Taiwan: Food, Glorious Food

22 12 2008

Warning!  Gratuitous Food Pics Ahead!  One of the best things about Taiwan is undeniably the food.  From the 5 star restaurant to the local street stand, food is of utmost importance to the Taiwanese, and it shows.  Eating out is a national pastime in this island nation so when in Taiwan, you should do as the locals do!

First, let’s start with the famous xiao chi (small eats) of Taiwan. These traditional Taiwanese snacks are found in roadside stands and markets everywhere.

This is one of my favorite foods of all time.  Called bawan, it is a large rice dumpling stuffed with meat, bamboo shoots, and mushrooms that is steamed (or fried). This particular one comes from a street stand outside of Changhua.  I prefer the steamed version found in Central and Southern Taiwan.


Changhua style Bawan

Next we have sticky rice and peanuts stuffed in a sausage casing and eaten with a traditional Chinese sausage.  Sometimes people eat this with pickles and raw garlic.  This is not the best photo, but it is another one of my favorites.


Chinese Sausages in Taiwan

Here we have three dishes, two of which are probably familiar to those who like Chinese food.  In clockwise order starting from the left, we have steamed dumplings, hot and sour soup, and a selection of oden.  In this Taiwanese version of the Japanese hot pot (sans soup), we have sticky rice squares, tofu, and daikon radish.


Steamed dumplings, hot and sour soup, and Taiwanese oden.

Not all the good food in Taiwan in on the streets, however.  Taiwanese people, especially the younger generation, spend lots of time in the air conditioned malls found in the major cities.  For this reason, every mall in Taiwan features a large food hall / food court with all kinds of dining options.  For those who are wary of street food for sanitary reasons, food courts are a great option for trying Taiwanese food. Below are pictures of one of the fanciest food courts in Taiwan, found in Taipei 101.

Just like Japan, many eateries will display plasticized version of the dishes they serve.  This way you can see what you are getting.


Sushi bar in the food court at Taipei 101


Cafe in Taipei 101

We also went to the Shinkong Mitsukoshi basement food hall and ate at this Taiwanese eatery. Delicious!


Cold chicken appetizer


Handmade noodles topped with stir fried pork – so good!


Hot and sour soup


Fried flat dumpling stuffed with bamboo shoots, meat, mushrooms, and seasoning.

And of course we cannot forget the many eateries and restaurants. Most of the photos below are from restaurants in Kaohsiung.

Xinjiang style Hot Pot Restaurant:


Xinjiang style Hot Pot


Steamed Dumplings

A tea house that serves traditional Taiwanese food:


Chicken dish with stir fried Kingfish.


Dessert consisted of Chrysanthemum tea and tea infused gelatin.


Milk tea

7 course Japanese Hibachi:


Chef with his tools


Salad appetizer with miso ginger dressing


Steamed egg amuse bouche


Onion Soup

The main course was fried scallops and marinated pork, but I ate it before remembering to take some pictures. Sorry!


Fried Rice


Fried Taiwanese Caviar


Bananas Foster dessert

Everytime I visit Taiwan, I resolve to eat as much as I can.  I figure if I eat every two hours, I might be able to accomplish my goal.  This post has now made me hungry and I am going to eat lunch now.  Until next time!





Taiwan: Kaohsiung Night Markets

2 12 2008

I stopped by Taiwan while on my Asia trip, primarily staying in Kaohsiung with my relatives.  While this time I didn’t do much sightseeing, I did get to experience all my favorite parts of Taiwan, including the night market.  For information and photos on sightseeing in Kaohsiung, click here for the series I did on this very topic last year.  For all my posts on Taiwan, click here.

No matter what town or city you are staying, there will inevitably be a night market (or several).  While they might not operate every night in smaller towns, in large cities the food hawkers, clothing salespeople, drink vendors, and trinket sellers come out en force nightly. I consider the night market a must-see in Taiwan. Not only will you be able to taste delicious street food, but you will also get to see a wonderful cross section of Taiwanese life. From the young to the old, the rich to the poor, everyone goes to the night market!


View of Liuho Night Market

In Kaohsiung, the best night market is Liuho Night Market (also spelled Liouhe or Liouho). Every night, the city closes down several blocks of busy Liuho 2nd Street in order to host this night market. This is primarily a food based night market, but it also has some clothing, games, and other miscellaneous stands. There was even a stand that specialized in selling clothes for your dog!


The Liuho Night Market in Kaohsiung runs from 5 PM to 5 AM.


A stand selling dried roasted caviar. This is one of my favorite foods but is an acquired taste.


Taiwanese mifen and duck egg hawker, specializing in flavors from Tainan city. This stand has been in operation for over 30 years.


This looks plain, but it was out of this world!

