An Epicurean Adventure of Taiwan

73 comments
Asia, Taiwan
01

Sou (Chinese Pastry)

Being an Indonesian, there are some perennial questions that I always get every time I return from a trip. “How was the food?”, “Did you try anything weird?”, “Was the food spicy?” are some of the most frequently asked questions. Sudip, my cousin-in-law, was startled on his first trip to Indonesia back in 2006 when he learned about how important food is for Indonesians. “It’s the center of the culture!” He said.

Therefore trying as many local food as I can is always an important part of my trip. Balut in Manila and spicy fried grasshoppers in Bangkok are the most extreme delicacies that I have tried, by far.

In Taiwan, the food was less adventurous than in other parts of Asia. As you can imagine, Chinese cuisines dominate the menu in most restaurants as well as in people’s dining tables for dinner at home. However one of the most interesting dishes that I tried was the savory soy milk at a restaurant called Fu Hang Dou Jiang, even though the waiting line was a bit overwhelming. Soy milk can be easily found in convenience stores across Asia, but all of them are sweet. The savory one that I had in Taipei was served with slices of you tiao (deep-fried dough) and coriander leaves. Surprisingly it was quite nice, and worth the 20-minute queuing.

Other than soy milk, one of the distinctive things about Taiwan is the abundance of street food vendors. Skewered meat balls, fish balls, tofu and sausages are some of the most widely available snacks. We were lucky to have Nelson – James’ college friend in the UK – as our local food guide who took us to an area near Gongguan MRT Station in Taipei to have a light bite of gua bao. Despite the size, it is truly rich in taste and definitely a must-try.

“You don’t like it?” I asked James after noticing his unusually slow eating pace. “I love it!” James replied, “That’s why I eat it so slowly.”

Meanwhile, during our 3-night stay in Orchid Island, I could never start the day without the Cow Tongue Cookies – sweet white cookies made primarily from flour, sugar and eggs – and Papaya Milk. Every morning I rode the scooter to one of the largest supermarkets on the island to grab some of the cookies before exploring the island.

However a visit to Orchid Island would not be complete without savoring the salted flying fish as what the island is also renowned for. Images of flying fish might be the second most prominent depiction of the island after the canoes. It might not be the dish for everyone but still it is worth trying.

02

Xie Ke Huang (Yellow Crab Shell)

03

Shrimp Dumplings

04

Tofu Skin with Preserved Vegetables

05

Xiao Long Bao in Bamboo Steaming Basket

06

Lining up for Soy Milk, Fu Hang Dou Jiang

07

Queuing Direction, Fu Hang Dou Jiang

08

In the Kitchen, Fu Hang Dou Jiang

09

Savory Soy Milk with Chopped You Tiao (Deep-Fried Dough) and Coriander, Fu Hang Dou Jiang

10

Sweet Soy Milk, Fu Hang Dou Jiang

11

A Spring Onion Pancake Vendor

12

Beef Noodle with Bean Sprouts

13

Taipei’s Street Snacks

14

Gua Bao, the Soft Bun

15

Gua Bao, the Precious Fillings

16

Mango Shaved Ice

17

Salted Flying Fish with Yam, Rice, Octopus, and Mushroom

18

“Extra Spicy” Fried Rice

19

My Daily Energy Booster: “Cow Tongue” Cookie (left) and Papaya Milk

20

Pandanus Fruits

21

Pandanus Fruit Juice

22

Taiwanese Onigiri

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Based in Jakarta, always curious about the world, always fascinated by ancient temples, easily pleased by food.

73 thoughts on “An Epicurean Adventure of Taiwan”

  1. It all looks so delicious! I may not be Indonesian but my life definitely revolves around my love of food too 🙂 trying the local food is such a good way to start to get to know the culture and country you are travelling in.

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    • I guess it applies to many other cultures then. When your stomach is happy, everything else doesn’t matter anymore. 🙂 Trying local food is indeed a good way to understand other culture, and the best way to start conversation with the curious local people.

