Have you ever felt like a place just calls to you? I mean, there are places you really like, but there are others that just draw you in, call you as some would say. For me, this is Asia. Not just one country, but Asia itself just draws me in. I have loved the few countries in Asia I have been to and look forward to visiting so many more. Asia calls, and I must go! Now on to food.
I am a food lover. Some might even say a foodie. So trying international food is a hobby and joy for me.
It was August 2015 and I was headed to Taipei, Taiwan. I was at the height of medical issues at the time and weighed the least I had ever weighed in my adult life. That was mainly because I was so malnourished that my body couldn’t hold on to anything, even though I ate all the time. I was very limited in what I could eat, which did not encompass any carbs. My body just couldn’t handle them. This made traveling harder but I wasn’t going to let that hold me back. This also made it hard to try new things and amazing international cuisines without substitutions, which hurt my adventurous eating heart. But we’ll get into more of my health story on another day.
My friends were living in East Asia at the time and needed to do a visa run, so I decided to meet up with them in Taiwan. I hadn’t been to Asia yet and had wanted to visit really bad, so I was more than excited when they suggested we meet there instead of where they were at in East Asia, which would have required me to get a visa.
I have traveled on planes a lot, but this was by far the longest flight I had been on at the time, 14 hours. The whole travel journey was longer than that, but who’s counting. I arrived in the evening and had the fun challenge of making my way from the airport to where we were staying, the Banana Hostel. This hostel was one of the best I’ve stayed at. Everything was clean, they staff was super nice, and they even had detailed instructions (written and a video) showing how to get to the hostel from the airport. They were great!
After about an hour, I made it to the hostel and was super excited to see my friends, whom I hadn’t seen since before they got married. We caught up a bit and decided to get something to eat since we were all hungry. I was enamored by the the streets as we walked the few blocks to the restaurant. It was just beautiful and so different than the cobblestone Italian streets I had been used to.
We got to the restaurant and I was so excited for my first taste of real Taiwanese food! I was doing a bit better with my food allergies, so I decided to test the limits for the few days I would be there, except with gluten. Gluten made me incoherent at the time. Thankfully, my friends spoke Mandarin, so I explained to them my major limitation and they ordered for all of us. In most of Asia, multiple dishes are ordered and eaten “family style”, so shared by everyone. We started with ordering only a few things and then ended up ordering more until we were full. It was delicious! We had an assortment of items from soup to rice noodles with different toppings on it like meat and vegetables. I still remember the small food establishment, though I could not get there again without the help of my friends. There wasn’t anything extra special about the place, except for the food! It was a local hotspot, with about ten tables spaced closed together, and mostly all full. I would definitely say that one wouldn’t have survived very well had they not spoken and/or read Mandarin.
The following day we found out there was a small festival going on in somewhat close district that would have really good street food, so we ventured there for dinner. WOW! The food was amazing and, surprisingly enough, I didn’t get sick at all! Woohoo. We had so many things on a stick…octopus, chicken, pork, and lamb. The pork was the best in my opinion. It had a great taste to it, was fresh and well salted, and moist. Ah, so good! As far as street food goes, that night was the best we had!
We hit a couple of other food establishments during the trip too. We visited Din Tai Fung, a delicious one Michelin Star restaurant, which takes the crown as the only restaurant in Taiwan to receive a Michelin Star. I really liked the bamboo rice we had in the Wulai District right before we played in the Nanshi River and had a fish pedicure. A fish pedicure is where you put your feet in pool of water, with garra rufa fish, and they suck off the dead skin from your feet. The hardest thing is to keep from laughing since it feels like someone is tickling your feet, that is until you get used to it, which takes about five to ten minutes.
Back to food. The best non street food and non Taiwanese food place we went to, in my opinion, was at the Addiction Aquatic Development. We had the best sushi I have ever tasted to date. It was also very economically priced, which was even better. I even got to try sea urchin, which had been on my list of food tries for a while. I liked it. The texture was interesting, but the flavor was pretty good. I probably wouldn’t want to eat a lot of it, but a few bites of it was good.
Of course there were other amazing things in Taipei other than the food, but the food and visiting my friends was the highlight of my time. Sadly we were only there for a few days, but it is a trip I will never forget and look upon fondly as the photos come up in my memories on Facebook. Check out a few of my favorite photos from the trip in my Taiwan gallery.