Shenkeng(深坑) is a small district/town located on the south east area of Taipei. While technically it’s considered a part of Taipei, the district itself is really just a small town that’s known for one thing – tofu. Yes, tofu. Regardless of how you feel about tofu, a visit to Shenkeng will change your perception on the possibility of the much loved/hated food. In fact, tofu is so ingrained in the culture of this small town that it has earned the nickname “tofu capital” of the world! Even if you aren’t a typical tofu lover, there’s a wide range of tofu styles that range from fermented stinky tofu, to grilled soft tofu and even tofu ice cream. There’s bound to be a style that will suit your taste, you just have to be open about it. Recently, there has been a lot of interest from Hong Kong and Japanese tourists as the town has been completely refurbished in order to appeal to the masses. For me, this was my second time here and like the first time, I left extremely full and on the verge of keeling over. What a great day.
The selection of food here is fantastic. While known for it’s tofu, Shenkeng has a variety of palatable food that appeals both vegetarians, vegans and meat lovers. Although food tends to skew more towards the Chinese variety(you are in Taiwan after all). For us, we went around lunch time on a Friday afternoon. It was great since there wasn’t a lot of people so we pretty much walked through the entire strip uninterrupted.
When your taxi drops you off, the first sight will be this big tree that welcomes you to the start of Shenkeng Old Street. If you need to pick up some non-tofu snack, there’s a 7-eleven(surprise) right behind you.
One of my favorite foods is stinky tofu, typically of the fried variety that is topped off with pickled veggies and hot sauce. What’s unique about this particular stand(as with many other stands here in Shenkeng) is that the stinky tofu is… grilled. A nice heaping of sweet sauce is slathered on periodically and a slit is cut onto the tofu and the tofu is topped off with an assortment of pickled vegetables of your choosing. The final product is served on two wooden sticks in a piece of wax paper. For me, I had to order “the works.” While still really pungent, the taste was definitely a lot sweeter than the fried stinky tofu variety. But overall, it was pretty darn good and I highly recommend it.
The sign at the top says “if it [food] is not good, then no charge.” Gotta like the odds there. Her selection of food ranges from packaged tofu(to take home), boiled tofu and even chicken meat.
Black bean flavored tofu ice cream. It actually makes a lot of sense as soy beans can be used to form soy milk and that in turn can be made into the ice cream that you see here. The texture was a bit courser than typical boxed ice cream with a bit of flakiness that I assume came from the fact that it’s bean based instead of dairy.
This is actually a pretty bomb tofu dish. It’s essentially a tofu soup with added chili’s and spices to really give the tofu a kick. I can’t quite remember if this was standard tofu or if stinky tofu, but I’ve seen both varieties. Definitely spicy, but really really good. Might want to eat some of that tofu ice cream after scarfing this dish down. What’s especially awesome about this quaint little town is how nice the people are, including the vendors. The lady that owned this stall insisted on turning up the stove so that we can get a more dramatic shot with the steam rising and boiling soup. If that’s not hospitality, I don’t know what is! BTW, we didn’t end up buying anything from her.
Sausages, a typical road dish appetizer everywhere you go. Additionally, there are some mystery meat. More than likely it’s pork. You can’t go wrong with meat on an open flame. There isn’t a more perfect food out there.
If you want a more in depth look at what makes the tofu so special, then check out this episode of Eddie Huang’s show on Vice.
How to Get There
Since there were four of us, it was actually more practical to take a taxi rather than try our hand at the public transportation. Starting from Xinyi Din Tai Fung, our one way taxi ride came out to 300NT($10 USD) and took about 30-45 minutes since Shenkeng is located on the outskirts of Taipei. The return trip was about the same amount so realistically, budget yourself 600NT($20 USD) to get there and back. There are buses that take you to and from Shenkeng, but not having taken it before, I can’t really comment on its effectiveness. One good segue is if you decide to go to Maokong or the Taipei Zoo, Shenkeng is be the next stop because of it’s proximity to those two locations.
If you got some time to kill, I would recommend taking maybe 2 hours out of your day(30 minutes there, 30 minutes back, 45 minutes to walk) to check out Shenkeng Old Street. For us, coming on a Friday morning and the street not especially busy, we were able to eat through the entire street in about 45 minutes. Granted, we are ravenous guys who swallow food instead of chewing it, I’m sure normal people can still get through the entire street in about an hour. Many vendors sell the same types of food, so pretty much you’ll start seeing repeated items rather quickly.
Shenkeng Old Street