Beating my food phobia in Taiwan

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Let’s dimsum!

On a hot sunny Saturday afternoon, I scramble for creative charades and colorful language to pen down, what I claim as my recent ‘culinary adventures’ in Taiwan. I put a strain on my grey cells and try to invoke my latent memories by repeating “stinky tofu” aloud. As I do that, I am transported to my first evening in Taiwan, where I am standing in front of a glass entrance to the world famous- Din Tai Fung Dumpling House. The skies are grey and look ominous. I nudge myself to hurriedly enter the gates to take a sneak peek at the aromatic dumplings being made inside the restaurant’s kitchen. The rains seem to have dampened my spirits as I refuse to take pictures. I examine the menu card spread out on a shining steel table, just outside. “Pork dumpling!” I snap and murmur to myself cusses, even I can’t make sense of. Uninterested, I drag myself to the next destination, hoping my taste buds would be delighted to discover the vegan or vegetarian delights of Taiwan.

For my regular non-vegetarian friends, on the media entourage, I am a part of, my “I am a self-proclaimed vegetarian” cries, sound pretentious . They urge me to let go off my act and remind me of the proverbial truth ‘life is lived only once!’ I decide to take the advice of my friends seriously and decide to loosen up for the next seven days in Taiwan.

After all, isn’t travel meant to shatter our pre-conceived notions about the world, ourselves and our place in it? It isn’t meant to be pretty always. Sometimes it is all about creating the mess and coming out of it unscathed. Aren’t good travels all about learning, unlearning, doing, undoing? I remind myself that this is what travel all about. It is not always about discovering new sights, new sounds, smells or chasing faraway lands. Sometimes it is about rediscovering, reinventing and reshaping yourself and your world. I decided not to disappoint myself.

So here are some of my most memorable and pleasurable memories from the far east island:

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Chug a local beer at the Puppet Theater 

Meal #1: Dining with the puppets: Taipei’s Taiwan’s fast paced capital is known to have propelled the country into a ‘Made in Taiwan’ hub. But what’s interesting is the quirky and fun side it brings to the country’s cuisine. Ready to explore colorful, strange themed restaurants, we end up with our first meal at the See-Join Puppet Theater. Voted as one of the weirdest restaurants in the world, it combines Taiwanese cuisine with the country’s traditional hand puppet theater together. A meal here, sorts my grim demons with a delectable and generous servings of sticky rice, sweet potatoes fritters with broccoli, scallion omelettes, the distinctive khimchi, all off course accompanied with healthy dose of laughter, humour, music, heavenly lighting and dancing puppets.

Insider tip: Take some sporting spirit with you to make the most of your personal experience here!

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Fresh fruits and veggies with some sticky rice!

Meal #2 On a culinary culture trail: What’s a visit to Taiwan, without exploring its night markets? The enormous variety of Taiwanese meals that the night markets offer is no secret to the world. So I decide to hang up my vegetarian boots and indulge in the specialty street foods- Bubble tea, oyster omelette, stinky tofu, xiao long bao, crispy chicken fillets, braised pork rice, the weirdly darkish green sugarcane juice, shaved ice-cream and oh yes- the frog eggs! (I had no clue, I was eating them. Remember, ‘Zindagi na milegi dobara’ mantra for the next 7 days?)

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The odd looking sugarcane juice

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For your sweet tooth!

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Chomp of the beef noodle soup

Insider tip: Visit Taipei’s Shilin Market to people watch, understand the local eating habits and eat the best food in the country.

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Snacking at the local markets

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Wanna eat me??

Meal #3: Celebrating India in Taiwan: I ponder over the irony of life. Why do I have to eat Indian food in Taiwan? But as always, I like to do the unthinkable. At Taipei’s oldest heritage hotel- The Grand Hotel, I meet the VP- Miki Pong, a Taiwanese smiling lady, clad in a peach Indian salwar kurti and join in the celebrations of Indian cuisine. “This fest,” grins Ms. Pong, “is being hosted by the India- Taipei Association to further the culinary exchange between our countries.”  As I wade through a sea of Taiwanese people clicking selfies with an Indian dance troupe, I reach my out to the nearest chicken tikka and masala chai.

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Celebrating India Day in Taiwan

Insider tip: Never say ‘No’ to enjoying your home country food here. The Taiwanese love India and Indians. It’s always a good way to experience things outside in!

Meal #4: Finding a piece of Japan in Taiwan: Throughout my stay in Taiwan, I hog down plates of tastes, smells and flavours of an unknown world. But one that I cherish and is bound to stay lifelong with me is gorging on a Japanese meal, in a Japanese inspired and styled Silks Palace situated in the middle of a vast lush national park. Our entourage arrives late, but the ever hospitable and friendly staff at the hotel serve us humongous portions of fresh fruits, hefty meat and scrumptious pink sashimi.

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Oh, fish!

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Some chicken patty to quench your appetite 

 

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Fresh vegetables form a major part of the Japanese cuisine 

Insider tip: The Japanese ruled Taiwan for over half a century and therefore, some of the cultural traits are passed from generations to generations. Be on time and bring some smiles always to experience the best of the Taiwanese hospitality.

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Do you want more?

NoteI was invited by Taiwan Tourism Bureau, in India as a part of Indian media entourage. 

Read More about my experiences in Taiwan:

My torrid love affair with Taiwan

Watch my YouTube videos:

Time for Taiwan

Top things to do in Taiwan 

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9 thoughts on “Beating my food phobia in Taiwan

  1. Interesting, fun article. Can you recommend a vegetarian restaurant with cheap noodle dishes near Wanhua area? I don’t have much time and would really like to have an address in hand as I don’t speak the language. Thanks and best regards.

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    • I guess, some of the top names that come to mind are Ay-Chung Flour-Rice Noodle, Chiba and Sen Tian Wu. Then there’s Yushange and San Lai. You can also try the quirky Modern Toilet restaurant if you have the appetite 😉 Good luck and have fun!

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      • Thank you for your recommendations, Deepika. . .so kind of you. I look forward to your next posting. Regards

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  2. interesting read deepika, happy you did it, “Zindagi na milegi dobara ”
    great going..I am also thinking to start in this direction, but I can’t..hope I can do it

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    • That’s fine Mayuri. Everybody’s journey is different.. I can understand if you wouldn’t want to make the jump and it is completely fine. There are also some great vegan and veg hotels and restaurants in Taiwan. So you need not worry! 🙂

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  3. Only 3 more weeks and I shall be in Taipei, lost but happy, searching for vegetarian noodles. I hope all of you who are thinking about traveling find a way to make it happen. It’s the best thing we can do to understand each other. Cheers

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