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  2. I really enjoyed following your photo (gastronomic) journey, though I don’t get to taste them it’s a great feast for my eyes! Happy travel 🙂

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    • Thanks Juliet! And I have this bad habit of making people’s stomachs growl. 🙂 Happy travel too!

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  3. I spent half of my childhood in Taiwan and I adore the food so much. Looking at your pics makes me want to book my flight to Taiwan right away, lol.
    Btw, beautiful blog you have here 🙂

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    • I didn’t know that! And you’re right, the food was really nice especially that gua bao. 🙂 Thanks Debbzie!

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    • Surprisingly the taste of the fruit was really subtle. It was sweet but not overpoweringly so. It’s like a thinner version of Gatorade, I guess.

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  4. I enjoy your travel blogs very much and am fascinating by your writing about all the interesting places that you visit. You’re an excellent writer. I reblog some of them; however, I never reblog those that mention eating meat, and I’m always disappointed to realize that people don’t seem to know that animals, including fish, are sentient beings. They have feelings.

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    • Hi Sharon! First of all, thank you very much for your reblogs. I really appreciate them and they encouraged me to keep honing my writing skill. That means a lot for me! Secondly, I’m really sorry that you feel disturbed because of this post. That was never my intention. I truly understand your stand point on this matter, and I really appreciate that. However there are a lot of reasons on why some people still eat meat and some others don’t. Cultural, educational and religious backgrounds are some of the main reasons behind the difference. But as is the case with the world today, let us not focus on the difference because that’s the last thing the world needs now. Let’s focus on what we all have in common which are actually a lot more than we thought, and make the world a more peaceful place to live in.

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  5. Well pictured and well explained. Us Indonesian like our food. However, I think that goes for all culture.

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    • Thanks Nin! I think the love for food in Indonesia is especially apparent when we serve our guests. Most likely we will introduce them to as many local food as possible even though their stomachs can’t take anymore food. And this just happened to my mom who went to a small village in Central Java. At one point she had to say no because she couldn’t take any more food, literally. 🙂

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  6. What a droolworthy post, Bama – you and your camera capture food extremely well! I regret not bringing my own camera to that restaurant on Orchid Island, they plated up the flying fish in such a contemporary way. Those mushrooms we had were called “lovers’ tears”, think it was Shanti who told me they grow in the wet taro fields and are harvested when it rains.

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    • Thanks James! I guess it’s more because of my prime lens. 🙂 Actually I did look for the name of that mushroom, and I remember something with tears. So, thanks for that! I’m glad I brought my cellphone when we had dinner at that restaurant on Orchid Island. Otherwise there would be no photo of the flying fish dish.

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  7. Hi Bama, nice Taiwanese food round up! Seemed like you satisfied your desire for epicurean adventure. I love the shots of the salted flying fish. Everything with it looks interesting. Looks very local; I’d love to try it. Nice food photo shots.

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    • Thanks Marisol! My favorite from the flying fish dish was the lovers’ tears mushroom. It reminded me of jelly ear mushroom which I really love. If you come to Orchid Island one day, give it a try! 🙂

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  8. What a feast (rather, feasts!) for the eyes and the imagination – a terrific post about the food you tasted, especially the salted flying fish of Orchid Island = but really so many new flavours for me to look forward to, thanks!

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    • Thanks Meredith! Trying local dishes is always a fun thing to do. Sometimes the new flavors would make enough reason to go back. But there are times when they’re just too strange for the palate.

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      • Oh, I know what you mean – and sometimes it’s the silliest things that throw you. For instance, in Australia we love our avocado, we eat it as a vegetable, with salt and lemon juice, and sometimes chilli and garlic. Here, in Sri Lanka they love their avocado. They eat it like a fruit (which makes sense, because it is a fruit, of course), but for the life of me I just can’t stomach sweet avocado – just too strange!

