Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Taipei - where glorious eating awaits!

In the past, when I've gone to back to visit Taipei, my days are usually filled with visiting family, and I never got the chance to explore the city.  I couldn't tell you much about Taipei - the flavor of the city, places to visit, what the people are like.  This time, my mom and I decided that we were going to save all the family visits for the last two days, and take some time to explore Taipei.  Luckily, my mom's cousin took some time off and (more importantly) had a car, and offered to show us around for four days.  And wow, am I so glad we did this!  I really began to see what Taiwan is like and was amazed at how beautiful Taiwan is.  Taipei is often overlooked as a destination and skipped over for other major Asian cities, but I strongly urge you all to take the time to visit!  You won't regret it.  Hopefully the pictures of food below will convince you......

Famous Keelung Night Market

When I think Taiwan, I think FOOD!  You can't talk about Taiwan without mentioning the night markets and the variety of food - a-ma-zing!  There is so much to try - noodles, rice, meats, seafood, fruits, desserts - and all very reasonably priced - usually around 100 NT (roughly 3 USD) or less.   As soon as we landed the first night, even though it was late, my uncle and grand-aunt insisted that we could not go to bed hungry.  I was not about to disagree!  They took us to the Ling Sha night food market, which for 11:30 at night, was packed with people.  Perhaps they were eating a second dinner?


foodstalls at Ling Sha night food market

all sorts of sweets and fresh guava in the back

cooking noodles at the market
The Taiwanese never have to cook - ever!  In addition to these night markets, the streets are filled with a variety of food stalls - one of my favorites is the bao zi (or steamed buns) that are filled with all sorts of ingredients.  Our favorite breakfast in the morning: a cup of fresh soy milk (15 TWD) and steamed buns (15-25 TWD each). 

Also, I discovered that there is no such thing as a leisurely meal in Taipai - you sit down, order, and within a few minutes the food comes out.  Most of the time I haven't even settled into my seat and the food is on the table.  My uncle tells me that people don't want to waste time over waiting for food - they want to get in and get out.  As I am the slowest eater on the planet, I found this a bit hard to get used to.  However, it's great for moving on to the next yummy place! 

Some of the more interesting things we ate:

Shredded taro balls (left) and
rice sausage (right)
- great flavor, strange texture

rice and egg soup in sake
with sesame balls -
I was not a fan, but it is
one of my mom's favorites

very traditional Taiwanese dish -
made of glutonous rice flour (I think?) and meat and red sauce

Below are some of my favorite eats - wish I could list them all, but I would run out of space!  A must try I did not get a picture of - stinky tofu.  They might not smell good, but they are delicious!

Beef noodle soup - they give
you the option to have all tendons,
which is my favorite!
preparing another noodle soup with seafood

Bottom: rice dish with
shitake mushrooms
 (traditionally eaten after
 birth to give nutrients to mothers)
Top: crab and noodle dish

"xiaolongbao"- pork and ginger dumplings.
 These are amazing - dip in vinegar
and soy sauce and eat whole.
Don't let the skin break. 
All the juices will meld
together in your mouth. 
When I get these in SF, they cost me
10 dollars for 6!

And finally, I must show pictures of what was my three favorite desserts of the trip: tapioca soup, grass jelly soup, and sweet tofu soup.
Tapioca soup and grassy jelly soup:

Very popular dessert place now -
features tapioca and grass jelly
combinations.  We waited
30 minutes in line to get ours.
Of course, we got one of each. 
The tapioca on the left had red beans
and the grass jelly on the right
had taro root

Sweet Tofu soups:

sweet tofu with sweet potato balls = perfection

you can get them with other
additions as well -
 barley, red beans, peanuts

I miss all the food already and can't wait to go back and try some different things!  Coming soon: places to visit.

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