Friday, November 30, 2007

Good Eats in Taipei (Part 1 of 4; The Taipei Experience)

It's my first time to visit one of Asia's bustling cities, TAIPEI. Although the trip was ultimately work related, it still gave me a chance to explore some of the city's wonders. In 4 days, the city left a remarkable impression in me. It was indeed an unforgettable taste of a Taiwanese life! There are so much to share and blog about. It's an experience filled with historical discoveries, real surprises and distinctive adventures.
With that, this all about Taipei Post will be divided into 4 parts:
Part 1 - Good Eats in Taipei

Part 2 - Taiwan International Food Show

Part 3 - Going Around Taipei: The Must See

Part 4 - Shopping in Taipei


For now I'll let you have a taste of the first installment, the delightful Taiwanese Cuisine and the good eats Taipei can offer. In the entire duration of the trip, there was no meal occasion that my colleague and I did not enjoy. Every food that got into our palate deserved a pleasing nod or that popular Japanese sensory gesture, OISHI (masarap, delicious)! I've read from one Taiwanese Blog, that food courts in Taipei have great food finds as well. So off in our first day, we tried the FOOD COURT Cuisine. Opportunely, my first official food in Taipei did not fail me. It's a typical Chinese Bento Box that's affordable, filling and tasty (photo below). What a good way to welcome a Pinoy Tourist! Further I came to know that indeed Food Court Meals in Taipei are not mere so so. Some are treasures underground.

Chinese Bento - NT$135 (P180)


Dumpling Noodles - NT$110 (P146); Generally, clean, non-descript soup. This noodle soup showed us how good the texture of the noodles in Taiwan can be. Firm but enjoyably chewy.

Most Food Courts in Taipei boast of an enormous selection of baked goods. In Sogo Department Store for instance, you would feast on the inviting showcase and aroma of sumptuous cakes, pastries, cookies and a lot more. Just a mere peek from the chiller will make you salivate already. What's more interesting is the design of the cakes. Oh, I love to have a slice of this so cute Hello Kitty Cakes! But a part of me also wants to keep it whole for the sheer delight of its beauty.




Just like in Japan, LUNCH BOX is also popular here. A complete meal usually comes in attractive paper box. What's important to note, is that the food packed inside is equally appetizing as the design of the box outside. Although not visually clear from the photo, the print on this box states delicious, healthy, fresh, natural! This gained Taipei an initial thumbs up from me. How I wish, the Philippines will slowly veer away from using styro and plastics. It's but high time for us to be more eco-friendly similar to what our neighboring countries are doing.





What's a food trip in Taipei without dropping by at the famous DIN TAI FUNG?! This Dimsum Restaurant has its own share of media hype and travel raves. Thus, I must not leave Taipei without trying its food and discovering its secrets myself. Luckily, one of their branches is near our hotel (Fuxing). So we made one of our nights, a Din Tai Fung Night. To maximize this great dimsum experience, we tried some of the finests in their menu - Steamed Pork Dumplings, Steamed Vegetables and Pork Dumplings and Braised Beef Noodles. I must admit that the dinner proved the restaurant's worth on all the claims and highly rated food reviews. The steamed pork dumplings alone is second to none. I haven't tried anything like it before. There's this characteristic flavor that the soup gives together with the overall succulent bite that lingers through your palate. It's a complete dimsum experience in all its authenticity.





Steamed Pork Dumplings (a natural winner, already good as is)

Steamed Vegetables and Pork Dumplings (another must try, chunky and juicy, best when dipped in soy-vinegar)









Braised Beef Noodles (a little spicy, quite fatty but juicy, flavoursome, worthy enough to be in Din Tai Fung's Finest Cuisine list)




There are two things Taiwanese love to do: shopping and eating. With no surprise, I lost count on how many night markets and shopping malls can be found in Taipei alone. Most Taiwanese flock to the Market not only to shop but more importantly to find great foods as well. Thus, it's not difficult to replenish that much needed energy whenever you do your shopping. Among the NIGHT MARKETS, the largest and the most popular in Taipei is the Shilin Night Market. There's a separate hall in this area that is largely dedicated for foods. The alleys can be easily filled with hungry mouths to feed, be it locals or wandering tourists. Different smells migrate from one corner to another, from one food stall to the next. Simply astonishing!