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      • With chocolate sauce?!!! I didn’t mind the juice Kumari made for me here so much – liberally splashed with lime juice so it was sweet and sour, sort of! 🙂

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      • With chocolate condensed milk to be precise. 🙂 Hmm, Kumari sounds interesting! I might want to try that the next time I visit Sri Lanka.

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  9. That’s so mouthwatering! Looks delicious all of it. Im vietnamese myself and will spend 2 months traveling around Vietnam this summer. This post is such an appetizer – CANNOT wait to eat and taste all the foods again!

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    • Hi Vicky! I only went to Saigon and the surrounding area back in 2011. Actually I’ve been thinking of going back to Vietnam to explore more of what the country has to offer. But Central Vietnam caught my attention the most. About the food, I love pho, so much! But the funny thing is when I was in Vietnam I was not that keen on the dish. But once I returned to Indonesia I realized how tasty and fresh pho is. 🙂

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  10. Finally I got it! It’s Pandanus fruit 😀 I’ve ever visited a strange beach in my hometown and I found that fruit. It was the first time I’ve seen that fruit I was curious but I had no idea what kind of fruit it was. I want to try it but it couldn’t be open, it’s so hard. anyway, maybe you can tell me how to open and taste it. Thanks for the posting 😀

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    • I myself was curious about the fruit when I saw it for the first time in Orchid Island. Actually I didn’t open the fruit. The juice that I had was prepared by the food vendor. Thanks for dropping by! And I want to visit Jember one day since I’ve got a few friends from the city.

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  11. Wow! My mouth is watering! (especially for the mango shaved ice and spicy fried rice) Food has to be one of the most fascinating discoveries in other countries, as it is such a big part of daily life…the gathering, preparing, and consuming! Certain foods that are eaten almost worldwide, such as rice, take on a whole new life depending on the imagination of the cook and local ingredients.

    It’s interesting that Oaxaca is also known for fried grasshoppers (chapulines) that are liberally doused with ground chile mixtures. For me they were OK, but not something I would search for. Fortunately they were small, more like a cricket.

    I like the name of the cookie “Cow Tongue”, which is not a name that conjures up an image of something tasty!

    Great post.

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    • That mango shaved ice actually is better for summer. When I was in Taipei, the weather was rather chilly, but I gave it a try anyway. 🙂 And yes, you’re right. Rice is so widely consumed that people from all over the world has their own ways to cook and serve it. I love the way Japanese do the rice though.

      Those grasshoppers that I tried in Bangkok was actually quite nice, but just like you, it’s not something I would search for.

      That “Cow Tongue” was such a simple yet heavenly snack for me! 🙂 I really couldn’t start the day without having one.

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    • Lol! 🙂 I’m glad you had your sandwich, Bente! The food in Taiwan was really great!

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  12. Ugh, it’s way past my bedtime and now I want another whole meal! Fantastic post, thank you!

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    • Oops! Sorry Lydia! 🙂 I always love taking photos of food, and in fact in a few weeks’ time I’ll be posting another post on food. But this time on the food of Semarang. Thanks for dropping by!

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  13. Excellent post! I really enjoyed reading about your experiences. I’m currently living in China, but while I’m on this part of the world, I would love to visit other countries. Maybe I’ll take a trip to Taiwan!

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    • Thanks Josh! More and more mainlanders are coming to Taiwan in recent years, so I guess you need to ride the wave as well. 🙂 Taiwan is a must place to visit if you want to delve further into the Chinese culture.

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  14. Wonderful post Bama! My only brush with Taiwanese cuisine is Din Tai Fung! I truly don’t know what I am missing do I? If you haven’t already convinced me to visit Taiwan, this post does it and how 🙂

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    • Thanks Madhu! Taiwan definitely has more to offer than just Din Tai Fung 🙂 But if I could only pick one dish for you to try, it would be gua bao. It’s so smooth and silky, but at the same time rich and tasty.

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    • Yes, Taiwan is a food heaven! The pandanus fruit tasted pretty light and not as intriguing as it might look.

