During a recent visit back to Tainan for Chinese New Year, I was able to revisit one of my favourite shops from my student days: Fangyuan Ice Lolly. Even though it was winter and cold (even for southern Taiwan), we couldn’t resist trying some of the delicious sweet treats.
I credit Fangyuan Ice Lolly as one of the main reasons I had a massive weight blow out while in Tainan. Every few weeks or so, I would peddle my trusty red Giant bicycle down to Fangyuans and pick up a combination of 20 — or maybe 40 — different flavoured icy poles. The owner would wrap them up in bundles of newspaper, I would place them in the basket of my bicycle and peddle home quickly down Tainan’s fashionable wedding street. I rationalised my bulk purchases by pretending that I was really buying them for my homestay father, who first introduced me to the shop. But someone it seemed that I was always the one who sneakily took the icy-poles one by one from the freezer.
Hidden in an unimposing shop around the corner from the former Tainan City Hall and the historical Confucius Temple, many tourists visit the nearby sights but completely bypass this shop. You might be forgiven for wondering how an ice-cream shop that doesn’t focus on tourists stays in business, but it does well from astute locals who know where the best treats are hidden. These days, the shop facade has been modernised, and the range has diversified into ice-cream cakes, ice-cream sandwiches, ice-cream tubs, cornettos and desserts. But their best product is their traditional ‘ice lolly’: icy-pole/popsicle bars made in traditional flavours such as red bean, green bean, taro, almond and sesame.
The average ‘ice lolly’, including their rich red bean popsicles, sells for NT$10 (around US 30 cents). But on the shop matriarch’s strong insistence, Mr Taiwanxifu tried a deluxe sesame flavoured icy-pole with a crunchy outer coating — a total cost of NT$15 (around US 50 cents).
Also on the matriarch’s firm recommendation, I tried a chocolate-coated vanilla ice-cream. I was still toying with choosing a red bean ice-cream — or even an ice-cream sandwich — instead, but she was insistent that I would like the chocolate one. And she was right. It was so good in fact that my former homestay brother went back to get a chocolate ice-cream (NT$15) for seconds.
Fangyuan is at No 6 Kaishan Road — one of the streets that star off from the round-about in front of the historical Tainan Town Hall. (台南市中西區開山路6號, phone 06-2272047). Once you know where to find it, it is easy to walk there for a cool treat after visiting the Confucius Temple on a hot, summers day.