Taipei, Taiwan, April 2016. Every time I read a blog about Taipei there is nearly always a mention of how wonderful and how cheap the food is. Well, let me tell you it’s not that wonderful and its not particularly cheap either.
Unfortunately here in Ximending finding good food is hard enough but finding good food that’s cheap is almost impossible and I’m not talking about street-side snacking. No, By good food I mean a plateful of tasty local chow that’s both cheap, cheerful and in good supply. Being in a tourist district really doesn’t help matters either but actually there are some local cafes to be found and where the locals eat is usually a path worth following.
Soup, they like it here in Taipei. Everything from Tofu to birds are boiled and that results in a rather watery, tasteless liquid – just imagine if you could taste laundry water! Noodles and ominous looking chunks of meat are sometimes served up in the soup. I found that experience to be very bland indeed and portions pretty small although just enough for 3-4 hours.. Tofu is pretty tasteless but they do provide a commercial sauce to help in that department.
Salty porridge, that’s another popular food around here and another rather bland dish served up in a small bowl.
Rice, the Asian staple and the tastiest way to have this is with diced pork in a kind of sweet soy based juice. Again the portion is small with just a mouthful of pork, but easily the tastiest dish for the lowest cost. Add vegetables and the price of the meal rises quite sharply. And that’s the idea of serving everything in small portions of course.
So, there it is. The eating experience like for like is nothing compared to Malaysia, Thailand and even Cambodia is rising up the charts in terms of good food. Pay more of course and one can experience the delights of tourist food served in even smaller quantities but on pretty plates and with nice cutlery. For local food from a modest cafe, visitors can expect to pay around £2 for a fulfilling meal – pork rice, tofu and some accompanying vegetables.Street-side snacking is another topic for another day.
Now lets take a look at local cafe food. That tofu may look nice but actually tastes rather bland, even when its smothered in a commercial sauce.Soup, this is a shell fish variety and not that tasty. There you see that small bowl of rice, the egg is an extra T$20 but the tofu is free.
Lunchtime, its fried noodles. Just look how small that portion is and they’r pretty mean with the pork, T$40.
Above, well, this must be some kind of bird soup, a Taiwanese specialty at a guess.