Things I Ate (and Saw) in Taiwan Part 1: Chiang Kai-shek memorial, weird and wonderful treats at Shida, Taipei 101, and Longshan Temple.

Close to 10 months have passed since I visited Taiwan, and I recently realized I only vaguely talked about a small percentage of the things I saw and ate there (Shilin market, Chili House, Picture-only post). So better late than never!
I thought I would give my brain a nice surprise and try to muster up enough memory juice to think of what I ate and saw on the food culture-packed island of Taiwan, mostly at the capital, Taipei.

The first day of my adventures began in the heart of Taipei, where my travelling buddy and I took the very clean and easy-to-navigate (similar to a very simplified version of the subways in Japan) subway to Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall Station.

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I have passed by Taiwan via plane on the way to Hong Kong a many times, and from the sky it looks like a small island. But when you arrive at Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, you will be baffled by the sheer size of the landmark and the surrounding square. I never knew a small island could contain such a gargantuan building. Throughout my travels in Taiwan, I not only felt Taipei was much bigger than I had originally imagined, there was so much to see (and most importantly, to eat).

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The memorial, evident by its name, was erected in memory of former President Chiang Kai-shek in 1980. A set of stairs lead to the great hall, each containing 89 steps, which was the age when the former leader passed away.

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There were people of all ages enjoying themselves within the square, tourists and locals alike. There were even students practicing incredibly detailed and skillful flag throwing, where my friend and I stood in awe for a good while.

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There were lots of people with pet dogs as well, which added to the cheerful atmosphere of the square.

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After a long walk at the square, we headed towards the young and trendy Shida area, where there is a well-known night market for some well-deserved grub.

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Lo and behold, a gigantic winter melon.

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We stood in line for some green onion pancakes. The pancakes are cut and are stuffed with anything you can imagine including cheese, sausage, ham, eggs, etc. We chose ham, cheese, and an egg.

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These savory pancakes are perfect for a little pick-me-up snack.

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The Shida district has a very laid-back vibe with many English-friendly menus and signs.

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So many condiments. We chose ketchup and chili sauce.

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I really enjoyed the simplicity of this pancake. It was almost like a Taiwan taco. A very simple receptacle filled with various scrumptious ingredients. I will definitely be making a version of this at home.

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We then moved on towards our next prey, lantern hot stew, which consists of a variety of ingredients you pick and choose into a basket and hand over to a person who cooks everything for you. Ingredients range from all kinds of meats, sausages, intestines, to fresh vegetables and different noodles. There’s literally a stall full of ingredients to choose from. A foodie’s paradise!

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Everything is weighed and measured, and the prices are very reasonable.

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The ingredients are all braised in a soy-sauce based broth. Topped with pickled greens and green onions. I really recommend getting noodles put in as well, because noodles take everything to the next level. I think this dish is a genius idea to do at home. Just take all the ingredients you have on hand and braise it in a nice broth. Genius!

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Seriously. Where to even start. So many weird and wonderful ingredients that I can only guess where they come from.

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I came to notice that the Taiwanese really love their sausage and fish cakes.

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Pork blood cakes. I really wanted to try some but my friend was quite squeamish.

After a night of feasting, the next day we had brunch at the famous Taipei 101 building.

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The structure was inspired by a bamboo shoot; you can really see the intricate details on the building. The mall inside the building is HUGE. As is the food court. So many different dishes to choose, and everything is very reasonably priced. There is also a Din Tai Fung right beside the food court, but the queue was at least one hour or more.

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We had chicken rice.

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The famous oyster omelette. The texture was quite interesting. The sauce was very gelatinous, and chewy. The flavors were amazing because oysters are love.

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A bowl of meatball soup (reminiscent to matzo balls soup) and stir-fried noodles on the side.

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And a hot pan of delicious goodies, including a whole squid, pork cutlet, vegetables, AND a fried egg. So over-the-top but so delicious. Just look at the steam coming off of that thing, and the glistening squid. If you are on a budget, I recommend eating all your meals at the food court at 101. Street food is actually not the cheapest, especially because it takes quite a bit for a substantial meal. So fill up on a nice meal at the food court, and then heading out for the night markets later on is a good plan.

Then we left for a tour of the Taipei Brewery. BUT. We have no idea where we ended up. I think there was a communication error with the taxi driver, but we ended up in an area that looked like it once was a brewery, but had turned into a variety of small bars and restaurants. I have looked throughout the interwubs for a clue to where we went, but can’t seem to find anything. Well, even though it is still a mystery where we went, at least the food and drink game was strong.

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Ice cold Weissbier, wheat beer, brewed from the Taipei Brewery. Very smooth and as it says on the bottle, a light fragrant aroma. Very refreshing.

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Enjoyed with a overpriced chicken wing and fries. The food was good, but not amazing. But for that price? I could have easily scored dumplings and some other delicious treat at the night market. Night market prices have spoiled me… Everything more expensive than prices at the night market actually made me mad.

The next landmark we visited was Longshan temple.

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The temple is located in the heart of Taipei, bustling with cars, motorcycles, and people.

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There were also artists showcasing their work on the streets.

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The Longshan Temple was founded in 1738 and boasts impressively detailed figures on the roofs.

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The temple seemed to have a permanent stream of smoke due to the copious amount of incense being burned continuously. Below on the right side of the photograph you can see a table filled with different objects. People actually brought different snacks and food for the gods and placed them on the table for offerings.

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Burning incense.

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There were many people offering prayers to the main boddhisattva of mercy, Guanyin, and in the rear and side halls people worship 100 other gods and goddesses including Matsu, goddess of the sea, Guan Gong, the god of war, and the Old Man Under the Moon, known as the matchmaker.

After that we headed to the Chili House and gorged ourselves on Sichuan food.

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The night ended on a high with candied strawberries on a stick. Everything tastes better on a stick. And covered in a candy coating.

Stay tuned for part 2!

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