This month in Taiwan has brought about more new culinary experiences than I could possibly imagine. My first morning in the country, I had a golden-brown puff pastry with a cheese filling. Though the combination probably does not sound appetizing, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The sweetness of the pastry and the saltiness of the cheese complemented each other well. Some of my other favorite pastries from bakery boss were the fluffy cheesecake, the red bean filled puff pastry, and the chocolate croissant.
I have had many family style dinners during my time in Taiwan. Some of my favorite foods during this trip have come from these feasts. 三杯鸡 (Three Cup Chicken) was the star of the show at my first family style dinner. Notable flavors I was able to pick up were soy sauce and ginger. My favorite fish dish would come much later, in the mountains of southern Taiwan. During our overnight visit to the Laiji tribe, every meal served was a feast fit for a king. Though I did not catch the name, our group was served a delectable fire-grilled fish. It was salty, savory, and cooked to perfection.
Recently, I was able to try Taiwan’s national dish 牛肉面 (Beef Noodle Soup). In some ways it reminded me of gumbo, a dish popular in my home state. It had a dark, savory, hearty broth with no shortage of meat and vegetables. After adding a little chili sauce to my bowl, the flavors were elevated even further. Of all the foods I ate while on this trip, I can say that Beef Noodle Soup was by far the most filling. I was held over until the next morning and was not even hungry then.
In addition to the numerous native dishes the island has to offer, Taiwan has a large variety of international cuisines to choose from. As a big fan of Japanese food and culture, I took several opportunities to indulge in all the spots around National Chengchi University. Earlier today, I had a platter of fried fish, slaw, miso soup, white rice, and a shrimp hand roll. Everything was delicious. Just three restaurants down from the first, I had a bowl of spicy green curry and rice. At the same location, I had grilled salmon with lime. Though all these meals were delicious, none of them compared to the six bowls of ramen I have eaten while here. Perhaps needless to say, ramen is one of my favorite foods. Spicy, garlicy, umami, and meaty are just a few words that describe the intense flavor combinations at Ramen Passport.
Standing high above every other food outing in Taipei is one of the best meals I have ever eaten. Din Tai Fung is deserving of its Michelin star. When I hear people talking about how “amazing” a restaurant’s food tastes, I tend to be skeptical. After trying the pork soup dumplings, chicken soup dumplings, and shrimp fried rice, I can say that its excellence is not exaggerated. To put it simply, being told that Din Tai Fung has branches in the USA was one of my favorite moments of this trip.
By: Darius Carter
Program: Tradition and Modernity in Taiwan, Taipei, Taiwan
Term: Summer 2019