Once we settled into Hommie Inn, our rumbling tummies urged us to seek out a lip-smacking late lunch. We wasted no time and strolled a mere 5 minutes to the renowned Taichung Second Market, curious to explore its culinary wonders.
Back in 1917, during the Japanese colonial era, the Second Market was crafted by the clever minds of the Japanese government. Their mission was to establish five marketplaces in Taichung. Interestingly, it found its home in Shintomichō, a neighbourhood predominantly inhabited by our Japanese friends. That’s why it earned the name ‘Japanese market.’ This bustling hub offered top-notch delicacies, fashionable attire, and fresh fruits and veggies in bulk for the affluent clientele.
Fast forward to the late 20th century, and the Second Market underwent a transformation. It evolved into a must-visit hotspot for tourists, attracting them with its extensive array of tantalising Taiwanese cuisine. So, brace yourselves for a mouthwatering feast like no other!
王家菜頭粿糯米腸 Wang Jia Radish Cake & Glutinous Rice Sausage
Opening hours: 6.30am to 6.00pm daily
Tel: +886 4 2224 2318
We stumbled upon Wang Jia Radish Cake & Glutinous Rice Sausage at the market entrance on Section 2, Sanmin Road. Despite being past lunchtime, there was still a long queue at the stall.
We ordered the following items:
Radish Cake with Fried Egg (菜頭粿+蛋)
The radish cake was only lightly fried, so it wasn’t crispy on the outside, allowing the original smooth and soft texture to shine through. In terms of flavour, the radish cake was quite bland, like a plain rice cake. However, the addition of a fried egg and sauce definitely improved the flavour, especially for those who prefer strong tastes.
Glutinous Rice Sausage (糯米腸)
After being fried, the exterior of the glutinous rice sausage became slightly crispy while the inside remained soft, moist, and chewy. Like the radish cake, the glutinous rice sausage was simple, with mostly just glutinous rice inside and no other ingredients. It was a straightforward, unassuming dish.
Combination Soup (綜合湯)
We thought a warm soup would complement the radish cake and glutinous rice sausage, so we ordered the Combination Soup, which was similar to Singapore’s yong tau foo or Japan’s oden, with a variety of ingredients in one bowl – meatballs, fishballs, radish, fried tofu, fish cake (Taiwanese tempura), and pig’s blood cubes. We loved the bouncy texture of the balls, and the radish was so sweet and soft. The broth was also light and refreshing.
Eating here felt like a trip down memory lane. I observed that the majority of customers were seniors, which was unsurprising considering the traditional flavour of the food, which is something that older folks would likely appreciate. Despite that, I found the food to be rather bland. I can’t say I thoroughly enjoyed it, but it’s ok to have it once in a while. Worth a shot!
A few days after our initial visit, we returned to Second Market, but this time we came in the morning to observe the vendors as they went about their work and also to look for different breakfast/brunch options.
山河魯肉飯 Shan He Lu Rou Fan
Opening hours: 5.30am to 3.00pm Thurs-Tues (Closed on Wed)
Tel: +886 4 2220 6995
One of the most decadent breakfasts I’ve had in Taiwan, lol.
Hemp Barley Soup (蔴薏湯)
This was made from the jute plant’s young leaves or shoots, which we had never tried before. Despite our initial hesitation, we decided to give it a try after seeing that many other customers had ordered it. The leaves were cooked with sweet potato and white anchovies, resulting in a naturally sticky consistency similar to okra. We expected it to have a savoury flavor, but it turned out to be slightly bittersweet and grassy, which was not a taste we were familiar with.
This soup appears to be very popular among the locals due to its high nutritional value. It’s only available during the summer months, so we recommend giving it a try if you have the chance.
Braised Meat Rice (魯肉飯)
Thick piece of braised pork belly that was beautifully cooked and glistening with oil. It had a good balance of fat and meat, with the fatty layer being tender and easily torn apart with a chopstick, while the meat was a bit dry. The braising sauce was flavourful, with a moderate saltiness and a sweet aftertaste. I have to mention the rice! It was incredibly fluffy and fragrant, making it some of the best rice we’ve ever had. Taiwanese rice is truly exceptional!
Braised cabbage, braised duck eggs, and braised tofu were all tasty side dishes, especially the duck eggs, which tasted better than regular chicken eggs.
承記米苔目 Cheng Ji Mi Tai Mu
Opening hours: 7.30am to 2.00pm Tue-Sun (Closed on Mon)
Tel: +886 4 2223 6099
For dessert, we ordered a Combination Bowl from Cheng Ji, which consisted of mi tai mu, grass jelly, red beans, and fen guo (made from sweet potato flour). Mi tai mu, also known as mee tai mak in Singapore, is a type of rice vermicelli typically used in savoury soups or stir-fry dishes.
This was our first time trying it as a dessert, and to our surprise, the combination of all four elements worked well together. The flavours complemented each other nicely and the dessert was not overly sweet, making it a refreshing and satisfying treat.
駿發肉脯店 Jun Fa Rou Fu Dian
As we explored further in the market, we stumbled upon a bak kwa shop run by a friendly proprietress who kindly offered us samples of her products. We ended up purchasing several packets of the bak kwa because it was truly delicious. The bak kwa was thick and meaty, unlike those we had tried in Singapore. We highly recommend trying the 蜜汁厚片肉乾.
老賴紅茶 Lao Lai Hong Cha
Opening hours: 7.30am to 6.00pm daily
Tel: +886 4 2229 0898
Across from the Wang Jia Radish Cake & Glutinous Rice Sausage stall was this tea shop, and we were blown away by their black tea. It was the best black tea we had ever tried in Taiwan, with a strong tea aroma and a perfect balance of flavour that wasn’t too sweet.
The tea was so good that we couldn’t resist getting a 2-litre bottle to bring back with us. It was cold, refreshing, and so satisfying!
Overall, exploring Second Market and trying all the delicious food was a great experience. It was exciting to try new dishes that we hadn’t seen anywhere else, which made it an even more memorable trip. Although we only tried a few of the many food options available at the market, we look forward to returning and trying more in the future. If you’re visiting Taichung, be sure to stop by Second Market and try some of the local cuisine!