Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Taipei, Taiwan: The City of Food.

In October, the Mister and I spent a week in Taipei, Taiwan. It our first time visiting the city and was  a wonderful experience. The sites, smells, and culture are very different than what we were accustomed to and we were very excited to learn more. Our flight was delayed in Tokyo due to a typhoon, but we were soon on our way to Taipei City. Our hosts picked us up from the airport and carted us into the city for a meal experience. They called it Tea Time – the hours between 2 and 4PM. The restaurant we visited had two hour seating slots and guests were expected to stay the two hours to receive the full dining experience. The restaurant, much to my delight, had many vegetarian and even some egg-free dishes. We learned that Taipei has a large vegetarian population.
There were several stations of food. Foods served cold. Fruits. Foods served hot. Noodles. Soup. Steamed Buns. Desserts.We were surprised to learn that so many products were made with soy. There were trays of food that resembled meat or fish, but were actually soy-based. It was really quite interesting to see how versatile and ornamental soy could become.
Clockwise: Fruit, Vegetarian soup, A variety of steam buns, Soy made to look like fish, and desserts made with no egg (center)
That evening, to walk off the large meal we had consumed, we walked the city streets to the night market. The night market was quite an experience. Filled with people bustling to and fro. Scooters and bikes navigated the streets between the people. Stalls filled with everything imaginable lined the street. And the smells of delicious food tempting passersby. Only one food item was more distinguishable than the rest. It was the one food we did not try, but could smell well before reaching the stall. Chόu dόufu, or stinky tofu as it is called in the US, has a very strong smell and could be served boiled or fried. I have heard that eating it may require some getting used to. The strength of the smell was enough to send us seeking other options.
Clockwise: Chinese bittermelon and okra, Chou doufu, succulents (some with eyes and mouths!)
The next day, we woke up early and walked to a local restaurant for breakfast. We learned that most people dine out for every meal. We saw school children stopping at food stalls on their way to school and adults picking up food to go from the restaurants. After breakfast, we walked to a park and saw many people jogging, biking, and exercising. The hula hoop was used frequently in the exercises and several people practiced tai chi in the shade. Health was very important to those that live in the area. It was a community that ate well and lived well.

After visiting the park, we strolled through the day market. The day market was very similar to the night market, except it featured more fresh produce and meats. It also had a wide selection of cooked foods including meats. I was told that people would buy these cooked foods and take it home so that all they would need to do is cook rice in their own kitchen. The variety of foods prepared and served was amazing. Imagine walking to the market every morning to select the already prepared meals for the day! 
 Clockwise: Day Market Entry; Bread; Meat; Grocery
After strolling through the market, we rode along the northern coastline, observing the effects of the typhoon. It was quite overcast, but with exception of debris along the beaches and pathways, the coast seemed almost untouched by the massive amount of rain.
Northern Taiwan Coastline
We stopped briefly in the town of Shimen and photographed the Wedding Plaza. We were not the only ones with this idea as the parking lot was quite full.

Shimen Wedding Plaza
As evening approached, we walked along the boardwalk of Tamsui near the river and enjoyed the setting sun while listening to the droves of people also basking in this sight.

Sunset in Tamsui

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