Written by Kate Ross, (Brandeis University), Student Correspondent CET Taiwan, Summer 2019
When I arrived in Taipei I knew that I would have some challenges finding food to eat because I eat kosher style. I don’t eat pork or shellfish. It didn’t hit me until I actually began exploring the city how difficult that would be.
On my first morning, my local Taiwanese roommate took me and my other roommates from the states to a breakfast place for a traditional Taiwanese breakfast. When ordering from the menu, I was looking at all the Chinese characters trying to find something I could identify the food too. When I saw a lot of 肉 (rou – meat) all over the menu I became excited. I love eating meat! However, I quickly remembered 肉 often refers to pork. If I wanted to eat meat, I would have to see 牛肉 (niurou – beef). Even though I was limited in my options of what I could have for breakfast, Stacey helped me find a delicious vegetable version of 蛋饼 (danbing – Taiwanese egg roll).
Taiwanese food doesn’t just stop with pork filled egg rolls for breakfast. In every convenience store in Taiwan, whether it is 7-11, Family Mart, or my neighborhood grocery store Welcome Mart, when you walk into the store there is a unique smell foreign to the nose of a Westerner. Usually there is an assortment of foods on burners waiting for you to eat like hot dogs, pork buns, and even tea eggs. The convenience store life doesn’t stop with this different aroma. When you venture further into the store you will be able to find walls lined with distinct snacks difficult to find back home like beef flavored potato chips, shrimp strips, and even century eggs.
The most interesting aspect of the Taiwanese food culture is the night markets. If you are looking for cheap (and delicious) food when visiting Taiwan be sure to check out the night markets! The other night, the entire CET Taiwan summer cohort went on a night market tour at Jingmei station. There we were exposed to many new foods, some that Westerners may have previously had, and some unique to Taiwan. Our tour guide gave us chicken gizzard, butt, and heart, pig blood cake, stinky tofu, and even some oyster omelet. I can honestly say the smell is the worst part of the tofu. When you visit a night market in Taiwan you are able to try three different versions of stinky tofu with different levels of stinky-ness: deep fried (which I tried), BBQ, and stewed (the most stinky of the three preparations).
Even though Taiwan’s unique cuisine is heavily dominated with pork and shellfish, I have been able to find some things that are particularly delicious! Despite the dietary restrictions I have, there is always something around the corner that I am excited to try and add to a new list of experiences during my time here in Taipei.