[New Taipei] Jiufen – Travel & Food Guide
Jiufen (九份) is a charming little town situated in the mountainous area to the north-east of Taipei city. Historically, it was a prosperous gold-mining town but declined when mining work ended. The name of the town literally means “nine portions” and apparently was so named when there were nine families living in the town. Hence, nine portions of goods were ordered by the nine families every time new shipments arrived from out-of-town. The area was revived by tourism when the picturesque town was featured in an award winning Taiwanese movie, A City of Sadness (悲情城市). Since then, Jiufen had been the inspiration for several other movies, most notably, Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. The place is now famous for its rows of period-designed shophouses selling special snacks such as taro balls and rice cakes.
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Getting to Jiufen from Taipei
As we booked a 1-day cab for a day tour of the outskirts of Taipei, Jiufen was one of our stops. More details of our itinerary at a later post. For directions using public transport, refer to Wiki Travel Taipei or Taiwan Tourism Website. A summary of the directions as follows:
Take the TRA rail to Ruifang station and change to the Keelung Transit bus heading towards Jiufen and Jinguashi. Alternatively, you can take the a 1-hour journey Keelung Bus 1062 directly from Songshan station or Zhongxiao Fuxing MRT station Exit 1.
First stop was Chang’s Traditional Fish Balls (九份張記傳統魚丸), an eatery popular for its fish balls and steamed chicken. We ordered the mixed fish ball soup (混合魚丸湯) NT$40 which is the shop’s specialty, drunken chicken (醉雞) NT$160, stir-fried greens (青菜)NT$40 and a bowl of braised pork rice/lu rou fan (傳統魯肉飯) NT$25. Apart from the lu rou fan which we find so-so (pampered by the excellent one at Formosa Chang), the rest are super delicious. The chicken has the jellied-type “collagen” which we like.
After shopping for souvenirs, we stopped by a drink stall for a cup of passionfruit drink with aiyu jelly (愛玉). Yummy, refreshing and thirst-quenching. The jelly, which was made from the seeds of a fig, had a soft yet firm texture and a mild sweetness to it. There were many educational posters about the production of aiyu jelly in the shop.
Gold Mine Aiyu 金礦愛玉
Address: 51 Jishan St, Rueifang District, New Taipei City, Taiwan 224
A unique snack is the meat ball with red vinasse. The red vinasse, or hongzhao (紅糟), is the same as the one you find in hongzhao chicken dish, such as the one featured by wiffy. This particular stall is vegetarian and therefore uses mock meat. The glutinous paste covering the mock meat was very sticky and lent a special texture to every bite.
Jinzhi’s Vegetarian Meat Ball with Red Vinasse 九份金枝紅糟素肉圓
Address: 63 Jishan St, Rueifang District, New Taipei City, Taiwan 224
Note: the non-vegetarian stall is located nearby at 112 Jishan St
Hakka glutinous rice cakes from Ah Lan come in a variety of flavours. A unique snack only found in Jiufen, they are freshly made and there is always a long queue for them. We bought one of each of the flavour to try.
阿蘭宇粿/草仔粿 Ah Lan Hakka Glutinous Rice Cake
Address: 90 Jishan St, Rueifang District, New Taipei City, Taiwan 224
Another unique dessert found only in Jiufen, taro balls in sweet soup. Every bowl comes with a variety of taro ball flavours and you have the option of hot or chilled. Very nice texture and delicious. NT$50 a bowl. This is possibly the most famous food in Jiufen, and Grandma Lai is the most popular shop selling it.
賴阿婆芋圓 Grandma Lai’s Yuyuan (Taro Balls)
Address: 143 Jishan St, Rueifang District, New Taipei City, Taiwan 224
There were several teahouses in Jiufen so we decided to try one out at Ah Mei Tea House. The surroundings and decor were very traditional and beautiful. Here, you get to experience the art of making tea: Gongfu tea (功夫茶).
阿妹茶酒館 Ah Mei Tea House
地址: 九份 崇文里 市下巷20號
Address: 20 Zongwenli lower district, Jioufen
Top left photo: The menu showing the types of tea leaves to pick from. For a start, you will be shown a demonstration on how to prepare and serve the tea. There were several steps and each require a level of skills and experience to perform. Otherwise, the tea’s temperature or fragrance would not be perfect. A brief summary of the steps to the best of my memory: Push a small amount of tea leaves into the teapot. Use the provided kettle to fill the teapot with hot water. Cap the teapot and pour hot water all over the teapot. Wait for a few minutes. The first round of tea from a fresh batch of leaves is not for consumption so fill the 4 scent cups (聞香杯) (the tall cups) with it and rinse them out by pouring them over the teapot. The scent cups are used for appreciating the aroma of the tea. Fill the teapot again with hot water. Wait for a few minutes. Pour the tea into the scent cups and invert them into the small drinking cups. Remove the inverted scent cup and the small cup of tea is ready to be served.
It was all self service after the demonstration so we all had fun trying out the steps and serving tea. You will receive a large bundle of tea leaves which can refill the teapot around 3 times, and is strong enough for you to make 4 to 5 rounds of tea with each refill. Our 四季香 tea leaves cost NT$400 and a hot water fee of NT$100 is chargeable per pax. There is also a 10% service charge.
Li Yi Cake Shop (李儀餅店) flagship outlet is found here. There is another outlet in Taipei Main Station’s underground mall. This shop specializes in baked confectionery such as sun cakes and pineapple cakes, similar to Chia Te Bakery. The sun cakes here are very famous. For a more comprehensive review of this excellent bakery, refer to this post: Li Yi Cake Shop.
李儀餅店 Li Yi Cake Shop
Address: 18 Qiche Rd, Rueifang District, New Taipei City, Taiwan 224
Cute doggy and kitties, part of the small number of local residents inhabiting Jiufen town. We spotted only one kitty initially, but as the owner took out a food plate and placed it on the ground, several more kitties emerged suddenly out of every nook and cranny to join in the feast.
Check out all Taipei food reviews.
This article is written by contributing writer, B.