We are honored guests here in Taiwan! Guests here get fed. And fed a lot!
Most of our meals have been in restaurants, served Chinese style. That means you sit a round table, usually 10 people. There is a large lazy Susan in the center. All dishes are served family style. A meal tends to have 10 dishes! Each seat tends to have a small plate, a small cup, a small glass, chopsticks, and a spoon.
Drinks are family style as well. Usually tea (no rhyme or reason to hot or iced. Sometimes both on the table!) Often a juice or water. Beer is in large bottles – liter size. I’m told Taiwan Beer (yep, brand name!) is similar to Heineken. It’s an incredibly low alcohol content. At the nicer dinners there is also whiskey. Even I know it’s *really* nice whiskey. It usually arrives with one of the Rotarians and is poured into small pitchers on each table. Taiwanese tradition dictates that you can’t drink alone. So if you want to drink, you toast someone! One hand holding the glass, one underneath. And you must toast the other tables! Especially your host!
Most meals have started with a Japanese appetizer – sashimi and the like.
There’s often a whole fish – steamed or breaded and fried, with a pan sauce. Pro serving tip: only take the top half. Then someone will remove the spine and the bottom half is eaten.
We’ve also had a lot of pork belly, brased, with greens. It was particularly great with bamboo!
A meal usually has two different soups. There’s a pork and greens that feels like it’s directly from Central PA. A fish ball soup like gefilte fish. Yummy chicken soup – sometimes it’s the whole chicken!
Rice dishes vary. Sometimes we just fill up our bowl. There’s also a rice cooked with sweet potato – amazing!! And then there’s a very sticky ‘rice cake’ that usually has pork mixed in and tiny shrimp on top.
The other dishes vary by restaurant and cuisine. So many good things!
I’ve also been in Japanese restaurants (I had the most AMAZING flounder sushi – lightly seared and a mouth feel like butter). These have still been served Chinese style!
There are multiple influences on cusine here. There is the people native to Taiwan – tribal, similar to Polynesian as far as I can tell. Then there is Hakka, decended from mainland Chinese over 300 years ago. During the early 20th century, Taiwan was controlled by the Japanese. And post WWII, Taiwan is back under Chinese rule. So many years of culinary history means every meal is amazing. I’m eating way too much!