Most people who visit Taipei would know of Ah Zhong Mian Xian. They should know it cos it's definitely one of the most delicious things I had when I was there. Had in twice in fact! I loved that they threw pig's intestines in there (yes, I eat anything). Maybe standing outside the stall to eat made it tastier??! I was mistaken at first though cos I thought Ah Zhong serves Oyster Mee Sua but it doesn't. I must say Ah Zhong has come a long way since its pushcart-selling days. It even has a branch in LA now!
I never liked Mala Steamboats in Singapore cos the soups are just spicy with no taste whatsoever. Taiwan's Mala Steamboat, however, tastes totally different. The soup is so thick and flavourful and it's not overbearingly spicy so I can actually drink the stock. All the innards, meats and veges thrown in to cook and dipped into a special Sha Cha sauce left me wanting for more. Unfortunately though, I was already stuffed by then.
One thing you cannot miss out on when you visit Taipei is their desserts. What's great was that I was there in Summer so it was the perfect time to feast on the icy cold desserts. There's a whole lot of variety to choose from cos of different flavours, different toppings and even different ways to shaving the ice! My favourites were all the mango desserts I tried cos the fruits were always cut in big cubes, really sweet and juicy.
I've had quite a fair share of Muah Chee in Singapore but I've never had it bbq-ed like how I did when I was in Taipei. I had this while I was having a Yakiniku buffet. The white ones you see are the original flavour and the green one is with a green tea flavour. Texture is firmer than what we get here but still eaten the same way with rolling over crushed peanuts after bbq-ing. I'm told that this is sold on the streets too so it's quite easily available.
Side dishes in Taipei left a very deep impression on me. Mainly cos tofu is my "favourite-est" food and a lot of sides are tofu based. My favourite has got to be cold tofu with century egg drizzled with a thick soy sauce. It's not the normal black soy sauce you get back in Singapore. The texture and taste is almost like oyster sauce but without the oyster taste. It's hard to describe it but I loved it so much, I brought a bottle of the sauce home to eat with my tofu. Before you think I was crazy to bring soy sauce in my luggage, I wasn't alone on this. Pei did that too.
Paying a visit to Dan Shui was pretty special for me cos it's only there that I can get to eat a dish called Ah Gei. It's basically what you see on the left pic; fried tanghoon stuffed in tau kwa. Seems really normal so I guess most people would wonder what the fascination is about. I've heard about this dish years ago watching those Taiwanese food programmes and since it's a combination of 2 things I like, I've always wanted to try it. I got to fulfil that and the tanghoon was very tasty. The fried beehoon is also worth the mention cos the beehoon you get in Taipei is much finer than the ones in Singapore.
A couple of interesting things I learnt about Taipei and its food...
- All buffets, no matter where you are, only allow a 2 hour seating. In Singapore, some people glue their butts to the chair at a buffet.
- They can make their sauces pink. I'm still figuring out how it's done.
- Regular milk teas serve tapioca pearls in a sago-like size. The ones we get in Singapore is only used in Bo Ba Milk Tea which basically just means big pearls in milk tea.
- Pushcarts selling food are everywhere. The police will come and the stalls will run. 10 minutes later, they'd be back at the exact same spot.
- Taiwanese love drinking bittergourd juice.
- A lot of their food is starch-laden but you hardly see fat people around.
- Fried quail eggs (sunny side up style) are sold as a street food. Singapore always serves it hard boiled.
- Some sauces can taste quite queer and thus many Singaporeans are not accustomed to Taiwanese cuisine
- Meat dumplings (Ba Zhang) are eaten with peanut powder.
- Taiwan produces some pretty fantastic tasting instant noodles. Some even have real pieces of meat in them!