It’s been a tremendous month for my stomach – in between my regular gluttonous eating sessions, I recently went to Tainan’s Yujing district to feast on mango ice and chicken. And just a week later, I was invited back to Tainan to visit Tainan’s English Friendly Stores.
The English Friendly Stores project is an initiative by the Bureau of Economic Development, Tainan City Government, to help transform Tainan into a more welcoming and accessible place for English-speaking foreigners to visit. By assisting local stores to learn key English phrases and translate their menus into English, more foreigners can experience cafes, restaurants, museums, and other places of interest than they might have otherwise not been able to.
It’s in fact the third time I’ve been invited to participate in this project! You can read about the other two times here:
- 4 Local Food Spots to Visit in Tainan
- Taste Testing Tainan’s English Friendly Stores: Fu Lou Restaurant, Uncle A-shui, The Milkfish Palace and more
This year, there are 57 stores involved in the English Friendly Stores program. I visited 5 of the English Friendly Stores (in just one day, mind you!) to learn more. Read on to follow me on my food adventure through Tainan, and get some ideas for your next trip!
My first official stop was FUJIYA Pudding 福吉雅布丁. I say official, as in true sumo-style, I chowed down a big bowl of noodles before starting my tour of the five English Friendly Stores I was scheduled to visit.
It was the suggestion of Janet, the lead organizer of 2018’s English Friendly Program who joined me for the entire day, to first line my stomach in preparation for the day of eating ahead. I knew then we’d get along – I’m always excited to have an eating buddy!
We arrived at FUJIYA three minutes early, and to our surprise there was already someone waiting for their pudding fix! We were immediately welcomed by one half of the store’s owners, Vivian. Vivian is as friendly as they come – she sat with us and happily answered the many questions I had about her store, in addition to offering all kinds of tips about what to see in Tainan.
Her English was excellent, although she modestly said she still had room for improvement. She was such a pleasure to chat to we ended up staying for two hours! Fortunately, we had some sustenance by way of her famous homemade puddings.
The focus at Fujiya is on creating natural, delicious tasting puddings using high-quality ingredients. To this end, their recipe doesn’t use gelatin or even agar agar, and instead primarily uses egg and milk.
The milk used is from a local farm that has been operating for over 70 years. Fujiya also uses Taiwanese white sugar cane, which is notable as there are very few options to Taiwanese sugarcane in Taiwan, as most sugarcane in the country is imported from Finland.
Tainan is saturated with shops selling puddings, so it’s important to stand out. Today, there are more than 50 stores selling pudding in the city, with Tainan’s obsession with puddings going back to the period of Japanese colonization, when sugar, and subsequently desserts like puddings were a luxury reserved for the rich.
When I asked what makes her puddings stand out, Vivian said they are, “Just like what a mum makes at home.” It’s telling that the puddings are made with a humble Tatung electric cooker (大同電鍋), which can only make ten at a time. Vivian also uses a special technique to get the pudding out of the jar and onto a plate, which you can see above.
When I asked her if she thought increasing competition from larger pudding businesses was detrimental to her small shop, she sweetly said that she thinks competition is good because it means that, “If you want, you can easily find your dream pudding.”
If you can speak Japanese, you may have noticed Fujia sounds Japanese. While the characters in the Chinese name (福吉雅) mean fortune, luck, and elegance, the name is also a pun, as in Japanese it sounds like “不二家,” which means “the only store.” It’s an apt pun, given that there is this one and only Fujiya Pudding store.
Now, let’s get onto the fun part – sampling Fujia’s puddings! We chose four flavours to try, for research purposes of course…
The most popular flavour is the original, which is on the left in the picture above. I thought it tasted rather sophisticated – unlike many sickly sweet puddings, the taste was light and clean, with only a slight sweetness.
Next, we tried the Angel flavour, which is pictured on the right. What is Angel flavour, you ask? It’s an egg yolk-free pudding that was created by Vivian and her husband so that even customers with health problems, or those wanting to lose weight, can enjoy eating pudding. She mentioned that people with throat or stomach cancer often can’t easily swallow hard foods, which is why the Angel pudding is a great alternative.
The Angel pudding was creamier and thicker than the original, and in my opinion, a bit heavier in flavor. The texture was also more dense compared to the smoothness of the original.
