Hi guys! I had to share a second round of eats from our trip to Tapei over CNY…Everything we ate here was exceptionally good; actually I take that back, there was the stinky tofu, which you’ll see in a moment 😉
Tapei 101; at 508m tall, it was the tallest building in the world when it’s construction was completed in ’04. It has since been surpassed by four other buildings, with Dubai’s Burj Khalifa coming first at 828m high.
‘Taipei Eats’ Food Tour
I shared the first half of the tour with you in last week’s What I Ate Wednesday, here are some highlights that followed:
‘Gua Bao’, Taiwanese pork belly bun. AKA ‘steamed hamburgers’, these were filled with the popular combo of pickled mustard greens (so good!), cilantro + peanut powder (there’s peanut powder in lots of savoury and sweet dishes in Tapei).
Here’s mine, sans pork; Quincy our tour guide said that this is still good with just the vego fillings and was she right! LOVED this – the sweet pickled mustard greens paired really well with the sweet and savoury peanut powder and the citrus/parsley flavours from the cilantro (I may or may not have stolen a couple bites of Joe’s…I’ll be honest, even better with the pork).
Next up was the infamous stinky tofu at Stinky Tofu House (yep!). This one was fermented in milk and vegetables but beef is also often used in the fermentation process.
The exact origin of this signature dish in Taipei is unknown, but it’s thought to date back to the Qing Dynasty (1964-1912); one story is that after failing his imperial exam, a scholar named Wang Zhihe opened a tofu shop in Beijing. He then grew concerned that the tofu would go off easily in the summer, and so preserved it in a jar with salted water. Winter came, by which time Zhihe had forgotten all about the preserved tofu; he opened it and out came a rotten smell, with the tofu covered in mould. Not one to waste, he tried the tofu anyway. Turned out he liked it!
Sweet plum juice chaser – I needed this. I’m a big fan of tofu so actually wasn’t too scared to try the stinky tofu…Let’s just say I shouldn’t have shoved a whole piece in my mouth. The smell of stinky tofu is often described as being similar to rotten meat, and the lingering taste is a bit like blue cheese, with a creamy consistency.
Round 2: Deep fried stinky tofu, more suitable for ‘beginners’. Less fermented than the raw variety, this is ranked 10 on the fermentation scale used, whereas the raw variety is 13th. I tried half a piece and promptly sculled my chaser. People say the taste of stinky tofu is quite mild compared to the smell but I’m not so sure. The cabbage was good though 😉
This is the type of stinky tofu sold at street vendors – you smell it when you’re about ten vendors away, and the smell follows you! Clearly there’s something that I’m missing though – we saw heaps of people snacking on stinky tofu cubes and children munching on stinky tofu ‘fries’ at the night markets; apparently the more you try it the more the flavour becomes palatable…think I’ll be sticking to yoghurt 😉
This went down a treat post stinky-tofu; the best bubble milk tea I’ve ever tasted (you could really taste the tea), the quality milk and creamy white sago pearls were melt-in-your-mouth good, with the unique ‘Q’ texture – chewy, bouncy and gummy – which the locals in Taipei are so mad about. Milk Shop is a small chain and much less commercial than many other milk tea joints in Taipei.
Iced tea culture took off in Taiwan in the early 80s, when Liu Han-Chieh, the founder of Taichung’s Chun Shui Tang teahouse took a trip to Japan and saw that the coffee was served iced, so started to the same with his tea he served. Bubble tea actually originated in Taiwan in the late 80s; for fun, Ms. Lin Hsiu Hui, the product development manager at Taichung’s Chun Shui Tang teahouse added ‘fen yuan’, sweet tapioca pudding to her Assam iced tea at a staff meeting. Everybody loved it and the customers did too, with bubble tea outselling their iced tea.
‘Xiao long bao’, Shanghai-style soup dumplings with pork at KaoChi in Songshan Cultural Park. How do they get soup into those dumplings? Aspec (meat stock gelatin with ingredients set into it) is wrapped inside the dumpling skin along with the pork; when the dumplings are steamed, the heat turns the aspec into soup.
I love the ripple effect and the pinched top; pretty aren’t they? This place is the famous Ding Tai Fung’s competition when it comes to the best xiao long bao in Taipei.
