LIFE & STYLE « feature
feature » LIFE & STYLE
Nestled in a river valley and edged by low, tranquil mountains covered in tea shrubs, Taipei is a city of many facets; an eclectic mix of skyscrapers and temples, history and green spaces, high tech hubs and teeming markets. Foremost, it is home to some of Asia’s most tantalizing cuisine, as a 48-hour trip to the capital reveals.
Walking down a brightly-lit alley in central Taipei, plump, juicy mangoes, tangy pineapples and earthy watermelons immediately catch the eye. Next to them, a stall selling oyster omelettes and guangbao hearty chunks of braised pork belly, pickled Chinese cabbage and powdered peanuts – entice with an alluring whiff of meat, seafood, and griddle-cooked vegetables, making it impossible not to succumb to temptation. And why shouldn’t we? We are in Shilin Market, one of the island’s most famous night markets, and food – mouth-watering, colorful, decadent food – is everywhere. ring feature of Taipei. It’s hard to walk more than a few paces down the street without being lured by peddlers carrying delectable snacks, unremarkable eateries offering bowlfuls of chewy noodles and restaurants promising – and delivering – tales of palatable eats we will recount long after our visit. Bewildering in their range of dishes, night markets should be on anyone’s mustdo list when traveling to the city. Wandering is a pastime that suits Taipei well, and these culinary hubs are perfect places to do just that, with their maze-like alleyways, vibrant stalls and makeshift tables, each selling different xiao chi (small eats). An inclination for adventure is essential; the island’s food is a mash-up of aboriginal, Hakka and Min cuisine with a bias towards
may sound, they actually make for some Besides the metropolis’ main landmarks – Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, Longshan Temple and Taipei 101 – it’s easy to make market-hopping the main purpose of a trip. Raohe, one of the oldest night markets in Taipei and our next destination after Shilin, has one of the best food selections around. Here we indulge on saltcrusted kebabs and pressed-toorder sugarcane
“Bewildering in their range of dishes, night markets are always on the must-do list”
Savoring Taipei’s Food Scene BY M A R I N A GA RV E Y B I R C H & M A R I A N N A C E R I N I
often unexpected. Snacks like stinky tofu, pigs’ blood rice pudding, and ribs steamed in medicinal herbs are regular features of any street market – unappetizing as they
off our tour with two remarkably large portions of “mango avalanche” and “strawberry blizzard” – piles of shaved ice heaped with juicy fruit, edge off the tropical heat. Huaxi is a more bizarre experience, with food items like snake – served plain or in soup – on offer alongside a good number of sex toys and dubious DVDs. For a better insight into Taiwan’s local culinary style, a visit to Ningxia night market is also mandatory. Moseying lazily from one stall to the next, we munch on moreish pan-fried pork buns and a delightfully oily with shallots, glossy strips of seasoned bok choy and fried pork slithers, handed to us fresh from the griddle. Washing it all down with some good old bubble tea – Taiwan’s ubiquitous drink – it’s not long before our quest for yet more delicacies resumes. Signs for niu rou mian – the island’s ultimate comfort food – are easy to spot, even for the Mandarin-illiterate. A bowl of it can be obtained at virtually any restaurant chain to introduce upmarket Taiwanese folk cooking, Shin Yeh. It does delicious
renditions of this staple dish without the rough edges of the night markets; the noodles nestled in a dark, spicy broth and topped with heaps of beef shanks, assorted vegetables and pickled greens. Similarly, ba-wan and their delicious at most food courts, where you’re allowed to pile up as much food on your tray as you like, with each dish incurring a fairly small charge. The court under Taipei 101 is the biggest and busiest; take a seat on one of terous atmosphere as a motley assortment of Taipei’s locals stop in for a tea, a chat and a snack. Ay-chung Mee Suah, not far from Huaxi night market, is a perfect stop to taste oya misua. The small restaurant only serves this dish in two sizes: small and large. oysters and pig intestines, topped with a of black vinegar and some minced garlic. Perfection. Taiwanese cuisine is also heavily ing. Japan occupied Taiwan for 50 years and its legacy left a mark on the nation’s taste buds. Our last meal in the city is at the Addiction Aquatic Development, Taipei’s house space with a standing sushi bar and Japanese grill. The menu is overwhelming, the quality of the seafood on par with Tokyo or Kyoto. Sated yet foraging for one last bite walk down a nearby night market unveils more dumplings, sweet treats and soupy concoctions. Resistance is pointless. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from this trip, that would be it. And a piece of advice: come hungry.