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  15. meidianakusuma says:

    mouth watering 🙂

    hihihihihi i don’t really like soy milk, but since it has a long queue I think it taste good ya kak?
    and How does yam rice taste kak?

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    • It was really good, but I found the savory one quite interesting since we don’t have it here in Indonesia. The yam was basically the same thing what we call “ubi jalar” in Bahasa.

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  16. Seeing all those photos reminded me of the strange and wonderful dishes i used to eat in Hong Kong. I’m really not sure food is celebrated quite the same in the UK – it doesn’t seem to play such a central role (and not quite the weather for street vendors :))

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    • Fortunately, or not, I didn’t try as many exotic food in HK as I did in Taiwan. But even the most mundane food in HK is exponentially better than in UK – fish and chips can never beat a simple soup and noodles. 🙂

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  17. Oh wow, Taipei is surely heaven, although if you just emerged from an underground MRT station and smelled ‘sosis babi goreng’ without having the intention to eat it, your stomach would turn from the thick oil odor.

    Share some more, Bama. Greetings from Jakarta 🙂

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    • I have to admit that one of the most appealing parts of Taipei is actually its street food scene. The city has a wealth of dishes to die for. I will be posting some more posts on food, but from different cities. 🙂

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  18. Great photos. I have lived in SEA for some time now but will finally be getting over to Taiwan this year, I am excited to do a good deal of eating!

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    • Ahh, that’s great! Taipei’s dishes are amazing. If you love Asian food, I bet you won’t find it hard to love the food in Taiwan. 🙂 And don’t forget to visit Orchid Island (Lanyu), one amazing island just a short flight away from Taitung.

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  19. What a gastronomic adventure you had there, Bama. My mouth is still watering as I was typing this comment. Anyway, good to see you now that I’m back from a long hiatus brought about by the two seasons of the badminton tournament that ran for almost 5 months. That include the breaks/practice period for each.

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    • Hi Sony! Nice to have you back here. Have you moved back to the Philippines or you’re still living in Saudi Arabia? I didn’t know that you’re a badminton athlete. That’s really cool! You know how big badminton is in Indonesia, and all of us are fanatic fans! 🙂 Anyway, speaking of the food, it’s amazing how delectable Taiwanese dishes are!

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  20. I have always wondered what those weird orange fruits were, I used to find them on the beach in Brunei when I lived there. I assumed they were poisonous though. Thank’s for telling me different.

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    • The credit should go to my traveling companion, James (notesplusultra.com), who did his research to find out about the fruit. 🙂

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    • When I took a look at your blog, my mouth watered instantly because of that Hainan Chicken Rice picture. For taking most of the pictures in this post, I used my prime lens, 18 mm f/1.8.

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  21. I think it is so great to have people to share about their travels & what they do say & eat. I was so into what is served for Asians & the seafood that is eaten. I have been to a few local seafood & Chinese all you can eat buffets to get more & quality food that they eat. It gives me a great liking to figure out what is supposed to be eaten when checking out new foods that are added to their buffets. With your posts, I get to remember what is good & go looking for its nutritional benefits as well as the parts to eat besides. I love the pictures you take & do help me to realize much of a city or town they have & their restaurants & food or other shops as well. They seem to be crowded in cities like California, too. You have done a wonderful job of your posts & the pictures you take! when seeing movies, I now know that there is no difference to what is seen on the screen & what is real in the cities as they seem to be full all the time. I have studied their culture a little bit so it gives me a chance to think of lots of their ways & love how they have become so popular here. Keep inspiring us all!
    Rodney

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    • Thanks Rodney! That’s one of the reasons why I started traveling at the first place. When I was little, I found encyclopedia so interesting and fascinating. When I grew up I learned about National Geographic and the great stories and pictures it always convey to its readers. When I started traveling I realized that the world is truly filled with so many amazing things: food, cultures, peoples, and places. It’s always interesting to always learn something new.

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