Outside the hall, there are people showing placards to sell foods. Isn't that a sample of Taiwanese's hard selling technique?


Another first that I saw in Shilin Night Market, is this Fruit Cart selling grilled and sugar glazed strawberries and cherry tomatoes. The fruits' inherent sweet and pleasant aroma is enough reason already to stop by at this cart.






We were also blessed to be invited by an industry colleague to partake in a traditional Taiwanese Dinner. This occasion introduced me to the authentic TAIWANESE CUISINE. Generally, I noticed that Taiwanese Cuisine is abundant in seafoods and vegetables. In particular, seaweeds, tofu and fish. Suffice it to say, the world renowned national dish is called "stinky tofu". Although taiwanese cuisine is a product of many influences, basically it's a steaming pot of delicious flavor notes.


To add more zest to this dining experience, we did not resist trying their traditional drinks as well, the Taiwan Beer and the Plum Juice. However, since I have very limited alcohol threshold, I can hardly say how different their beer was against ours. For the Plum Juice, I gave it a score of 5 out of 5. According to the Taiwanese, this is best consumed after drinking a beer. Probably because it's refreshing and the juicy, sweet and sour characters of the plum juice wash out some bitter notes left by the alcohol. As for me, it's sufficient to replace water on that dinner occasion.

From our bountiful table, we feast on the following dishes...

Steamed Native Chicken with Chili Sauce, taste is similar to our very own native chicken. Because it's believed to be flavorful, there's not much spices or flavourings added into it. It's plain salt that I noted. Fatty, juicy and a little tough in texture.


Sesame Noodles, comparable to our local Misua only the noodle strand is slightly thicker and more firm. This is tasty! A second serving is almost necessary.

Vegetables with some Internal Parts of Chicken, sauted and saucy.

Oysters with Tofu, another flavorful dish. This is really lip-smacking!. The spicy note and the coriander gave an exciting kick to its overall acceptance.


Bamboo Shoots cooked the Bulalo (BoneMarrow) way, another winning dish in itself. The bamboo shoots is cooked just right, tender in bite and served in interesting cut size.


Steamed Fish, this is a typical chinese way of cooking a fish. Very clean in taste, soft and succulent.

Stinky Tofu (cooked in soup), this is just another way of cooking the stinky tofu. It can also be barbequed or fried (normally sold in night markets or streets). When the tofu is cooked in soup, the stinky smell is somehow lessened. This one, I can consume without closing my nose. Though the stinky smell is overpowering, you can hardly taste the off note. Without that differentiating smell, it's the same tofu dish we have in the Philippines.


Beef Hot Pot, although it's not too visible from the picture, the beef and vegetables here were blackened. The soup is warming and tastes like "sibut" (chinese herbs). Also acceptable, only the black vegetables and meat are a bit different (bizarre).



The newest and intriguing dining place in Taipei that is becoming more and more popular these days is the TOILET RESTAURANT. I saw it featured in one of the local news in the Philippines prior to my trip in Taipei. Thus, it certainly made its way to the must see list. Contrary to my initial notion that it might be "yucky" to try, it turned out to be just another out of the ordinary experience. I didn't find dining here disgusting nor nauseating. Simply, the ambiance is just DIFFERENT. The food is like any of those you find in typical restaurants. On the whole, it's the unique experience you'll come here for. If diners will be captured by the taste of the food the restaurant offers, it'll encourage a consistent following. Otherwise, those into a more adventurous feel are the ones who'll likely frequent this spot.





These are Shaved Ice flavored with Ice Cream and toppings placed in a ceramic, "bed pan" inspired serving dish. This is Taiwan's version of their Halo-Halo. But ours is still a lot better. The photo above is Strawberry Flavor, below is Chocolate. Both generously topped with sweet biscuits, raisins, cereals, red beans, chocolate bits, wafer sticks, mongo beans, marshmallows and other fruits. Did the shape of the soft served Ice Cream remind you of something?
With only limited time for such a wealthy culinary haven that is Taipei, I'm already thankful for a slice of a superb Taiwanese Cuisine.

(watch out for the other 3 installments related to this post...)

2 comments:

tintin said...

What an enriching experience indeed! Thanks for sharing.

MegaMom said...

Sherra, this looks great!
I'll make sure to bookmark this page for a future visit to Taipei. Thanks for the wealth of information.
I know someone who would love that Hello Kitty cake.