Taiwan has some of the best and the grossest food I’ve ever tried, and I’m still determined to create my ultimate top ten list of Taiwanese foods, so this Saturday I took an 11 AM gastronomic adventure all around Taipei with Taipei Eats.
The food started out gently in a local Taipei wet market with our guides Napolean and Amber pointing us towards traditional Taiwanese fruits, where we ate wax apples (I’ve been wondering what the English word for these weird fruits are) and guava covered in plum spice.
We also munched this delightfully stretchy mochi ball.
The highlight of the market tour for me was this Taiwanese scallion bread, which, hot out of the oven, was the perfect tummy warmer. Flaky and buttery, I could have snacked on these all morning, but we had many more stops to go. And while delicious, I’m not sure that it’s a contender for the top ten just yet.
Our next stop, however, blew me away.
After the market we headed towards this woman’s small street side restaurant where she serves the most delectable, surprisingly flavored, melt-in-your-mouth pork burgers I’ve ever had in my life. Being from Indiana where pulled pork is a staple of every barbecue, that’s saying a lot.
A Taiwanese burger, or gua bao, consists of mouth-watering stewed pork, peanuts, cilantro, and pickled veggies, all in a hot soft bun. This picture doesn’t do the gloriousness of this steamed bun heaven justice. This bun might be the number one most delicious thing I’ve eaten so far in Taiwan, and possibly in all my travels in Asia, which is saying a lot. It was just incredible. I thought that any stops after this woman’s stall could only be a bland disappointment.
But our next two stops were certainly anything but bland.
If you’ve been in Taiwan for any length of time then you’ll have seen the weird red spit spots on the ground or the taxi driver with “bloody” teeth. Well, those red stains come from the betel nut, a nut which gives a mild high, which our guide described as dizziness, a numb mouth, and a burst of energy. I could certainly feel the mouth-numbing effects of this nut, although it might have been more to do with the extreme bitterness than any real mind-altering effects.
And if I thought the end of our adventurous, i.e., terrifying and weird, food experiences were in sight, then the next stop proved me wrong.
You may recognize the place we wound up next as one of the few eateries where Andrew Zimmerman from Bizarre Foods couldn’t stomach a dish. If that thought doesn’t inspire fear, then I don’t know what will.
It looks rather unassuming, right?
Well, let me tell you, this fermented, uncooked tofu, had the smell and consistency of baby poo. Yes, baby poo, and although I’ve never tasted baby poo, duh, I can only imagine that this stinky tofu is what it tastes like. I managed to down two bites before moving onto the fried stuff. And I swear to God, the fried stinky tofu tasted completely flavorless after the fermented stuff.
Our shockingly adventurous food tour continued all afternoon and included dumplings at famous KaoChi, egg tart, lychee flavored shaved ice, pineapple cake, sesame seed noodles, meatball soup, and the list goes on and on.
If you’re ever in Taipei, I cannot recommend Taipei Eats enough. The food on the tour was equally soul-fulfilling and terrifying. And while I normally don’t recommend pricey experiences on Shy Backpack, as I’m broke as heck myself, I can tell you, this tour is worth the dough. If you’re looking for a tour in Taipei and have the cash, food tours are one of the few things that can really give you a unique cultural appreciation in just a few hours and memories to last a lifetime. And how else could you find a best and a worst from all your travels on your own in one afternoon?
What’s the best and worst food you’ve ever eaten in your lifetime? Let me know in the comments below.
If you want to watch my experience on the food tour, including my reactions to betel nut and stinky tofu, click the video below!
And if you want to read what else I recommend actually spending money on while traveling, check out my list of 5 Worth-It Expensive Travel Experiences.