Last stop of the tour was at ‘Plum Pineapple’ for frozen desserts; a gem of a place which, like many other places we were taken on the tour, we’d never have found by ourselves. I chose half peanut, half taro…this (and all the flavours) was dairy free, and the consistency was a cross between a sorbet and a gelato…refreshing and quite creamy.
Wish I’d taken a photo of the layout of this place – all white and very minimalist and stripped back.
Joe’s flavour stole the show – he got the Plum Pineapple, theirsignature. Granita-like in texture and a really complex flavour from the sweet, acidic pineapple paired with the salty and sour Japanese Umeboshi plum.
Roehe Street Night Market
We’d been told on our food tour that the Roehe market was one worth going to, 1) for the food and 2) because it’s less touristy. Believe it or not we headed here on the evening of the food tour (after several hours digesting!), largely because CNY celebrations were beginning the next day, so we wanted to see Roehe when it was pumping.
BBQ pork buns (turns out we went to the wrong vendor! We’ll have to go back to go to the vendor we were recommended on the tour).
Still, this was awesome.
Freshly squeezed cranberry juice with lemon. You could order it sweet or sour; I went for sour with lemon – tart and refreshing.
Grilled squid and deep fried squid leg everywhere.
No closeup shot because we were too busy devouring one of these; Topped with corn, Japanese mayo and wasabi, this was umami and moreish.
Shilin Night Market
A couple snaps from one of the biggest and most popular night markets in Taipei. It’s all about snacks in Taipei, rather than one big meal..,great because it means you get to try a bit of everything!
Famous deep fried squid leg. Meaty and tender on the inside, crunchy and spicy on the outside and insanely moreish.
Mochi rolling. If you haven’t tried a mochi before, it’s a glutinous Japanese dessert made with a paste of pounded short-grain japonica rice that’s been soaked and slow-cooked. The paste is then rolled into balls, each stuffed with red bean paste or black sesame powder and then rolled in peanut powder…the texture is soft and slightly chewy.
There’s a strong Japanese influence on the food in Taiwan due to the Japanese occupation between 1895-1945; during this time, a significant amount of Taiwanese food was exported to Japan, while Japanese food was brought into Taiwan, with Japanese food culture making an impression the Taiwanese.
Tapei 101 Basement Food Court
I’m not usually a fan of food courts, but I was so impressed with this one – so much quality Asian food to choose from. Legit bimbimbap here – loved the kimchi and the spicy. Korea was under Japanese rule between 1910-1945, so you see lots of Korean dishes and Korean BBQ in Taipei.
Yum Cha at KaoChi + Dessert @ Smoothie House
…after a failed attempt at Ding Tai Fung (the one we went to was closed for CNY). Anyway, we loved the dim sum here and will make a point of going back here the next time we do Taipei. Some highlights…
Savoury radish pastries, ‘luo bo su’ in Mandarin (or ‘lo back sou’ in Cantonese) You can order them sweet, too.
Crispy, light, melt-in-your-mouth pastry and stir-fried radish to cut the richness.
‘Changfen’ in Mandarin (or ‘cheong fun’ in Cantonese) – this has become one of my favourite dim sum; steamed rice noodle rolls filled with shrimp and ‘loofah’ (Chinese okra).
‘Xia jiao’ in Mandarin (or ‘har gow’ in Cantonese) – another favourite since moving to HK, I just discovered that these pretty pink shrimp dumplings also contain fatty pork for added texture…whoops.
Yep, this happened.
The fluffiest, mango-infused ‘snowflake’ ice at Smoothie House; this made CNN’s ’40 Taiwanese Foods We Can’t Live Without List’ last year. I get why. We made a bigger dent than we thought we would in this.
Beef Noodle Soup
Lining up for beef noodle soup – Taiwan’s other national dish. This was in Beitou, the hot spring district…people queue a lot for food in Taipei, and are happy to wait patiently; a long line means food worth waiting for!
Not much talking, lots of slurping.
Wasn’t sure how I’d go with this, but turns out it was an unexpected highlight – Braised beef noodle in beef broth with al dente fresh Chinese noodles. Wow.
Clearly I’m becoming braver and more adventurous in the food department…I want to go back to try more! And that’s WIAW