We came for beef noodles, and left having discovered a gourmet supermarket / an international outdoor food court / an outpost of my favorite Taipei bar / oodles of design products. As you do.
It was a Sunday. My sister appeared at my bedroom door, her face ashen and her voice cracking with panic. She broke the news: she had just read in the newspaper that it was the very, very last day of the Taipei Beef Noodle Festival. She had seen the festival on television last week, had told me to take her, I had apparently ignored her (I admit to nothing), and now it was all too late.
Thirty minutes later, we were queuing up for beef noodles amidst a herd of flapping tents.
I’d heard things about MAJI MAJI Square; word on the street was that it was to be an exciting new cultural + foodie complex along the lines of Songshan Cultural Park. It’s initially a bit confusing what exactly MAJI MAJI Square is: is it a food market, or a design goods purveyor, or a cafe, or a…? It certainly doesn’t help matters that many parts of MAJI MAJI seem to operate separately, under different web-sites and Facebook pages. As I perceive it, MAJI MAJI Square is a collection of shops and restaurants (including new outposts of some of Taipei’s most beloved foodie favorites) housed in the former Taipei International Flora Exposition grounds. The space has been empty for a while, so it was pleasantly shocking to see it absolutely lined with shops and packed to the brim with the weekend crush. The new development sprawls across the entire length of the expo grounds; centering itself around a little fountain square.
Also located within the MAJI MAJI complex is MAJI Food & Deli, a gourmet market that seems to be Taipei’s answer to Dean & Deluca. It also stands as a symbol of Taipei’s growing consciousness of food quality: many of the products are labelled organic/hand-made and come from small farms and businesses. The “slow food” movement has always had its own little niche in Taiwan, but with the way food-based scandals are splashed over the news nowadays (defective oil, artificial flavoring in bread, harmful hormones in beef), it seems that the clean food movement is set to take up on a larger scale. I’m excited to see how it develops (and ideally, will be able sample some of the results for myself).
Maji Food & Deli also includes a coffee counter + small prepared foods section; essentially an upscale version of the classic Taiwanese 便當店。Although MAJI MAJI is too far for me to come here on even a semi-regular basis, it’d be the perfect place to stock up on some thoughtful gifts for friends and family; as always, I firmly believe that the best gifts to give are ones that you eat; and gifts that support small businesses and farmers rather than big, evil corporations are always the better choice.
Good Cho’s seems to be popping up everywhere in Taipei (they recently opened a new outpost in Tianmu as well); and bringing the love of bagels to everyone. The sister + I popped in to scavenge what was left of the bagel selection. And, like its counterpart at Simple Market, the Good Cho’s at MAJI MAJI played neighbor to ice cream shop Midori. We couldn’t resist, and came out with a big delicious scoop of mulberry yogurt, dripping down our fingers in the sunshine.
We finished off our Midori while strolling around the numerous design shops + outdoor market stalls that make up MAJI MAJI Market. The outdoor market is full of young designers displaying their goods at carefully arranged stalls; Vintage fashion, colorful handmade bike frames, design products, and flea market finds sourced from all over the globe. (My favorite: a sweet design student who was selling a collection of trinkets + shoes she’d picked up during her European travels this past summer.) The brick and mortar shops seem to be from more well-established brands, selling more upscale design products.
MAJI MAJI has also brought dozens of fresh additions to the Taipei foodie-scene, including Argentinian BBQ, Japanese yakitori; a steakhouse. I love that many of them have huge outdoor patios: so rare in Taipei. MAJI MAJI has definitely taken a gamble in building an outdoor market, as the lovely denizens of our city are rather famous for their aversion to sitting/strolling in the sun for long periods of time. I, however, am a totally different case; I can’t wait for warmer weather to have long, leisurely outdoor wine lunches. See you there, winos.