From Seoul, I embarked on a gastronomic journey to explore the vibrant and food-rich streets of Taipei, Taiwan. From the bustling night markets to the towering skyscrapers, Taipei is a city that combines ancient traditions with modern flavors, making it a paradise for food lovers and adventurers alike.
From the moment I landed in Taipei, the city’s bustling streets filled with an army of motorbikes greeted me. These two-wheeled wonders are the lifeblood of Taipei, offering locals and visitors alike an economical and convenient mode of transport.
As I explored the city on my own, I couldn’t resist taking a smooth train ride on the elevated tracks that weave through Taipei. My first stop was the awe-inspiring Taipei 101, shaped to look like a giant bamboo stalk, it was once the world’s tallest building. It houses an engineering marvel, the world’s largest tuned mass damper, which keeps the skyscraper steady even during the strongest winds.
In the shadow of Taipei 101, I discovered 44 South, an old military housing area that has remained intact since the 1940s. This historical enclave is a testament to the city’s rich heritage.
A Taiwanese simple breakfast consists of egg and radish cakes. The turnip cake is crispy outside yet tender, almost melting inside and topped with some spicy sauce yet is naturally sweet – very tasty!
My exploration continued with a visit to the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial, a spectacular monument erected in honor of a former Chinese President. I was lucky to witness the nightly flag folding ceremony, a solemn and moving experience.
Afterward, it was time to dive into a delectable Hong Kong-style feast featuring orange chicken, shumai, and sesame balls. These flavors were an absolute delight, especially for someone who had savored them back in the States, and realizing the perfection of each dish here in Asia.
Taipei’s food scene is best enjoyed with friends, and I was fortunate to meet a lively group of tourists from the Philippines. Together, we embarked on a food and laughter-filled journey through the city. Our culinary escapades led us to an all-you-can-eat hot-pot shop with an array of flavors of Hagen Dazs for dessert. The highlight? Robotic waiters delivering our meat selections ordered through an app.
During a six-hour food tour which included the Foreign Desk Editor of the Washington Post, Susan Levine, we sampled Taiwan’s favorite food staples and ventured through multiple night markets, checking off items from my food bucket list one by one.
Taiwan is renowned as the birthplace of pearl milk tea, and it didn’t disappoint. Bubble tea shops were more common than Starbucks in Seattle, and the experience of sipping on this sweet, creamy beverage with the signature “black sugar” was a treat.
We even dared to try betelnut, a favorite of Taiwanese taxi drivers seeking a caffeine-type buzz, which generates a vibrant red liquid that you have to spit out – definitely an adventure in itself.
But the food journey didn’t stop there. We savored green onion flatbreads, spicy pig’s blood stew, flaky leek-bread buns, sausages bursting with flavor, oyster omelets, and mini-octopus omelets, and delicious pork belly buns with peanut powder and cilantro. And who could forget taro balls with salted egg and pork floss, an absolute delight from a Michelin-rated night market stall.
In addition, I tasted local bamboo charcoal nuts, herbal rice cakes, and pork belly buns, all bursting with unique Taiwanese flavors.
To wrap up our Taipei food adventure, we ventured to multiple night markets, climbed Elephant Mountain for a breathtaking view of the city’s skyline at night, and made new friends who shared their love for Taipei’s food culture.
Taipei, Taiwan, is a city where the culinary journey is as diverse as the cityscape itself. From traditional delicacies to modern inventions, every meal is an adventure.
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