Tourists visiting Alishan (the most famous mountain resort and natural preserve in Taiwan) on guided tours will usually overnight in Chiayi city – 嘉义. Because Alishan itself is located at the mountains of Chiayi County so basically it is the nearest city for food and lodging. Although it has the status of a city, it actually looked more like a town with very few things to do.
When it comes to food, Turkey Rice 火鸡饭 is no doubt the most famous in Chiayi and perhaps in Taiwan as well. After our Alishan tour while on our way to the hotel we lost count on the number of Turkey Rice restaurants we saw in Chiayi – it was everywhere!
Even if the restaurant is not specializing in Turkey Rice, this dish would most likely be still available for order. Despite its popularity and availability, it was 林聰明沙鍋魚頭 – Lin Cong Ming’s impressive Fish Head Casserole that really struck us. So much that it is one of the most memorable food we had in Taiwan. By the way, the term ‘聪明’ means smart or clever, quite a unique name for a food shop eh?
Stewed Pork Rice (鲁肉饭 – pronounced ‘Lu Rou Fan’) is a cheap local staple in Taiwan, which is served almost in every restaurant or food stall you see. The dish is really simple, basically just a small bowl of rice topped with a spoonful of stewed pork. When we visited Jioufen we had a bowl at a food stall next to the famous Ah Xin’s shop. It was so delicious I was hooked to it immediately!
Because it was so tasty and cheap, we had to hold ourselves from ordering it whenever we see one lol. After all, we wanted to try as many types of food as possible in Taiwan, and not to eat the same thing repeatedly.
But when we were at Ximending we couldn’t resist anymore, the food shop that we went (天天利美食坊 – Tian Tian Li) was famous for their Stewed Pork Rice and almost everyone eating there was enjoying a bowl. At only NT$20 (around RM2) a bowl, it was the perfect comfort food. The stewed pork was made up of roughly 50% meat and 50% fat that gave a very nice soft kinda melt in your mouth feeling, albeit the unhealthiness.
And did you know that a Taiwanese fugitive who was on a run to China for 15 years actually got caught because of 鲁肉饭? Apparently he missed this food so much he returned to Taiwan for it!
We also tried their Fried Oyster @ NT$50. Although not great, it was heaps better the one we had at Shihlin a few days earlier.
Visitors to Taiwan shouldn’t miss the chance to try inarguably one of the most popular food there, called Oyster Vermicelli (locals call it Oh Ah Mee Suah). This street food is almost synonymous with Taiwan, mention Taiwan and this is probably the first thing that comes to mind, vice versa.
From a food lover’s perspective, if you have visited Taiwan before and did not try a single bowl of Oyster Vermicelli, my oh my your trip had been in vain. It is basically a type of noodle soup with oysters (or substituted with pig’s large intestines) and vermicelli as its main ingredients. The stewed broth is thick, aromatic and always served piping hot.
I know there are some franchises mushrooming in Malaysia that claim to sell Oyster Vermicelli and other Taiwan street snacks like *ahem* Shihlin *wheeze* Street Snacks *coughs* But lets not kid ourselves here, they just suck and cannot be compared to the real thing at all.
Weather aside, the other thing that you should really be worried about when visiting Taiwan is your stomach space. You want to try as many street food as you can, but a person can only eat so much. To avoid wasting the precious space on lousy food, it’s always best to eat at established eateries that are well received by both tourists and the locals alike. For Oyster Vermicelli, Ah Chung 阿宗面线 has always been the prime choice.
You might have even done your homework prior going to Taiwan on where to find the best Oyster Vermicelli and so ever determined to try it. Me too. But most of time when traveling, especially overseas you do not have the luxury of time to pursue everything you have planned for. Continue reading