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.