Taiwan eats- part 1…

tomatoes in plum juice
tomatoes in plum juice

There’s two food carts that set up each morning outside the hotel I’m staying in. they’re only there for the breakfast commuter trade.

One sells pan fried pork buns, filled with luscious pork juiciness, the other sells green shallot pastries.

The other morning I approached the first and asked ‘pork?’ He held up four fingers, so I gave him 40 NW$ (about $1.50AUD). He gave me four buns. Hmmm. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I only wanted one…

Anyways, it leads me to a foodie post. The street food here is great and even the small restaurants are affordable. Some words of caution:

  • Most of the street carts sell just one or two items
  • Most of the street carts advertise their wares in characters only
  • The same goes for many of the small restaurants- learn to recognise your food…or be game enough to take a chance on something new.
  • Most small restaurants will have at least one staff member who does speak some English- the same doesn’t apply for street carts. That’s ok- it’s fun eating in a place where the menu is entirely in character with no English subtitles.
  • The Taiwanese eat a lot more parts of the animal than what most westerners do.
  • Most Taiwanese bread is sweet- this means that the desserts are super sweet.

Noodle Soups

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On my first day in town I ordered a pork noodle soup. When it arrived, in addition to the sliced roast pork (sliced thinly across the grain, rather like a sandwich slice) there were bits in there that resembled the tripe my husband insists on ordering at yum cha, but which I never touch. It tasted very porky, but wasn’t- surprisingly- unpleasant…in small doses 🙂

beef noodle soup
beef noodle soup

Beef noodle soups are on the must have list here. The broth is rich and deeply flavoured and the meat tender.

Not exactly noodles, but fish ball soup falls into this category too. Not, as you might think, made out of the balls of very large fish, it’s fresh seafood made into balls and dunked into broth.

Din Tai Fung

Ok, this is going to make me sound a little pretentious, but I’ll say it anyway…I’ve eaten at one of these in Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Sydney. Of course I had to visit a Taiwanese branch- after all, this is where the chain originated!

The specialty here is Xiao Long Bao- or soupy dumplings.

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Din Tai Fung do a number of versions- the original pork, a chicken version and a crab one. All are good. All are the perfect size to pop in your mouth in one go. I defy you not to close your eyes as you get that explosion of soupy yumminess.

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Yes, I know that you can get your dumplings  (and my other favourite- Shanghai drunken chicken) cheaper elsewhere, but Din Tai Fung is a Taiwanese institution. Also, I’m well aware that xiao long bao is Shanghainese in origin, but for my money, Din Tai Fung helped bring them to the attention of the rest of the world- and something this good deserves to be shared.

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Street Snacks

Ok, street snacks are the reason this post is labelled part 1. Where do I start?

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With the pan fried pork bun? In all of it’s doughy, fluffy, porky wonder? One will cost you around 10NT$

What about the pepper cake? It’s a crispy pocket filled with yet more juicy pork and the added spice of peppercorn. These are baked flat in a clay oven and are perfect snacks on the go at between 20-30NT$.

If your fingers aren’t quite greasy enough, or your tummy sufficiently satisfied, try a green onion flaky pastry. Great value at 15NT$ or 25NT$ with an egg fried in the centre.

Then, of course, there’s the sausage on a stick. Yep, more pork, this time eaten with extra garlic just so that you can be guaranteed of tasting it for the rest of the afternoon. This is the snack that keeps on giving. Expect to pay around 30-50NT$- depending on where you are.

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Want more? Trust me, there is…next time…

Comments

8 comments on “Taiwan eats- part 1…”
  1. Sue Wang says:

    Yep, I am here for the ride. I didn’t get to go the tea house or the cable car in ’08, but I love the taste of oolong and the ceremonial way of “drinking” tea.

    OK, this post. YUMMAY. You are in pork heaven. I miss the buns (but now I am also allergic to wheat, no bao for me). Long ago, there were steamed rice-skin wrapped dumplings with tiny dried prawns and pork inside. Wonder if you can find that. Might be in the southern part of Taiwan -are you going there at all? I lived in Tainan most of my time there. You must have the pork sauce noodles if you go there.

    Shoa long bao were my favorite kind of bao. The key is in the tiny slices of ginger in the dipping sauce. Or the raw clove of garlic with the sausage. I was just telling a friend about it on our walk in Colorado. The Taiwanese are into garlic. And tripe, intestines, congealed blood, fish heads/eyes/belly… I wasn’t the adventurous eater. My sister was -they say she was the one who you want to take to the banquets; she would get your red-envelop gift money worth by eating everything.

    You are eating lots of great stuff. Keeping it coming! 🙂

    1. jo says:

      Hey Sue, they certainly do have the rice skin dumplings- I had some yesterday up in Jiofin. I tried the oyster omelette today- yummo too.

      1. Sue Wang says:

        Oyster omelette! I am not a huge oyster fan, but I love everything else on this dish. And the eel noodles -not so much the eel but the noodles. Also stinking tofu with special kimchi.

      2. jo says:

        I actually tried the stinky tofu the other night…I wasn’t disgusted, but nor was I thrilled…

      3. Sue Wang says:

        Well, the stink was the pungent, distinct thing. Might be an acquired taste. It came fr mainland China, this dish. An older (probably ex-vet) used to push a cart with a frying pan at night and call out in the alleyways “Stinking Tofu!”. We would run downstairs from our apt building with a large bowl and buy some. I can still see him snipping the large fried tofu with a pair of large dark metal scissors.The cabbage and red sauce makes the dish.

      4. jo says:

        That’s what I love about food- how it triggers such clear memories & feelings 🙂

  2. Debbish says:

    The beef noodle soup looks yummy! Bizarrely I’ve never had dumplings – cos of the whole coeliac thing. Same with stuff like pork buns. I suspect the street vendors would be a nightmare for coeliacs!?

    1. jo says:

      yes & no- a lot of rice is used in both the noodles & the doughs. Many dumplings are made from dough from tapioca starch and rice flour. It’s a matter of choosing wisely. I had very little gluten all week- not a deliberate choice, just how it tuned out.

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