The third flavour we tried was Vivian’s favourite, the orange pudding. It was the sweetest of the four we tried, but was still light. I even found an orange peel in the pudding! The pudding is made fresh using real oranges, as well as orange alcohol (which is evaporated in the cooking process).
Lastly, we tried the milk tea pudding, which Vivian shared that many boys and men come to buy for their girlfriends. The pudding had a rich early grey flavour, which as a regular milk tea drinker I loved! If I must choose, I think it was my tied favourite flavour with the orange.
Fujiya also offers goat milk puddings, which use goat milk sourced from a farm just besides the store. One of the many things I learned from Vivian is that Tainan is the second biggest producer of goat milk in Taiwan. As you can see, going to Fujia not only expanded my mind, but my stomach too!
FUJIYA pudding|福吉雅布丁 Contact Information
No. 235, Nanmen Road, Zhongxi District, Tainan City
- Telephone number: 06-213-5818
- Opening times: 13:00-18:00 from Thursday to Friday; 13:00-17:00 from Saturday to Sunday
- Want more info? Visit their Facebook page or homepage.
Black Bridge Sausage Museum|黑橋牌香腸博物館
Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been to a sausage museum. So the opportunity to visit Black Bridge Sausage Museum 黑橋牌香腸博物館 was one I eagerly anticipated.
If you’ve been living in Taiwan, perhaps you’ve noticed Black Bridge sausages at your local supermarket, or the scattering of stores around the country.
If not, Black Bridge is perhaps the most well-known of all sausage manufacturers in Taiwan, and it all began in Tainan.
You might not think there would be so much to learn about a sausage company, but go to the museum and you’ll be proven wrong. There, you’ll learn all about just how far Black Bridge has come since it began in 1957, as a stand alone shop near Tainan’s famous Hayashi Department Store.
If you want to make the most of your visit, I recommend booking a free guided tour of the museum. You can either book on their website or by calling up. Our guide was an energetic woman called Weiting, who shared that she loves sausages so much she eats two a day!
She passionately explained interesting tidbits about the company’s history, from how the sausages used to be sold on the back of a bicycle, to how the sausages were dried before the advent of the drying machines they use now. We also learned how to play a traditional sausage gambling game that you’ll find you can still play at some local sausage sellers!
Basically, you make a bet with the sausage seller that you’ll roll more or less than them. If you win, you’ll get your sausage for free. I must have had beginner’s luck, as I won against Weiting!
While I could go on and tell you all I learned, I don’t want to ruin all the fun, so you’ll have to go yourself to learn more! Entry is free, so it really is a novel experience if you’re in Tainan. You can even book yourself in for a tour of the factory, located right next to the museum, where all of Black Bridge’s sausages are made to this day.
After touring the museum, we went back to the first floor to eat some sausages. We tried the garlic sausage and the spicy one.
I’m sure everyone has their reasons for liking Black Bridge’s sausages, but personally I love their stickiness! You’ll know what I mean when you try one for yourself.
If you’ve never tried a Taiwanese sausage, you may be surprised by just how sweet they are. I loved both flavours, but I preferred the spicy one as I have a penchant for spicy food. I was honestly sad to just stop at two sausages… but we had a lot more eating to go!
Next to the sausage vendor is a gift shop where you can buy all of the Black Bridge sausages your stomach can handle. There are also other items like pork jerky, noodles, jams, and biscuits.
Weiting told us that the gift shop is especially popular around Taiwanese holidays, as people will come to pick up some goods to share with their families.
Incidentally, sausages are a traditional gift in Chinese culture to give your husband or wife’s mother, as when tied together they are said to symbolize longevity. Who knew there were so many sausage facts to learn?
Black Bridge Sausage Museum|黑橋牌香腸博物館 Contact Information
Fat Cat Coffee|肥貓咖啡
Fat Cat Coffee 肥貓咖啡 is located at the end of a popular street called Shennong Street. The street is frequented by locals and tourists alike for its abundance of hip cafes, bars, and restaurants.
While there are many places to choose from, I imagine people love going to Fat Cat Coffee for its low-key and calm atmosphere, expertly made coffee, and killer cakes. Well, that’s at least why I would go back!
