Delish vegetarian Meal with stinky tofu, vinegar noodles, marinated tofu, assorted veggies and rice pudding.

(Just a quick update: I’ve found that its actually called purple rice pudding, not red rice. For the sake of accuracy I decided to go ahead and update the post).

 

In truth, I’ve been doing nothing BUT eating local food for quite some time.  There are many different kinds of strange things I’ve tried from octopus to sticky rice to a strange pudding made from egg yolk.

It would do no good to talk about it though unless I happen to snap a picture of it.  So here are a few I’ve finally gotten around to catching on camera:

Bao Zi                                   

Bao Zi

Basically, these are little dough buns filled with either meat or vegetarian items and steamed.

I tried these a long time ago in Danshui. Those were filled with pork and mushrooms. They were ok, but kinda plain.  The bun itself is mildly sweet, and tasty to eat in its own right.  I’ve since had some in a few different places. There is even a restaurant in Taipei that specializes in them.

I’m ashamed to admit that rather than running around town trying out the numerous tasty authentic versions that are out there, I’ve instead fallen victim to the cheap mass-produced 7/11 variety.  I don’t know what it is. They’re not even that good. But late at night when the craving overtakes me I’ve been known to visit up to 4 local 7/11s in the hopes of finding one.

Tea Egg

Tea Eggs. Don't ask me what that floating thing is either. I have no idea.

Next, I finally talked myself into trying a tea egg.

I first saw these the day I arrived in Taipei (in a 7/11 of course) fresh from my chicken claw experience in the airport in Shanghai.  I was instantly repulsed.  With their cracked shells floating around in an inky black fluid they look ready to give birth to a prehistoric slime creature at any moment.

Surprisingly, I was told by a couple of expats that they’re pretty tasty and I shouldn’t knock them till I try them.

So I tried one and what do you know? I’m a die-hard fan now. They are slightly salty with a vague “other” taste to them that is altogether yummy. Full of protein, Vitamin D and low cal to boot, the tea egg is a pretty decent late night snack. As an added plus it can be found in any 7/11, OK Mart, or Family Mart in the city.

The Duck Egg

chicken egg and duck egg.

Flushed with the success of my recent experiments I next took on the hard-boiled duck egg. Don’t be fooled by the glowing recommendations in this link.

When I first bought these at the local farmer’s market I was warned that they are a little bit salty.  And I thought, ok. I like salt. I salt a lot of my food. I put salt on my hard-boiled chicken eggs. I’m sure I’ll love these.  Larger than a chicken egg and with a pleasantly blue-toned shell I figured these would be a shoo-in.

Then I tried one for lunch while I was at school one day and nearly barfed up my first mouthful.  Not only were the egg whites more rubbery and jiggled in a gut twisting way, but these damn things couldn’t have been more salty than if I had dropped them in a box of salt and rolled them around for half an hour.  Even the yolk tasted different in a way I can’t even describe. There is no question that the difference between a duck egg and a chicken egg is immediate and palpable.

I tried to give them the benefit of doubt. I waited a whole day and then warmed up another egg, thinking maybe it would taste better warm, but no. I had to toss the second egg too, and ended up throwing out the rest of the ones I had bought.  Clearly these are an acquired taste and not one I’ll be acquiring anytime soon.

Stinky Tofu

Stinky Tofu

Good old stinky tofu.  A famous delicacy in Taiwan and one you can’t get away from even if you try.  It’s everywhere.

At first, when I heard about it I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. So ok, the tofu kinda smells but it’s supposed to be really good. Well all right then. So what?  It took a few weeks of wandering around the streets of Taipei for me to realize that the rancid rotting animal smell that I kept running into was NOT coming from the sewers like I had thought. Oh my god, no. That, my friend, is stinky tofu.

Well there was just no way I was ever going to eat something that smelled like maggot ridden ten-day old festering animal meat.  No way. No way, no way, until one day I gave in and tried it.

The first time I tried it was in Tainan and it didn’t taste like much of anything. Just fried food. Again, I couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about.

More recently, I tried it again last weekend. This fried tofu retained some of the taste which complimented the way it smelled quite nicely.  Dipped in a hot chili sauce it was actually quite good.

Strange to say even the foul detestable smell doesn’t bother me much anymore.

Purple Rice Pudding

Red Rice Pudding

You wouldn’t think that red rice would make a good snack but it does. The closest picture I could find on the net was this white and red mix which isn’t the same but probably close enough.  Basically its a pudding-like desert with sweetened purple rice. It’s supposed to be healthy but probably isn’t.

Tastes good though.

Nutrition Biscuits 

Yum

I first ran across these when one of my students offered me a bite of her snack.  They were in little stick-like shapes. I’ve since found them in a regular cracker shape.  I’m not including them in this post because of their exotic flavor or charming appearance, nor their nutrition or amazing biscuit-like properties.  In fact, they are not biscuits at all nor are they remotely nutritious.

I’m including them because  I’ve been mowing down on them ever since I ran across them with no end in sight.  They’re animal crackers that have lost their exciting animal shapes.

As I’m writing this I happen to have one in my mouth, and therefore, I feel they deserve an honorable mention.

There are so many unique and exotic foods in Taiwan that I would have to devote an entire blog to food if I wanted to name them all. That  won’t be happening anytime soon, of course, but I hope you enjoyed this brief glimpse.

If there are foods out there that you strongly recommend I try while I’m here, I’d love to hear about it.

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