It’s been a while since I wrote about a place in central Taipei – lately it seems I have to go further and further afield to find new ice cream shops to write about. However, thanks to a tip-off from a reader, I’ve found a hidden gem in the middle of DunNan shopping district that I’m really excited about: Beimen Pineapple Ice!
⌈北門鳳梨冰⌋出生於宜蘭市，老闆希望擺脫一般充滿化學乳化劑和香料的冰淇淋食譜，以儘量天然的製造方式做冰淇淋，所以他們來台北創業。位於延吉街旁邊小巷子裡的⌈北門鳳梨冰⌋，離出名老冰店⌈東區粉園⌋和觀光客喜愛的⌈ICE MONSTER⌋沒有幾步距離，你可能會假設這兩家名店是⌈北門鳳梨冰⌋的主要競爭對手，但⌈北門鳳梨冰⌋可不這麼想，因為他們對自己的產品很有自信，而且他們賣的東西跟別家不一樣，每一家賣都有各自的優勢，每一家賣的東西都好吃。他們很樂意讚美⌈東區粉園⌋的剉冰跟⌈ICE MONSTER⌋的芒果冰美味精緻，還承認他們偶爾想要吃跟自己賣的東西不一樣就會去那吃!
Beimen Pineapple Ice began its life in Yilan. The owners wanted to move away from conventional recipes with chemical thickeners and flavourings, so they started their own shop in Taipei. It’s in an alley just across the street from the famous Eastside Tapioca Ice (東區粉圓) and just around the corner from from tourist-clogged Ice Monster. These famous shops would be formidable rivals if they actually were rivals, but Beimen’s owners don’t see it that way. Confident in their own product, they cheerfully praise their competitors’ high-quality shaved ices and mango sorbets, and admit to being occasional customers when they want to taste something different from their own product!
The specialty at Beimen Pineapple Ice is a uniquely Taiwanese variation of ice cream called “mian mian bing” (綿綿冰), or “creamy ice”. Another thing that makes this shop special is that, unlike other mian mian bing shops I’ve written about (Boat Come Taro Ice, Taiwan Pure Handmade Ice Cream), they make their ice entirely without dairy. That’s right – everything at Beimen Pineapple Ice is vegan! Milk was an expensive luxury for Taiwan’s earlier generations, and a bellyful of butterfat is hardly a refreshing treat in Taiwan’s muggy subtropical summers anyway, so the most traditional Taiwan-style ice creams tend to contain little or no dairy. Their water content is higher and sugar and fat content are also much lower than traditional ice creams.
The driving concept at Beimen Pineapple Ice is affordable quality. They use the simplest possible ingredients and methods, and their shop is as stripped-down and minimalist as you can possibly get. The whitewashed walls are completely bare, the furniture is strictly utilitarian, and the ice cream is served in simple paper cups. They invest as much as possible in the product over the presentation, and the savings are passed on to the consumer in the form of enormous servings!
The product itself is as minimalist as the shop. According to the owners, every flavour is a simple mixture of sugar and water, plus the main ingredient. Pineapple ice is just pineapple, sugar and water; green bean is just green bean, sugar and water, etc.
They only make six flavours, and they stick with ingredients that are available year-round (or can be bought in bulk and frozen during peak season). Mango is not on the menu – they prefer to stick with flavours with less arbitrary competition: pineapple, taro, green bean, peanut, salty plum, and lychee. Because the ice contains no emusifiers or thickeners, it’s prone to natural separation. The staff are constantly stirring the ice by hand to prevent the sugars from settling to the bottom and keep the texture and flavour smooth and even. I love how low-tech it is!
They’re super generous with samples – they use a soup spoon instead of a little tasting spoon! I must have eaten half a cup of ice cream before I even made my order.
The taro ice was love at first bite, so of course we ordered it, along with their signature pineapple ice.
This is the biggest serving of ice cream I’ve ever had on this blog (even bigger than Boat Come, I think), and the price is also one of the lowest – only NT$45!
The taro ice is incredibly thick and rich. Without milk softening the flavour, it’s like a luxurious taro sorbet. I thought it must have some thickeners in it to get such a rich texture, but they assured me it’s just the natural starch in the taro. The only ingredients in the ice are fresh locally-grown taro root, sugar, and water. It’s so pure you can apparently taste the difference between spring and summer taro (apparently spring rains saturate the taro and make it less flavourful!).
The pineapple ice is quite thin and slushy, but that’s standard for this style of ice, since it contains no natural or added thickeners, fats, or starches. It starts out quite icy, but as it melts all the sweet pineapple juice runs to the bottom, so it’s best if you wait a minute before you start to eat to let it get a little juicier, and keep stirring it while you eat it. It’s studded with chewy little bits of fresh pineapple.
The signature pineapple ice is topped with sweet marinated pineapple and a preserved plum, bursting with Taiwanese pineapple flavour!
The green bean ice has an authentic bean-y flavour that’s perfectly balanced, not too “healthy-tasting” or too sweet. With the natural starches from the beans, it’s almost as thick and dense as the taro.
The salty plum is another slushy-textured ice made with traditional sweet-salty-sour preserved plums. I love the taste of these plums – complex and deep, but refreshingly tart. I would love this one in the summer!
The lychee ice is really nice. I’ve written before about how hard it is to find (or make) a decent lychee sorbet or ice cream, because it tends to turn out either too sweet; if it’s not too sweet, it’s too icy, because there’s not enough sugar to stabilize it. This style of ice is more like a granita, so the iciness works here. I still found it a little on the sweet side, but not sweet enough to overpower the perfumey floral taste of fresh lychee!
The peanut flavour was awesome, really nice and rich, with a texture that’s also nice and dense without being as thick and sticky as the taro. When it melts a little bit, the texture is more like a standard ice cream or soft-serve.
I really enjoyed the simplicity of the food and the atmosphere at Beimen Pineapple Ice. It’s the perfect place for both curious foreigners and nostalgic Taiwanese to enjoy a taste of local flavour prepared in the local style. I’m looking forward to introducing more of my local and foreign friends to this place!
北門鳳梨冰 | Beimen Pineapple Ice
電話: 02 2711 8862
時間: 週二至週日12:00~21:30 (週一公休)
Address: No. 9, Alley 33, Lane 216, Section 4, Zhongxiao E Rd, Da’an District, Taipei City
Phone: 02 2711 8862
Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 12:00~21:30 (closed Mondays)