Taiwan’s famed Ningxia Night Market has opened right here in Sentosa for a limited time, but in addition to its food, one of its vendors has been a subject of curiosity among customers here. 

Liu Kuang Jung, a part-time chef at a mentaiko pizza stall at the market shared with us that he has gotten orders from customers in Bahasa, presumably with the mistaken assumption that he speaks the language.  

They often ended up surprised, as we were, to learn that Liu not only has a Chinese name, but actually speaks fluent Taiwanese-accented Mandarin. Liu cheekily added that when he couldn’t understand what some customers were saying, he’d respond with a simple ”terima kasih” (thank you).

Born to a Taiwanese mother and Indonesian father, the youthful-looking 31-year-old was raised in Taiwan for most of his life. It’s the part-time hawker’s first time coming to Singapore as part of the Asian Night Market: Taiwan Food Festival event on Sentosa. 

For the first time ever, a miniature version of Taipei’s famous Ningxia Night Market has set up right here on the island resort, with around 30 stalls offering a variety of popular Taiwanese street food. 

Known as the “stomach of Taipei”, the original Ningxia market is packed with over 180 stalls and boasts more than 40 years of history.

Organisers shared that chefs and vendors from 30 stalls packed their bags and flew in from Taiwan — all to spread the love of Taiwanese culture to Singapore.

Expect to find stalls selling the usual Taiwanese favourites, such as oyster mee sua, deep-fried chicken cutlets, the ubiquitous fried snack of “tian bu la” (described as “Taiwanese oden”), scallion pancakes, papaya milkshakes and brown sugar boba milk, to name just a few.

Besides the impressive array of food, there are also claw machines for you to try your luck and snag a prize.

Event-goers can also look forward to Mandopop performances by local artistes such as Wang Weiliang, Cold Cut Duo and Music Heart Band on weekends.

Fair warning though, prices at the market will be at least double what you’d have to fork out in Taiwan. But still, it’s a cheaper way to sample your favourite authentic Taiwanese street eats, without having to book a plane ticket there yourself.

Asian Night Market : Taiwan Food Festival is here in Sentosa! We try some Ningxia Night Market signatures and here’s what stands out to us.

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We were invited to a media tasting on the first day of the market’s opening on Thursday (Jan 16), so here’s our top picks of food items to get (and others that failed to impress):

WHAT TO GET IN LINE FOR

BEEF NOODLES, $10

Why bother coming down to the market at all if you aren’t going to try the famous beef noodles?

With the “QQ” (bouncy) noodles and chunks of tender beef paired with a rich soup, we were treated to an incredible blend of flavours, made by award-winning beef noodle master Cheng Cheng Chung himself.

When asked what makes his beef noodles stand out from the others, Cheng deadpanned, “because I am the chairman of beef noodles”.

And that’s no joke; the entrepreneur is the chairman of the Taiwan beef noodle association, and owns a chain of Li Zheng Beef Noodle shops, located across Taiwan. He even has plans to expand his food empire overseas to Singapore in the future.

According to Cheng, the popular soup base requires stewing beef bones for 48 hours until it becomes a soup stock, which is milky white.

Showing his dedication to his dish, he flew in to Singapore a few months prior to the opening of the event just to source for medium to high quality gluten flour to make his noodles, ensuring that it complements well with the soup.

DEEP FRIED TARO BALLS WITH SALTED EGG YOLK (2PCS) $2

Claiming a spot in the street food selection at the 2019 Michelin Guide Taipei’s Bib Gourmand awards, it’s really no surprise that street food stall Liu Yu Zai, famous for their deep fried taro balls, made it into our recommended list.

Crispy on the outside yet gooey on the inside, once you take a bite, the lava-like salted egg yolk flows generously into your mouth.

We don’t recommend eating it in one bite though, as there’s a high chance the piping hot liquid might scald your tongue.

DEEP-FRIED SMELLY TOFU $12

Though known for its pungent smell, this dish has been specially catered to local tastebuds, making it less smelly than we expected. Which is not really a bad thing.

The crust of the deep-fried snack is thick and crispy, with most of the flavour is inside the juicy tofu itself, which comes with condiments and accompanying pickled vegetables.

If you’re a spice lover, the chilli gives a good kick to the tofu, and there’s also an option to add even more spices.

For the price though, we were expecting more pieces but then again, there aren’t many places you can go to in Singapore for some authentic smelly tofu.

GIVE THESE A MISS

FLAMING BEEF CUBES, $14

For the portion that we had, we felt it really wasn’t worth the money. Granted, we gave it the benefit of the doubt as it was marketed as premium beef, but the beef was chewy and perhaps overcooked, making it only a visual treat.

FRIED SQUID, $12

While it is impressively bigger than your face, and you might want to share it with a partner, this skewered seafood delicacy can be quite tricky to consume.

While holding it for less than a minute, we were already feeling the burn from the dripping oil, so we suggest asking for a bowl to place the squid in before walking off.

The squid was quite hard and rubbery, making it difficult to chew, though we give props to the crunchy fried layer covering it.

As we rarely see such big squids in Singapore, we decided to ask the stall owner where it was imported from. He boasted that it was directly imported from Taiwan, but kept mum on other details.

CALPIS AND LEMON MOCKTAIL, $8

Do not be deceived by the very Instagrammable look of this drink, because it made us go:

It is oddly sour and “tastes like fermented sour plums”, according to one of us.

THINGS TO NOTE BEFORE YOU GO:

PROMOTIONS

The Asian Night Market: Taiwan Food Festival, located at Siloso Point, Sentosa, will be open daily from now till Feb 9, from 5pm to 10.30pm. Note that the market will be closed from Jan 20 to Jan 22.

This content was originally published here.