Tag Archives: Taiwan food

Discovering Taiwan (Series): Tasting Unusual Foods in Taiwan

Mudskipper soup - Tainan, Taiwan

I’ve always thought of myself as an open-minded person. After all, I grew up in different cultures and started traveling from age 1. I love to try anything new – new foods, new traditions, new clothes, new languages… you name it.

Still, never has my open-mindedness been tested as much as it was in Taiwan, sampling food for seven days.

Taiwanese cuisine – a blend of aborigine Taiwanese, Chinese and Japanese influences – presented a whole new world of flavors. At home, I normally stick to Vietnamese or Thai when it comes to Asian- it’s “safe,” and I know exactly what I’m getting.

But in Taiwan, almost every day, I was faced with odd-looking dishes: river fish, livers of various kinds of animals, pork (lots of pork consumed in Taiwan), intestines, chicken feet and other types of snacks at night markets, some of which I couldn’t make out. I had to taste flavors that lingered on my palate and had to be washed away with a sip of vinegar. I also had to get accustomed to new table etiquette (I never really mastered the art of chopsticks and never had to before this trip, but boy, did I learn fast!)

There were a couple of days when the meals were more of the “expected” type – delicious dumplings, beef noodle soup, lamb and oysters. But I’ll admit, there were those other times when I had to take a deep breath before even lifting that particular piece of meat or fish towards my mouth. Like the time I was sampling a beautifully presented “Lotus” fish soup.  I was sipping away and occasionally crunching on green and soft looking vegetable shoots in the mixture, only to find out on closer examination that the latter were small green river fish – with the eye staring right back at me. I put my spoon down and, that was that! But afterwards, I realized that it was all in the mind – the broth was actually quite tasty.

In fact, in Taiwan, I found that most of the “unusual-looking” foods turned out to not taste as bad as I assumed.

As they say, one man’s meat is another man’s poison.

This trip – the first “food based” tour I’ve taken – was a reminder of what travel is all about, and how much food and culture go hand in hand.You can’t experience one without the other and if you even try, you’re missing out, big time. Especially in Taiwan, where eating is like shopping – part of life’s daily enjoyment.

Here are eight dishes and foods that took me by surprise in Taiwan. Some were served, others I spotted at the night markets. Either way, Taiwan put a whole new meaning to “snacking.”

Kissfish with crab meat and pork in the middle, and tofu sauce. Mudskipper soupMeat stands at the night market in Taipei: duck intestines, chicken intestines, liver, tendons, duck tongue and parts I could not identify.Fish stomach in milk fish soup - a traditional breakfast dish (yes, breakfast - more on this later)One of Taiwan's traditional snacks: Stinky TofuBlood cake - the dark piece the shopper is picking up in his right hand to add to his bowl.Bamboo shoot soup with shellfishWinter-picked mushroom and pig tendon soup

 

What do you think, would you try these? Or do you avoid local foods that seem “strange” to you when you travel?

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Discovering Taiwan: Eating My Way Across l’Ihla Formosa

Two months ago, in August, I went to Taiwan on a week-long press trip -  a Foodie Tour, at the invitation of the Taiwan Tourism Board. An opportunity to eat my way around the island, with visits to cultural, spiritual and historical places – all while indulging in authentic Taiwanese cuisine, 10-course meals, night markets, tea houses and even beer breweries. You name it, it was on the itinerary – the first of its kind planned by the Taiwan Tourism Board, on occasion of the country’s centennial anniversary.

When MatadorU first posted the opportunity for its graduates, I jumped on it. A couple of weeks later, I was selected by the Taiwan Tourism Board, along with eight other travel writers and bloggers from around the US.

It would be my first time in Asia, and lucky me – that first time would be on an island (we all know my penchant for such places).

Shortly after that selection, I was offered a spot as Matador’s second Road Warrior in Belize.

Belize and Taiwan, all in one summer?! It was a whole lot of excitement for one girl. But I knew I could handle it.

The trip to Taiwan was the longest I’ve ever endured, because I had to make my way from Belize all the way to Washington DC, then LA and finally Taiwan.

LAX-Taipei alone is a 15-hour flight.

Phew. If it wasn’t for that comfortable, direct EVA Air flight with the extra leg room and the snazzy movie-on-demand feature, I wouldn’t have made it.

But the flight woes and back pains were all a distant memory the moment I arrived in Taipei and we pulled away from the airport and into the city.

Aah Taiwan! I experienced so many moments of intrigue at every hour of the day, let alone in a week. My senses were on overload, as was my camera – the farther we ventured the island, the more I felt connected to the culture and the more I wanted to look deeper.

Yes, Taiwan proved to be more than just an island off the eastern coast of China.

The country is a reflection of its complex history – because wow, Taiwan’s been through it! Portuguese settlers, followed by >>

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