While most people just eat and walk, some vendors provide tiny tables where you can slurp up your food. Other food available at the night market include but are not limited to pearl milk tea, stinky tofu, bawan (pork stuffed in a rice ball and steamed or fried), oden (boiled or grilled tofu products), Taiwanese style sausage, mifen, and desserts such as puffed batter cake, shaved ice, fruit juices, and aiyu gelatin.


The beginning of the Liuho Night Market.

Another large night market in Kaohsiung is located near Zuoying. I’m not sure the exact location, but any local would know. This night market had a broader range of merchandise for sale and a large carnival game section in addition to the usual food. There was an entire row just for women’s clothing. While it was a fun night market to browse and play in, I cannot vouch for the food since our family prefers Liuho 2nd Street for our food fix.


The beginning of the food section.


I believe this guy sells ice cream or frozen drinks.


Meatballs


Mint tea gelatin and other cold desserts


Roasted vegetables and pickled fruit


Steamed roasted peanuts


A bank of low tech pachinko games


I think I won a piece of gum.


Darts and water balloons – actually really fun!


More games


Beebee guns


Ring toss

In Taiwan, the night market is a family affair.  A combination of supermarket, carnival, and night time hangout, the night market is there to amuse and to satisfy those night time cravings.  Even though it’s hard to stay up past 6 PM for visitors who are suffering from jet lag, I highly recommend making an effort.  It’s totally worth it!





Shilin Night Market

16 12 2007

A trip to Taiwan would not be complete without a visit to one of the island’s ubiquitous night markets. Almost every night, food and merchandise vendors will line the streets in little pockets all over the city hawking their wares and snacks. Some larger markets will even include a section of low tech carnival games. The Taiwanese night market is a combination of medieval market, food bazaar, and carnival show all rolled into one. In Taiwan, everyone goes to the night market, from children to teenagers to adults and to grandparents. As you can see from the picture below, night markets are frequently packed, noisy, and full of excitement.

Night Market

On this visit, we decided to check out Shilin Night Market, the most popular night market in Taipei. The night market is located right off the Jiantan MRT stop on the red line, the station before the actual Shilin stop.

The night market is a showcase of Taiwanese street food.

Chinese Sausages

Yummy! Freshly grilled chinese sausages and luo mi chang, aka dua deng (rice stuffed in sausage casings) are among my favorite foods.

Night Market

Grilled corn on the cob

Night Market

I’m not really sure what these are. They look like candied tomatoes.

Night Market

The main food tent is located just across the street from the MRT stop. Inside are a bunch of food stands catering to every taste.

Stinky Tofu

Taiwan’s famous stinky tofu. This is an acquired taste, but I love it!

Night Market

Some boiled Oden, including my favorite Ah Hue and Di Hue, or gelatinous rice.

Night Market

There are also numerous fruit smoothie and dessert stands.

Night Market

There is a small clothing and merchandise area under the tent.

Outside the food stands is a game area filled with low tech carnival games.

Night Market Games

You can win cheap plastic toys that are made in Taiwan!

Night Market Games

After exploring the large tent area, you can walk across the street away from the MRT station and follow the street stands down a few blocks for more shops selling everything you would ever need to live in Taiwan, including clothes, CDs, housewares, electronics, and more. The things sold here are of the cheapest quality, so buyer beware. However, you can get some great bargains as long as you understand what you buying in terms of quality. Bargaining is expected.

Night Market

Although the food here is cheap, delicious, and plentiful, be aware that these street stands are not the most hygienic. Therefore as a general rule you should examine the stands and make sure they look clean and have lots of customers before trying the food. This is not to discourage trying the food here. You would be missing out on one of the best places to get authentic Taiwanese street food. Rather, there are many cleaner food stands out there and one should endeavor to eat there, even if they are more expensive. If you are unsure, don’t feel like you need to eat here. You can always go to the food court at Taipei 101, which serves many of the same Taiwanese dishes, albeit the more sanitized (and sometimes blander) versions.





Kaohsiung – Old School Taiwan

27 09 2007

We started our visit to Taiwan in Kaohsiung (Gao Xiong), where we have lots of family.  The Kaohsiung airport was a breeze; our luggage was delivered quickly and customs and immigration were a nonevent.  Best of all, there were no lines!

Kaohsiung is the second city of Taiwan, often in the shadow of the glitzy capital city of Taipei.  In addition to being the second largest city in Taiwan (and one of the largest container ports in the world), Kaohsiung is also the stronghold of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), aka the pro-independence green party.  The primary language spoken here is Taiwanese.  When mandarin is spoken, it is heavily accented by Taiwanese.  Kaohsiung is often overlooked because it’s not as tourist friendly for Westerners.  English is not as prevalent as in Northern Taiwan, and there are not as many tourist attractions.  However, coming to see this city will give visitors a glimpse into a completely different, more intense view of Taiwan. 

