Friday, January 19, 2007

Eating My Way through Taiwan

There are some beautiful sites in Taiwan - there really are! Such as the gorges in Hua Lien, where the stones are white marble and the water looks like blue jadeite, or the east coast of the island. Catch a train and spend the hours looking out over the Pacific shore and glimpsing various islands. One of my favorite pictures from my trip is from a train window:

To me, this looks like its taken right out of a Miyazaki film.
But if you don't have family there, Taiwan is really not a destination spot EXCEPT for its AMAZING FOOD. Why am I writing in all caps like an over-expressive pre-teen? Because I cannot contain my excitement about the FOOD in TAIWAN: OH MY GOSH, YOU, LIKE, TOTALLY HAVE TO GO AND EAT EVERYTHING YOU SEE!!!!! And I didn't even go in summer, when all the pineapples and mangos, not to mention shaved ice, are at their peak!
I am sorely tempted to make this blog entirely about my eating travels.
First off: streetfood is where it's at. It's down and dirty yummy and what's absolutely fantastic is its cleanliness: you will not get sick eating it (unlike in Thailand...Thailand, shall we say, is still with us, even after a week of being back in the States).
This is our first meal in Taiwan - it's 7am. We're in a "restaurant" - but the picture captures about 3/4 the interior of the place. Yuck, you say. But that thing my sister is pointing her chopsticks at, that delicious scallion and egg and flatbread roll deep fried and bathed in sweet ,garlicky soy sauce, is probably the BEST breakfast thing I HAVE EVER EATEN. We ordered two - the finished plate is at her elbow. And, along with several other dishes, the total of our 4-person breakfast was about $4 US. Ah, Taiwan. Why don't I live in you?
This is at a Saturday streetmarket in Taipei. That man, he may look ordinary, but he is the Master Creator of Tiny Delectable Griddle Cakes. His skill is unsurpassable. And those pancakes are then sandwiched, in their hot, sweet, sponginess, with the delicious filling of your choice: chocolate mousse, custard, taro or red bean paste. A whole package of them, freshly made before your eyes, is about $1 US. And then you munch on them while you look at knock-off Louis Vuitton bags.
The picture on the right is the entrance to a night market. Hmmm, you say, how important are streetmarkets in Taiwan? Well, this one has an entryway worthy of the Forbidden City (maybe even stolen from there - I kid, of course, but just look at the National Musuem, full of treasures from China brought out by CKS before the Commies took over). But, anyway, in places like these you will find uncountable food treasures...
...such as fresh roasted corn, bathed in chilipepper-y butter - or the sauce of your choice!
The streetmarket is full of fresh...everything. Fish, meat, food, clothes, appliances, shoes.

But you MUST try the food at the markets. Especially things on a stick: roast corn, roast meats (try deep fried pork short ribs!), caramelized apples (helpfully quartered for you, they think of everything), fried shrimp, fried CRAB, steamed cakes (you can put anything on a stick, really), and, my personal favorite, candied strawberries. A coat of crunchy crystallized caramel-y sugar over big, juicy, melt-in-your-mouth, sweetest and most strawberry-y strawberries you've ever eaten.
To be continued.

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