True to its name, Fat Cat Coffee has a cat who roams around the store called Bin Bin. And as if to welcome us to the cafe, as soon as we sat down, he hopped up onto our table!
I adore cats, so I was so happy to give him a hug (and take a sneaky selfie!). Bin Bin loves being petted and won’t run away when you approach, so feel free to approach him.
Soon after, we were given the store’s menu to mull over by one of the cafe’s staff, Ting Wei. Ting Wei told us that the banana pound cake is the store’s most famous dish, while the black tea latte and Bailey’s Irish cream latte are the most popular drinks.
I was compelled to order the Bailey’s Irish cream latte, while Janet ordered a butterscotch latte. Both drinks were full bodied and hard to put down. I must admit, I would drink the Bailey’s latte every day if I could…
Then there were the cakes. Oh, we were not prepared by just how generously sized Fat Cat’s Coffee’s cakes were. We ordered the rose chiffon cake and the bubble milk tea thick cut danish toast, naively thinking two would be a reasonable amount.
Our jaws dropped when we saw the rose chiffon cake. Just look at its size compared to the business card! It was so beautiful as well, delicately decorated with edible rose petals and gold chocolate balls. I think you could definitely share just that one cake between two or more people.
The cake itself was super fluffy, with the rose petals adding some texture to each bite. The rose taste fortunately wasn’t overpowering, which was surprising as there were even pieces throughout the cake as well. I really loved the taste – and I’m not usually a fan of rose flavoured food. When I asked Janet what she thought, she said she liked that “The rose fragrance spreads in your mouth”.
The bubble tea thick cut danish toast was also a hit with us. The toast was quite dense, making it far more of a heavier dessert than the chiffon cake. It reminded me of a brioche. I liked that it came out slightly warm, making it a great match with our creamy coffees. The pearls were less sweet than you’ll find in bubble tea, and added a nice chewiness to the dish.
As if those two desserts weren’t enough, the owner also treated us to the banana pound cake. I had to take it home to eat the next day as it was too much to fit in! I found that cake to be just the right level of sweetness, with a real banana flavour. If you’re a fan of banana bread (and who isn’t?) you’ll want to leave room in your stomach to order it.
After a while digging into the desserts and our coffees, Janet and I both started to slow down. I guess the rest of the food started to hit us! As we’d already eaten about 3/4 of each dessert, we thought we could take the final bit back home.
Ting Wei said we couldn’t (perhaps due to safety concerns), so we went back to our table and did what any food-obsessed people would do – we finished both off!
I wish I had a recording of us as it must have been quite amusing to watch. Bite after bite, we soldiered on like we were competing in an eating Olympics. Eventually, we did the impossible and made the plates practically clean. I think Janet summed it up best when I asked her how she felt the meal was – “Delicious, but I’m full.”
Fat Cat Coffee |肥貓咖啡 Contact Information
No. 135, Shennong Street, Zhongxi District, Tainan City
- Telephone number: 06-220-5688
- Opening times: 13:00-18:30 from Monday to Sunday
- Want more info? Visit their Facebook page
Nan Chuan Japanese Shaved Ice|冰菓室
I took the chance to watch the shop attendants construct the desserts, and was amazed at how quickly they work – picking the fruit, cutting it, shaving the ice, assembling each dish, and putting on all of the finishing touches.
Our dishes were ready in only a couple of minutes.
What results is perhaps one of the most eye catching iced desserts out there! Just try not to be tempted to snap a couple of pics…
Just look how happy I am! I really couldn’t wait to try this store’s one of a kind versions.
I’ve recently been on a bit of an iced dessert binge, having discovered that Tainan is the place to go for shaved ice.
But let’s get to the important part, the taste. The first thing I noticed is that the fruit is incredibly sweet and juicy. Honestly, I’ve been to many ice desserts places where the fruit lacks flavour, and is only saved by the sweetness of condensed milk.
Nan Chuan’s fruits are naturally sweet – and are not even topped with any sweet topping. Underneath, however, is a different story. The ice (pure ice – not the milky kind) is topped with a special black sugar syrup that takes Jason 8 hours to make.
