Arriving during the day it took Jeremy and I a few hours to shake off the red eye stiffness before heading out to greet the city. If you haven’t been to Taiwan, it’s a country that has roots from both China and Japan, with residents that are polite, respectful of their elders and extremely limited in their english speaking. Since my mandarin is the equivalent of a three year old’s, we knew my mum would be a source of great help for us while we were there.
Taipei is busy. Bustling constantly, with traffic some kind of organised chaos dance that somehow works against all odds. There’s always building and upgrading going on, but there’s also a great deal of buildings which are ageing fast. And more than anything, there’s food. It’s the city that never stops eating. Which to me, is just plain perfect!
Our first dinner in Taipei was at my “Uncle”s restaurant. I say “Uncle” because he’s actually my mother’s best friend from high school and I’ve grown up knowing him my whole life. I might have changed a lot since my last return to this city, but he looked the same – something providing great comfort to me.
His restaurant in downtown Taipei is extremely popular. During the lunch shift you’ll often find people lining up outside, patiently waiting for what is traditional home cooking style dishes at a very reasonable price. It might not have the fine dining wow, but I’ll pick this kind of food anyway. Every bite is a memory. At nighttime, you need to have a booking to get in – which he kindly had organised for my family knowing Jeremy and I were coming to visit.
Normal diners can choose their dishes but my Susu (mandarin for Uncle) likes to choose for us. Predictably, there was way too much to get through so I ate and ate and ate… until I felt a little bit sick! With all things tasting amazing, we ended up returning for lunch later in the trip. Here’s a rundown of some of the delicious eats we were treated to.
The poached chicken at my Susu’s restaurant is legendary. While I’m not the biggest chicken fan (unless fried because who can’t resist!), this is a whole other ball game in the poultry world. He’s sourced one particular local farmer who raises a very specific type of chicken, based on a strict diet and freedom to explore the land. The result is an extremely juicy, tender meat that has the thinnest layer of fat beneath the moorish skin.
Pork ribs? Sold! Again and again and again. One particularly great thing about dining in Taiwan – there is a high appreciation and selection of pork. It’s a country that suits me to a tee!
These pork ribs were sticky and sweet, with a caramelised coating and crunchy light batter that led to delicious meat. I could have easily demolished this whole plate by myself, but there were so many other great dishes to eat. Sadly I didn’t get to try everything on the table!
When I think of my childhood in Taipei, mayonnaise prawns very much are at the forefront of my mind. I’ve had my mum’s version, and tried them in multiple restaurants including Din Tai Fung. While they’ve all been good, nothing compare’s to my Susu’s version.
Golden battered prawns that have custard powder in the batter to give sweetness and flavour. They’re lightly coated in a mayonnaise sauce and served with fresh chunks of pineapple. It’s everything to me in a plate – crunchy, sweet, savoury and all round addictive. I’ve tried to explain it to Jeremy who has also tried other versions, but I could see once he had his first bite (of many), he understood my love of this.
One of the first dishes my mum taught Jeremy to make is also his favourite food ever. Lo ba bung – a Taiwanese stewed pork dish that is classic comfort food. It’s delicious, keeps well over time due to it’s salty contents and is relatively inexpensive to make.
When my Susu found out that my boy loves lo ba so much, he went out of his way to specially make him some. I was quick to tell him he should add this to the menu because it is damn good! Oily, fatty and full of melt in your mouth strips of pork belly.
Spooned over rice, the mince and pork belly are deliciously moorish, having soaked in the local soy sauce (this is key) and rock sugar. The result is a combination of fat, salt, sweet and richness that makes it highly addictive. This staple dish is something I always adore, particularly when boiled eggs are added which is how my mum cooks it. Yummy!
Tofu in Asia is nothing like the tofu in Australia. It’s so fresh and silky, with a great depth of flavour and velvety texture that makes it a must have at every meal. Stir fried with spring onions and chilli, it’s utterly memorable.
When it comes to seafood, toothfish is definitely in my top five. Simmering in a simple poaching liquid, the flesh is soft and flaky while still being juicy. There’s not much more to say except I ate the majority of this – and I wasn’t sorry!