The first time I went to Taipei, I had just come from the United States with a box of .41-caliber ammunition. My dumb move didn’t sink in until I was in line at customs to be checked. Blessing came in the form of a storage facility at the arrival area where I could leave my luggage for my overnight stay. I would have still been in there in some jail if not for that storage room.
My second time in Taipei, I went with a huge group, all guests of Mr. Tanyu. I remember dining in one of his restaurants—in a building which had three floors of various Chinese cuisine on each floor. If I remember correctly, each floor could accommodate 5,000 seats. The food was amazing.
Taiwan has since progressed by leaps and bounds. I was there again two weeks ago. I knew there isn’t much in terms of sightseeing. Shopping, I heard, is also a letdown. But I was looking forward to a new food experience, especially with what I’ve heard about street food. I love street food. It is there where you find many new hits in the culinary circle.
We came as a group of 22 badminton friends. As soon as we arrived in the hotel on an early evening, we gave each other 15 minutes to refresh so we can head to our first food destination: Din Tai Fung.
I believe this is the place that invented the xiao long bao—siomai- like dumpling, steamed and served hot, dipped in black vinegar with very thin strips of ginger. As you take a bite, there will be a burst of warm soup together with the cooked ground pork in the air- sealed wanton. Sarap!
Also in the menu was truffle xiao long bao which is highly recommended. The deep-fried pork chops were also very good, and the marinated sliced cucumber with a sesame-based dressing was a winner.
I loved the peanut butter noodles and some sotanghon appetizer. If that meal was our basis of things to come, it looked very promising.
From here, we took the train to the Shilin night market where we saw all kinds of street food. Capturing the aroma in the air was the smell of sewer, which I later learned was stinky tofu. Good, but I expected a lot more.
There was a stall selling sausage wrapped with steamed, sticky rice. The rice is broiled, cut lengthwise, and then stuffed with pork sausage. Brilliant idea, but the taste wasn’t anything to write home about.
One of the bestsellers is the Hot Star Fried Chicken Fillet. This is a marinated whole flat chicken, coated with seasoned flour, and then deep-fried. It was good, but not great. I am told someone bought the franchise and will open one here in Manila. Good luck!
Flavored tea drinks
Other foodstuff that I saw were oyster omelette, Indian bread with various fillings, more sausages, a lot of barbecue seafood balls, stuffed buns, and a delicious fruit which is a combination of atis and guyabano. Very good when chilled. The whole city of Taipei, by the way, was flooded with flavored tea drinks. That seems to be such a hit there.
Another good meal was a lunch recommended by some former dental students of one of our friends, Dina. We had a great lauriat of Taipei dishes. That was good. I noticed, though, they didn’t serve any rice.
All in all, it was fun because of the company, but the food experience wasn’t that great. I guess we just didn’t know where to go. Maybe we should do more research next time, or ask some of my culinary spies.
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