Although I was so full (a common theme of the day!), I just couldn’t stop eating both. Even when Janet stopped, I kept going – which is a testament to how great these desserts taste! As the desserts are only fruit and ice, they are actually a relatively light and healthy dessert. At least that’s what I’d like to tell myself…
After finishing, Jason took us upstairs to look at his collection of antiques he collects. We then headed up to the rooftop to enjoy the lovely river view and to admire the mural on the wall.
I’d strongly recommend bringing your ice dessert to the rooftop to eat!
Nan Chuan Japanese Shaved Ice|冰菓室 Contact Information
No. 270, Anping Road, Anping District, Tainan City
Want more info? Visit their Facebook page
The final stop on our food tour was Acorn Bunds 橡實堤岸, a family run cafe with a relaxing water view.
Acorn Bunds was opened by Shine, who runs the store we visited, and her family friend, who runs the one other branch of the store. The other branch is the original, having opened in 2007, while the branch Shine runs only opened last year – ten years later.
The two stores offer the same menu, except for iced desserts, which are only available at the other store.
By the time we arrived, it was already dark outside, making for a lovely night view of the water. Shine told us that there are many lights that switch on at 7pm, which I imagine would be a lovely view to have while sipping a drink at night!
Although the store is small, it has many draw cards. One of them is their handmade panna cotta. If you don’t know what panna cotta is, it is a dessert that hails from Italy that uses thickened, cooked cream.
There are 8 flavours to choose from: earl grey, almond, latte, brown sugar, taro tapioca, original, chocolate, and vanilla honey. They are all made in-house at the other branch of the store.
The most popular flavour is original, followed by taro tapioca. I tried the taro tapioca variety. What I loved about it was how light and smooth it was – it could be eaten as a dessert after a meal, a snack to get your energy back up, or even as a breakfast treat.
I liked finding little pieces of taro throughout as well, which I can tell were freshly added (rather than from a can like you’ll find is the case in many Taiwanese dessert shops). The small, white tapioca pieces weren’t too strong on flavour, but instead gave some texture to the mixture.
When I asked why they decided to make panna cotta instead of puddings, they said they wanted to do something different.
In addition to panna cotta, the store makes sugarless yoghurt, which you can buy by the jar, or try in a drink in store. Handmade cakes are also available to buy if you order in advance.
But perhaps what the store is most known for is its natural handmade jams. Acorn Bunds’ jams use fresh fruits from Taiwan, and the fruits are even cut by hand. The most popular choice is the mixed fruit jam.
I was surprised to see just how reasonable the prices were for something both handmade and gourmet.
If you want to have a taste of the jam before your buy, or are just after something to quench your thirst, you can try it by ordering the fruit tea. We sampled a bit and it tasted deliciously refreshing. I just wish we had more room in our stomachs to try a big glass!
But alas, I had to jet back to Taipei! So we said our goodbyes, and Janet rushed me to the high speed rail station. It was a close call, as I literally got on the train minutes before it took off.
And as I settled into my seat, and flipped through all of the photos taken throughout the day, I thought of what a whirlwind tour it had been. In just one day, I’d stuffed myself silly, met so many interesting people, and been given a glimpse into the inner workings of five different English-friendly places. What a day it was!
Acorn Bunds|橡實堤岸 Contact Information
No. 43-1, Yunhe Road, Anping District, Tainan City
- Telephone number: 06-220-0998
- Opening Time: 10:00-19:00 from Monday to Friday; 10:00-20:00 from Saturday to Sunday
- Want more info? Visit their Facebook page
Want more information about English Friendly Stores? Visit:
The English Friendly Stores project is a wonderful initiative that is helping Tainan become a more inviting, enticing place for English-speaking tourists and expats to visit. So, I’m really appreciative to the Tainan City Government for inviting me along for a third time, and for running such an initiative! Thank you also to Janet, who perfectly organized the entire day – from setting the itinerary, to kindly driving me to each spot.
Are you obsessed with Tainan food as much as me? I’d love to hear your recommendations (especially if they’re English-friendly!). Leave a comment below!
Like this post? Please share on your Facebook or Twitter 🙂
This blog was an advertisement from Bureau of Economic Development, Tainan City Government 臺南市政府經濟發展局廣告. All opinions, however, are my own.