Taipei, Taiwan (My parent’s native land) is a little island off the coast of China no larger than an average US State. “Ihla Formosa” – beautiful island, once named by the Dutch who fell in love with this magnificent land. Taiwan’s known for the beautiful Agriculture from Mountain to Shining sea, famous for the various Hot springs, hiking, biking, nature walks. It’s known for it’s advanced technology parallel to Japan & China (faster than US). A Population of 23 million, and over 22 million all own cell phones (this includes children that just learned to walk). A temple ratio almost equal to the people population!
Taiwan has amazingly laid back people despite being this advanced. Poverty level is extremely low. The national religion (more as a Philosophy of life) is from the ancient Chinese teaching (further back then time of Christ) of Lao-Tzi “Taoism” which preaches family values, honoring ancestors, education, and peace. It’s reflected upon their attitude. Crime rates are rather low. Women have complete equal rights. There have not been any huge wars within the last decade. Well, there’s the exception of the tacky physical fights that break out at the end of Government meetings, but that’s daily comedy for the news.
Education is not highly preferred, it’s a MUST. (Watch Joy Luck Club for an idea) I can attest to that growing up in a traditional Taiwanese/Chinese-upbringing, even though in a US home. Bringing home my report card with a B in it meant being pulled out of extra-curricular activities & enrolling in more after school programs, on top of the ones I already have. Attending Chinese school every saturday as if mon-fri school was not enough to practice reading/writing Chinese. We, the Taiwanese people are overachievers. I may have despised this growing up, but now I really appreciate it. Look at where the world is today. The attention is shifted from the West to the East.
Don’t get Taiwan mixed up with Thailand! I’ve had some people hear I’m Taiwanese and say “Oh! So you’re from Thailand!” No no, it’s 2 completely different country. Taiwan is a part of China. Taiwan is split between 2 different political parties – one party favoring Taiwan’s loyalty to their parent China.. many of which migrated here 50 years ago with the Kuo Ming Tong (KMT) from China. And another smaller party, many the Aboriginies that have been in Taiwan longer are fighting for Taiwan’s independence. That’s a whole political issue I’m not getting into.
But what I will get into is how much I enjoy the food here. Blogs have been written purely focused on this Culinary Heaven. Mention Taiwan to anyone that’s been there and the mutual agreement is that it has the Tastiest (& most interesting) street food in the world!
It’s food has influence from all over Asia as Taiwan has been a relatively safe haven for people to escape. Some have even called it a small Switzerland. I think the style of the people in their enjoyment of Life reflects that of the French. They spend most of their time snacking on smaller portions (moderation) but remaining thin, by walking all around the city. Plates come in smaller portions so one can share them with friends and not over-eat.
The most infamous dish here which many have heard of is the Stinky tofu. It’s indeed an acquired taste. The best way I can describe it is that it’s acquired like some Stinky European Cheese. You either love it or you hate it. Most likely if you didn’t grow up eating it, you will never understand. It’s fermented fried tofu. The smellier it is, the more us Taiwanese savor the taste.
We also don’t waste body parts and thoroughly enjoy the chicken feet, cow tounge, duck neck, chicken gizzard, pork blood, etc. You can pick from the variety at the street carts and they’ll bbq for you on the spot.
Noodles and rice are the most popular: And you won’t get bored eating it because there are so many ways to prepare them. So many different shapes and sizes of noodles. My favorite are the hand-pulled thick noodles. You can taste the difference between noodles made by hand vs machine-made. There are fried thin noodles known as ‘mi-fun’. Beef stew noodle soup. Thick fried noodles. Wontons. Fried Rice. Rice fried with chinese pork sausage.
Hwa-shee-jieh “Snake Alley”: This alley is controversially known for it’s live performances of feeding live rats to snake, then inviting you in to eat. Supposedly Snake is good for the skin, vitality and virtility. How can you not be sold on that!? I tried some snake meat last time I was here. Pretty damn good! Tastes like tender Chicken mixed with some kind of fish. I also had a shot of Snake blood. Yummmm. This alley also has all the other delicious Taiwanese street food.
Taiwan is most well known for it’s night-markets. It seems to be open til 2 or 3 am filled with food where people of all ages go to relax, eat and drink. Old men go and play cards. Young people go and mingle. It’s nothing like the night markets in Thailand filled with strip clubs & raunchiness. This place is good for kids. There are also night markets filled with shopping and knock-off brands. Taiwan is also very advanced in Fashion, although some stuff I find a bit too out there.