As anyone who knows me will tell you, the first thing I ask about when visiting a place is how the food is. I have recently come back from (mostly Taipei) Taiwan after a six day visit, and got a taste of what the place has to offer. A taste meaning that the limited amount of time can only give me the opportunity to touch the surface of what the location can present. I also have to tell you that I didn’t seek out any place but was brought to places that other people had researched and looked for, as I was lucky enough to get an inside track from a friend that had been to Taiwan three times and has an unparalleled enthusiasm for the country. So here are the favorites from the six days of eating in no particular order:
- Taiwan Honey Beer: A twist on their classic beer, this one has a touch of sweetness, which, for a non beer drinker like me, had me looking for it every chance I got, but it was only available at the Family Mart down the road from our AirBNB and some stalls in the night market. I drank a few (well, more than a few) of these after long days of walking with a bum knee and cold weather, and it made me feel so much better about being a slowpoke. $45 NT a can at Family Mart.
- Grilled mushrooms
At the Raohe Street Night Market that was a street parallel from our place, there were several stalls that had grilled mushrooms so I knew I had to try at least one. They take these mushrooms and grill it, and then give you a couple of choices of seasonings. I picked lemon pepper. It had a really subtle taste, a cross between button and shitake, and the lemon pepper helped boost its natural flavor and added a bit of a kick. $70 NT per serving.
- Grilled scallop: Shilin Market has a stall that grills scallops and oysters with butter and cheese. I really don’t think I need to expound further, do I? $140 for one scallop and one oyster.
- Mala hot pot: Featuring amazing meats, and a Haagen Dazs all you can eat freezer, at $650 NT is a steal. All the fresh vegetables and variety of options had me dizzy in happiness. Drinks like teas, beers, sodas and juices come with. Bring your appetite and get a reservation. Groups only get 2 hours each per table so come hungry and come in a group to compare soups. We ordered the spicy and the vegetable for variety.
- Cabbage buns, pork buns and garlic chive buns: Traditional steamed buns, great for breakfast on the go with warm soy milk on cold days, you can definitely eat one of the three varieties each but soy milk really fills me up. Would go back any day and fill up on these.
- The selection at Aquatic addiction: Our first night in Taiwan, we headed to Aquatic addiction, a market/hotpot/grill where there is a massive selection of fresh seafood, meats, baked goods, liquor and most anything you can get in Taiwan that needs little to not much more cooking done. We had sashimi, a salmon bowl, roast beef, grilled shrimp, sushi.
7. The handmade mochi at Jiufen. When walking down that narrow street at Jiufen (I don’t know the name of the street, but you’ll know when you head to Jiufen), you’ll see this stall making fresh mochi. I had to try one since the store was so well organized and the mochi looked so pretty. We took a bite and it was so soft, and the cream filling so fresh, we ended up buying three boxes of the stuff. Do know that you can get mochi all over Taiwan but this stall had amazing mochi. Try the blueberry and the red bean ones.
And this list doesn’t include all the food we ate even if we were full. Taiwan offers a selection of great street and restaurant food. A lot of fresh vegetables and seafood, a lot of specialty stalls that show you how things are made, and how fresh all of these things are. Eating street food will set you back around P150-P200 a dish but you’ll be hard spent to find something that isn’t worth the money.
So go book a trip to Taiwan now, if only for the food.