«Ilha Formosa» – A Foodie Report
Taipeh Part I
I remember the first time I ever heard of Taiwan. It was on television, back in 2005. Back then, I was still a 9-year-old boy. My knowledge stopped at Taiwan belonging to China. But the television report made me curious. I wanted to know more about Taiwan: how the landscape looks like, how the food tastes and how it feels to live there. As you guys probably can imagine, trying out local Taiwanese food was probably my main desire and interest.
I have always wanted to know how Taiwanese food tastes like and so I gathered some information about it beforehand. As a matter of fact, Taiwanese food has a lot of similarities with Mainland Chinese food. However, Taiwan has had many other cultural influences in its history: the Spanish influence, later Portuguese and then Japanese. So you would actually find many non-Chinese dishes in Taiwan. But I couldn’t be satisfied by simply researching the Taiwanese cuisine online – I had to go there!
In January this year, I found myself at the Taoyuan International Airport near Taipeh and I couldn’t wait to go on this adventure!
The moment we deposited our luggage in the hostel, we went out looking for some delicious food for dinner. The hostel staff told us to check out the local night markets. The Taiwanese night markets are famous for its variety of delicacies from all over the world. Here, you can enjoy traditional Chinese cuisine, but also very authentic Portuguese or Japanese food!
If you ever happen to be in Taiwan, definitely visit one of these night markets! Before you even enter the night market, you can smell the fragrant spices from afar, generating a decent portion of hunger and saliva. Since the daily life of Taiwanese people is very structured, they love to relax at the night market with a cold beer after work. Having a nice chat with their colleagues, friends or family members while eating piping hot street food…There is nothing more you wish in your life!
The night markets in Taiwan are not concentrated at one single spot, the street food stalls are distributed within an entire city district so that visitors can explore different places and try out different dishes. There are spots that are super famous and you have to wait in line for about half an hour or more to get the food you want. People from all over the world come here and many bloggers and foodies have made some of the dishes very popular.
It almost felt like torture to hold the camera and take photos instead of throwing myself at all those street food stalls and stuff my stomach with local delicacies!
But if you guys think that the night market would be the only place where you get excellent food, then you are wrong! The following days, we spent in Taipeh visiting interesting museums and checking out the local’s favorite eating spots. One of them is called 金峰卤肉饭 (Jinfeng Braised Pork Rice).
Warning! This bowl of rice is not like anything you imagine. The braised pork literally has the consistency of “meat juices”. It means you won’t even be able to chew on the pork! The moment you take it into your mouth, the pork chunk instantly melts away and releases an explosion of rich flavours. To complete the experience, you should wait until the pork fat seeps through the steaming white rice and let it soak up all the flavour…I have to stop there because I can’t stop drooling when I remember this experience…
Speaking of noodle soup, Taiwan has a long tradition originating from Mainland China. This is an example of a bowl of noodles topped with minced beef and fresh cilantro. The locals seem to like the dry version, but you can also ask for a bowl with fragrant and delicious beef broth.
I really like to talk about breakfast in China, because it’s delicious and there are many options to fit everybody’s liking. For those people who prefer something light, they can have rice porridge with some fermented cabbage. For those who like some spiciness in the mornings, there is a huge variety of different noodles or rice dishes. The traditionalists however usually order a portion of two deep-fried dough sticks with warm soy milk and some steamed dim sum.
We are not quite finished with Taipeh just yet! Make sure you guys come back next week and enjoy the second part of my trip in this wonderful city!