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Published: September 30th 2017
The Most Incredible Calamari ...
... though the presentation is second to none, walking while eating it in this stick form would be impossible - it's impossible to chew through the thick calamari without mangling it, and eventually dropping it on the ground. This was just for the aesthetics - once ordered, they chop it it up and fry it a second time, giving it the crispiest texture imaginable, and the most spicy, savoury flavours with the multiple seasoning salts and powders set out for customers. Easily one of the tastiest and most popular items available among Tamsui's street stalls, but perhaps something we should have skipped - a single serving is huge, and we struggled to finish even 3/4 of it, after having sampled so many other delicious items already. Plus, every calamari vendor offers free samples, so simply by strolling around, you could probably eat about ten bite-sized morsels of the stuff without having to put out even one cent, saving both money, and far more importantly, stomach space for other foods. Or you could be less piggy than us, and just order a few of the larger tentacles on offer, for a more manageable portion size.
Geo: 25.2851, 121.531
The selection of Asian restaurants available in Taiwan is stellar - sure, there have been a few minor misses with our choices, but it's definitely not a spot where you would easily be bored with the variety. Even if, for some strange reason, the Taiwanese dining scene became tedious, there's a whole other world of food to explore - Taiwanese Street Eats, which has a widely-acknowledged reputation for being the best on Earth.
The Taiwanese love their night markets, but in typical Asian fashion, they aren't places for dinner - you come here when you want an evening snack, but only after you've thoroughly stuffed yourself at dinner. You don't so much eat in Taiwan as you gorge, and it isn't limited to the regular dining hours - it's nearly a 24-hour activity, and the night markets nicely fill the gap between dinner and midnight. We had planned to hit up at least two night markets during our five days in Taiwan, but could only squeeze in one - truthfully, we just never really felt eating later at night, due to the heat and humidity taking its toll during the day, and also because there isn't a whole lot of
George Mackay ...
... a Canadian missionary. Interesting that his depiction looked quite Asian to us, even though he was not ...
stomach space left after gorging all day long.
We discovered the perfect compromise today in Tamsui, a little historic town just outside of Taipei that offered up a bit of everything that tourists seek - history, sights, shopping, and most importantly, food! Our first exposure to Taiwanese street eats was on our first night at Ningxia market, but we really didn't take full advantage of the plethora of munchies available - we weren't all that hungry, and truth be told, didn't even really need a snack. But today in Tamsui, the goal was to go hard on the street eats, and it essentially became our breakfast, lunch, and early dinner.
Walking along Tamsui's waterfront was wildly entertaining, especially on a Sunday - there was a wonderful carnival-like atmosphere, as seemingly every family in Taipei had made their way out here for a day of fun. We hadn't seen this much street food in one area in Taipei, not even at Ningxia, and were blown away by the offerings. It was difficult to choose at first, as we needed to catch our breaths and figure out what people were even eating, such was the barrage of foods.
Fried chicken, blowtorch beef cubes, spring
rolls, grilled sausages, tanks of live seafood, fried calamari, stuffed chicken wings, bubble tea, wood-fired buns, fried quail eggs ... how to choose??!!!?!? I can't imagine that it would be possible to top today's street eats, though we did indulge a little too much - we had already seen the most beautiful fried calamari this morning near the metro station, and had already made up our minds to sample that on the way out. The same strategy applied to a stuffed chicken wing, but we hadn't banked on eating so many other delicious things along the way.
By the time we got back to the stuffed chicken wing stand, we were pretty full, yet we managed to cram one down, despite it seemingly being filled with nearly an entire bowl of rice. We really should've skipped the calamari, but were both glad and sad that we didn't - glad because the batter was so wonderfully-crispy and the calamari supremely-tender, but sad that the portion was so big, that we had to throw out a decent amount of it. That was positively sacrilicious ...
Being our last full evening in Taipei, we had planned on hitting up the Raohe night market to see
what goodies they might have on offer, but our over indulgences in Tamsui left us feeling so full, that we weren't even able to eat dinner until just after 9:30 PM. It's sad in a way, but we ended up back at the main train station's food court for dinner - the offerings there are so varied and of such high quality that we haven't felt a need or desire to eat at an actual sit down restaurant.
We almost missed out tonight, however, since we hadn't realized that the food court's 10 PM closing time meant that last call was at 9:30, and we were turned away from the first ramen joint we came across. Luckily for us, the second joint was more accommodating, and graciously took our order and promptly seated us. What would we have done had we not been able find a meal at the train station? Hmmm ... perhaps a visit to Raohe night market might have been in order, after all ...
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