When I think of Kaohsiung, my mind brings up fond memories of summers spent with my extended family as a child.  Thus, a lot of our visit in this city consisted of visiting memories.  We did some sightseeing too, but that will be in the next post.

Liu He 2nd Street

Liu He 2nd Street

Liu He

Liu He

Morning Market

Morning Market

Butcher

My Favorite Bawan Stand

Bawan Stand

Bawan (Taiwanese for Rou Wan, or directly translated as Meat Ball), a Taiwanese delicacy and popular street food, is a ball of steamed rice dough usually stuffed with meat, mushrooms, and bamboo shoots.  Sometimes there is also garlic involved, and there are regional variations to this dish.  This is my favorite Taiwanese food, and oh my goodness it was good.  So good I had it two days in a row.  Charles also thought it was delicious, and said it was the best thing he had in Taiwan in terms of food.

Here is a freshly made batch of bawan.

Batch of Bawan

My soon to be devoured Bawan in sauce.

Bawan

A pretty apartment building.

Aparment Courtyard

Apartment

Next: Sightseeing in Kaohsiung





Cold Treats for the Hot Weather

24 09 2007

Despite having been there before, nothing quite prepared me for the heat and humidity in Taiwan. The shock to Charles’ system was even worse. Imagine the hottest, most humid day in DC or in Chicago and add more humidity, more smog, and no air conditioning. That’s how it feels to step outside in Taiwan in September. The funny thing is that the Taiwanese residents seem to think that September is on the cooler side. We saw many people walking around in long pants and long sleeves! After the typhoon, people were wearing jackets.

It was difficult to get used to the weather, and took a day or two to not instantly sweat whenever we walked outside. When I say get used to the weather, I mean before we realized the importance of balancing outside sightseeing with inside air conditioning appreciation at shopping malls and museums. I can’t believe that most Taiwanese residents don’t use air conditioning. Even before the typhoon, which actually cooled things down quite a bit, it was really really really really really hot and humid. Then it was rainy and humid. Really rainy. No wonder the island is so green with vegetation!

One positive side effect of the heat is that Taiwan is a great place to find all kinds of cool drinks and cold snacks. In addition, this kind of weather, though punishing for humans, is wonderful for growing fruit and tea. The Taiwanese often say that the fruit here is sweeter and more abundant than anywhere else in the world. Mango, guava, papaya, dragonfruit, starfruit, custard fruit, Asian pear, lychee, and longan are everywhere, just to name a few.

Fruit Stand

Below are some cut dragonfruit and fresh longans. Delicious and fresh! Unfortunately for me, lychees, my favorite fruit, were out of season.

Fruit

Iced tea is its own category here, with options from pearl milk tea to red tea to green tea to oolong tea to mint tea. The bubble tea phenomenon that is sweeping the Chinatowns of the U.S. originated in Taiwan.

The cold drink options in Taiwan are endless, as evidenced by the water and tea section in the local convenience store (the one with the half smiley face).

Cold Drinks

Lucky for me, in Kaohsiung my aunt knew all the best (and cleanest) places to buy food. This stand on a side street off Liuho 2nd Street in Kaohsiung sells a great grass jelly mint tea.

Grass Jelly stand

Like many drink stands in Taiwan, the mint tea is sealed with plastic on top. Since sanitation can be an issue at street stands, this is a welcome measure. You just poke your straw through the top anywhere. However, I think putting your sealed drink in an additional plastic bag as they also do here is a little over the top. The only reason I can think of why they do this is because of the condensation.

Grass Jelly Tea

Cold treats are also available everywhere. The stand pictured below sells various red bean, green bean, taro, gelatin, and fruit ice drinks. We had some and it was yummy! This stand is located in Kaohsiung on one of the side streets behind the <name to be filled in> temple.

Cold Treat Stand

Cold Treat Stand

The best street stand cold treat, in my opinion, is Tzua Bing, or shaved ice. We had some every other day, and it is YUMMY! Each stand will have at least 6 toppings for you to choose from, including red bean, taro, green bean, taro, fruit, milk, and syrups. We stopped at one in Kaohsiung, but I forgot to take a picture. I was too busy eating!

Here is a picture of a tzua bing stand I found in the food court in the basement of Taipei 101. This particular dish is special because it features “snowflake” ice, or shaved frozen milk. It was delicious! Later I will wax poetic about the wonderful food court at Taipei 101, but that deserves its own post.

Snowflake Shaved Ice with milk and red bean topping.

Snowflake Ice Treat

I wish I could have one of these right now!








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