Just when I started to worry I was going to have to go further afield to find local ice cream makers to write about, I stumbled across one in an unexpected place: Tonghua Night Market. (The same thing happened to me a few months ago when I realized LeHua Night Market, next door to my house, had a fabulous handmade soft-serve stand!)
This ultra minimalist little stand is called simply “Taiwan Pure Hand-Made Ice Cream”, but between the generic name and the almost invisible signage, it’s more or less a no-name stand. Blink and you’ll miss it.
Prices are incredibly low – you can’t really tell from the pictures, but the NT$35 “small” cup is double the size of most small cups that sell for NT$90-120 in most premium handmade ice cream shops. The NT$40 “medium” size is as big as a bowl of soup, while the NT$70 “large” size is as big a bowl of noodles!
This is the old-school Taiwanese style of ice cream – icy and light, it’s designed for Taiwan’s oppressively hot, humid summers back in the days before air conditioning. High-sugar, high-fat ice cream will just weigh you down in that kind of heat. This type of ice cream is distinctly watery and granular – ice cream snobs who are used to rich, dense, satiny-smooth gelato will not be impressed, but this type of ice cream has its place.
The boss likes to keep it local with traditional Taiwanese methods and locally-grown ingredients, except for the milk, which is imported from New Zealand. Today’s flavours are (clockwise from left): taro, fresh milk, kidney bean, pineapple, chocolate, passionfruit, and peanut.
You can mix two flavours at no extra charge, and you can also try free samples first. I decided to go for the small cup of kidney bean and peanut ice cream, NT$35.
….make that kidney bean and peanut with a scoop of pineapple on top! The boss wanted to make sure I tried his pineapple ice cream made with fresh Taiwan pineapples he’d bought at the market that same morning.
The pineapple ice cream is light and icy, but with generous chunks of pineapple throughout. The pineapple flavour is very prominent, but not too sweet. It’s quite good – one of the better pineapple ice creams I’ve tried.
The peanut ice cream is quite strong-tasting and sweet, while the kidney bean ice cream is mild and neutral with a faint nutty taste. They taste awesome mixed together – I highly recommend this combo!
The relatively creamy kidney bean ice cream has a lot of chopped and whole beans in it for texture. The beans have been slow-cooked in sugar water, so they’re soft and sweet. The peanut ice cream is quite smooth.
My friend ordered the small cup of pineapple and fresh milk ice cream, NT$35. The milk ice cream features milk as a flavouring only – it doesn’t have the creamy smooth texture you’d expect from most “milk” flavoured things. It seems to be the base for the other flavours – watery and slushy and fairly neutral.
As a night market stand, Taiwan Pure Handmade Ice Cream has no fixed address or operating hours, and contact information is minimal – the boss doesn’t even have a Facebook page! He assured me he’s there in the same spot around the same time every night, from about 7:00 pm until 11:30. There’s no regular closing day – he only takes two to three days off each month.
Out of all the handmade ice cream shops I’ve been to so far, this is the cheapest and most grass-roots. Unlike the majority of Taipei’s handmade ice cream shops, Taiwan Pure Handmade Ice Cream isn’t selling foreign luxuries – it’s selling old-fashioned local flavour. If you want to taste Taiwan, come down to Tonghua Night Market for a heaping cup of fresh-cut local fruit ice cream!
Taiwan Pure Handmade Ice Cream | 台灣純手工冰淇淋
Address: Tonghua Night Market (outside of No. 64 Linjiang Street)
MRT: Xinyi Anhe Station
Time: daily 19:00~11:30