafe provides a number of coffees varying in flavors and regions. In my experience, the taste is respectable and the addition of self service machinery made ordering quick and easy. The place is rather trendy — its in a newly renovated an old house — and provides a large area to sit inside on the second floor.
Brunch & Bentos
If you’re looking for a late breakfast, Keelung offers many brunch restaurants open between the hours of 9:00 and 15:00.
Continuing through the Yier Road area or Zhongsheng District, you’ll find some of my favorite places for a late breakfast or early lunch.
Xinsan Rd – Zhongzheng District
This shop sells a a wide and healthy range of fruits, yoghurt, salads, meats, carbs, sandwiches at an affordable price (as low as 55 yuan). My personal favorite, at 95 yuan, is sweet potato, egg, and cheese covered in rich dark berry spread and sandwiched between two pieces of bamboo charcoal Danish toast.
You can also find a selection of drinks, including papaya milk, and the usual selection of teas and coffees.
Hidden Alley Cafe
This is a quaint little breakfast bar tucked away amongst the alleys along Yier road. The place is slightly more expensive than Belly Brunch but sells a nice selection of sandwiches, nutritional meals, and coffee. It’s a cosy little hole-in-the-wall that provides cutes plates and large portions. In my experience the the staff have been very kind and talkative as well. Considering the cool location and high quality food, I can justify the prices.
Are you a Keelung Boy? Well luckily you don’t have to be because this is our first bento…Korean bento.
Strangely enough, ever since arriving in Taiwan I’ve particularly enjoyed Korean Cuisine. A highlight has been KEELUNG BOY’S Korean bento boxes, which taste amazing and feature a variety of flavors and textures in one package. You’ll find this spot in an alley just off the previous store.
The Healthy Bento
Returning to Yier Road you’ll encounter quite possibly the healthiest bento shop in all of Keelung.
Entering the small shop, I was greeted at the door by a very nice fellow who I picked up conversation with. They provide 8 set meals to chose from but I get the impression you can change ingredients at your request. The meal tasted great and I felt fairly healthy having finished my meal, which is a rare achievement when eating out every day.
I enjoy finding stalls and shops run by the owner alone. It gives you a chance to talk to them more personally and you get an impression they’re very passionate and honest about what they do, which leaves a sweet after taste once you’ve finished your meal.
Within Keelung, you’ll find organic stores that maintain relatively low prices and are a good option for a quick breakfast. At my favorite organic store, Leezen, the prices are similar or lower than at PX Mart. All their produce is generally high quality and ethical. I like to buy seeds and oats there for my porridge in the morning as well as packets of oat bars when I’m in a rush and need breakfast on the go. There is a seating area inside where you can drink tea and coffee and many staff members who actively offer help whilst you shop. Leezen also attempts to give back to the community, hosting lectures on the upper floor on topics like health and Buddhism.
You can find this place across from the Martyrs’ Shrine on Xin’er Road.