One of the highlights during our 3 days in Taipei was the food tour by Taipei Eats we participated in. You would think after eating continuously for almost two days we wouldn’t really have needed this food tour, but you are wrong. Even though we had been eating everything we could get our hands on, trying (and retrying) different foods during the tour was an experience I wouldn’t want to have missed for the world.
For everyone who has never been on a food tour, let me convince you that it is totally worth it because of 3 simple reasons.
The organizers of any good food tour know what is good food. At Taipei Eats we got to try extremely delicious food carefully selected by the tour creators.
You not only get to taste delicious dishes but also an explanation how to enjoy them (e.g. what kind of seasoning is best). In addition, you get information about the origin of a dish, more details about a shop and tips where else to go to enjoy it again.
There is, of course, the tour guide who will be there to answer all your questions you might have about food, but also other questions about the destination. But there will be other participants who you can get to know, exchange stories (and contact information) which is much more fun than eating and exploring alone.
Now let me tell you all about our experience with Taipei Eats. The food tour we participated in was the Xinyi Tour. They also offer another shorter tour. Check out their website for the details.
We met on an, unfortunately, rainy morning (at 11 a.m.) at Yongchun station. There we were warmly greeted by our guide Amber, who is a Journalism Student and a part-time guide for Taipei Eats. Our group consisted of 7 people, mainly from different parts of the US. Everyone was super friendly and open and it was really easy to get to know each other while walking and eating.
Right around the corner from the station is the local market where the Taiwanese buy their groceries, it gets busy in the afternoon so our visit at noon was not too crowded. You can get fresh fruit, vegetables, and fish, but also cooked foods that you can eat right away or take home with you to eat later.
First, we got to try some guava and star fruit seasoned with plum powder and salt which makes for a sweet and refreshing snack. The salt really brings out the natural sweetness of the fruit.
First, we got to see how they make layered scallion cake and then we got to try it fresh out of the oven.
There is a nice story about it: When Marco Polo tasted the Scallion cake he liked it so much, that when he went back home he tried to create it for himself. But he couldn’t and that is how pizza was invented.
We left the market and made our way to the first restaurant. A small place that sells Taiwanese burgers called Gua Bao. The ingredients are simple: Pork, cilantro, peanut powder and mustard greens in a bun. It was freshly made and super-hot and the aroma was just mouthwatering. We also added some slightly spicy sauce that made the whole dish even more flavorful. Even if you don’t like spicy you should definitely try the red sauce, it looks much spicier than it actually is.
By the way, we tried the same on our first day, but this one was much better (even though the basic ingredients were exactly the same).
Now we come to the slightly adventurous part of the Taipei Eats Xinyi Tour. We could try some betel nut. If you are not familiar with this, chewing the combination of Areca Nut and Betel Leaf has a thousand of year old tradition in many East-Asian countries, including Taiwan. The effect is supposed to be similar to nicotine and is commonly used by taxi drivers and construction workers.
I didn’t try it as I am generally against any kind of drug that is stronger than coffee, but Taka had a bite and spit it right back out making the below face.
If you ever wondered what the disgusting smell in the markets of Taiwan is, then I can tell you the answer. It is stinky tofu. If you have never smelled it before, simply imagine sewers.
But this shouldn’t keep you from trying it. The stinky tofu at the restaurant we tried it at only had a slight stinky smell and the taste was not stinky at all.
We washed our stinky tofu down with the best bubble tea I have ever had. In fact, it was so good that on the same day we went back to the same shop to buy another one that tasted just as great.
You haven’t really been to Taiwan if you didn’t try some dumplings, so that’s what we did next.
We got to try two different kinds. The first with the thicker and more fluffy skin are the northern style dumplings. The ones with the thin delicate skin and soup inside are from the south and harder to make just right.
The ones we got to try were delicious and I ate 3 of them, even though I was really getting full at this point.
And with that, it was finally time for dessert (that was really the only thing that would still fit in our bellies after all that food we stuffed ourselves with for the past 3 or so hours). Even though it was sorbet, basically frozen water with sugar and fruit it was not easy to eat everything, but it tasted so good it was hard to stop. The flavors are quite different from flavors in western countries. We tried some lychee and also pineapple and plum mix. Delicious.
I wouldn’t want more food, just more time to enjoy it and to also get to know the people on the tour. We had some time to really get to know each other while eating at the restaurants and also while walking from one stop to the next, but in my mind, one hour more would have been even better to enjoy everything in a more relaxed way.
11 a.m. is a bit early for lunch if you eat breakfast and a bit late if you don’t. We got up a little late and started our day with the food tour so it was really fine, but for people who get up quite early, I can imagine they might get hungry.
For me it was fine but I can imagine some people who are not as fit might think the distances between the single stops are a bit long. For me, it was a good way to digest a bit before the next food.
Even if you only have a very short time you can get an overview of the food culture of Taiwan. You will only go to places that are really delicious. Especially when it comes to stinky tofu it is not very delicious in many places, but the restaurant where we tried it is famous with the locals for being very delicious.
Our group of participants was super friendly and we got to exchange experiences and also food recommendations. We exchanged contacts, and even though it was just a short time we had a great time together.
You are not only eating, but you are being told what you are eating, what the food is made of, the history of the dish and interesting facts and stories about the restaurant, people, and food in general. Our Taipei Eats guide Amber was really knowledgeable and I bet the other awesome guides at Taipei Eats are as well.
I really hope this will help you make a decision about joining the Taipei Eats Xinyi Food Tour. If you have any further questions, please let me know in the comments below.
The staff of Taipei Eats is super friendly and you can reach them easily on Facebook or via Email, so don’t hesitate to contact them directly.
Of course the Taipei Eats Food Tour wasn’t the only thing we did in Taipei. For a complete two day itinerary read on here.
Authors Note: This is a sponsored post. The experience described here was provided free of charge in exchange for this review. But as always the opinions stated are all my own and have not been influenced in any way.
Lena is the creator of the Social Travel Experiment. Planning her trip around the world took a lot of effort. To make it easier for future world travelers she has made it her mission to teach others how to have an unforgettable trip around the world, through short stays with locals, without wasting valuable time or money.