東區粉圓 [dong qu fen yuan] is a shaved ice shop in the Daan District of Taipei. My mom first brought me in 2008 and we’ve always made it a point to return for every trip since then. The first time I went, the shop only had one section with at most 5 small tables with a couple pairs of stools. Regardless, the line went straight out of the shop and down into the street.
東區粉圓 has expanded since then, opening up a seating area adjacent to the original area, complete with TVs and A/C! Yet somehow even with this expansion, it has not made finding a seat any easier than it was back in 2008. There’s almost always a line: my mom and I have gone in the morning, late morning, early afternoon, late afternoon, evening, and late evening. About 85% of the time there’s a truckload of people huddled outside of the store, either waiting to order or waiting for a seat. It’s really hit or miss.In any case, this is a must-try 小吃 [xiao chi, or “snack”] place in Taipei! I’m sure there are hundreds of other 刨冰 [bao bing, or shaved ice] places in Taiwan, let alone Taipei, but this is the one I stick to because it is so so good. 東區粉圓 is famous for their taro and yam balls. Taro balls [芋圓, pronounced “yu yuan” in Mandarin and “o-yin” in Taiwanese] and yam [地瓜圓, di gua yuan] balls are made by mixing the mashed taro or yam with water and sweet potato or potato flour. The latter makes the balls springier or softer, respectively.
Taiwanese tend to like the springy and chewy a lot, which we say is “QQ”. At 東區粉圓 they are indeed incredibly QQ (albeit 九份 [jiu fen] is the city in Taiwan that these originated from and reportedly has the best 芋圓 and 地瓜圓, but that’s another story).
The selection of items you can put in your shaved ice is overwhelming. I’ve never counted how many choices there are, but I do always feel a ton of pressure trying to figure out what exactly it is I want. My mom and I definitely get the 大芋頭 [da yu tou] because they slow-cook giant chunks of taro until it’s very 綿[mian], or cottony, and then let it sit in something like honey or sugar syrup for hours. But it’s never saccharine, just sweet enough to bring out the natural sweetness of the taro. The taro itself falls apart when you poke at it with a fork–like expertly-done pulled pork–and maintains a QQ texture. Simply delightful.
We also tend to add 愛玉 [ai yu], a jelly made from the seeds of a variety of fig. Really floral elements and refreshing in the summer with some lemon juice and sugar. It’s not grown anywhere outside of Taiwan and Singapore, but you can find it in cans at Chinese supermarkets in the US. Red beans [红豆 hong dou], mung beans [綠豆 lu dou], lotus seeds [蓮子 lian zi], and grass jelly [燒仙草 sao xian cao] are the things we always tend to add. And stewed peanuts [花生 hua sheng], which are slow-cooked in the same way the taro is.
The shaved ice from 東區粉圓 has not changed in taste or quality for the past 6 going on 7 years and however many trips my mom and I have made to Taiwan. Delicious without fail, every. single. time.
Now go. You can find it at:
忠孝東路四段216巷38號, 大安區, 台北市
No. 38, Lane 216, Section 4, Zhongxiao East Rd, Daan District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106
If you’re taking the MRT [捷運 jie yun, or subway], get off at the Zhongxiao Dunhua stop on the Bannan line, 3rd exit at the station [板南線忠孝敦化站3號出口].
If you’re getting there by bus [公車 gong che]:
- 232‧204‧235‧662‧299‧663‧212‧278 (阿波羅大廈站下車) [ah po luo da qin stop]
- 275‧33‧292‧52‧605‧285‧630‧262‧905‧906‧909(捷運忠孝敦化站下車) [MRT Zhongxiao Dunhua stop]
Let me know if there are other shaved ice places in Taiwan that you love going to!