Daxi Old Street is just a 30-45 minute scooter ride outside of Zhongli, but arriving there will transport you many decades back in time. That’s what every laojie, or “old street” is supposed to do: take you back to a simpler Taiwan where the narrow streets weren’t crowded with SUVs and good food was one of life’s highest pleasures.
There are lots of old-fashioned buildings along a brick road, many tofu restaurants, street-food vendors, tea and coffee shops, souvenir shops, a big temple, a small temple, and a view of the river. At night, you can watch the sunset there, and when it’s dark, one of the bridges lights up and the lights change colors.
Check out the article Authentic Tofu, Cosmopolitan Taiwan from the Taiwan Journal of Anthropology for a more in-depth discussion about the role of food and travel in creating a cosmopolitan Taiwanese identity.
The drive to Daxi is always for me an excellent argument against owning a car in Taiwan. Of course, it is often tempting, but once you roll your scooter along the shoulder down the hill past all those cars stuck for miles, you will appreciate the freedom and convenience of a scooter.
Like other Taiwanese old streets, part of what draws people is the food. In Daxi, the famous dish is dougan, or firm tofu. It seems like every other shop on Daxi sells dougan in an almost alarming array of shapes.
Actually, it took me a long time to develop a taste for dougan, but now I really enjoy it. Also, for vegetarians, dougan is awesome: it’s firm and meaty and savory, similar to mushrooms, and can be used to make all kinds of delicious dishes.
We ordered this plate with one of every kind and it cost us NT$150, which is like US$5! C’mon, that is a lot of food. Three of us could not finish it, and we took it home right in the bag they served it on.
And please take a moment to acknowledge how brilliant it is that the boss-lady formed a little pocket in the bag and filled that full of spicy soy sauce. Good lord. Clever, clean, and not wasteful.
I don’t know if this is the famous shop on Daxi Old Street, but I don’t have a ton of patience for being that snooty about the food that is being served in literally every restaurant in this neighborhood. It was open and we could get pictures of the vat of braised tofu, that’s why we chose this shop. Anyway, the boss-lady was very friendly and the tofu was delicious.
Daxi is a nice place to spend a few hours, get some cool gifts, and enjoy some special food. It’s a great place to bring new friends, dates, and your parents when they come to visit.