I was supposed to go to Taiwan. I was going to return last week. Sadly, the world shut down, and the trip was – temporarily – lost to me. But that doesn’t mean I can’t try, just a bit, to regain the experience here at home.
Whether or not you believe Taiwan counts as a country – more on that later – there is no question it’s a cool place with some awesome culinary and cultural gems. Do you like dumplings? Taiwan has the best in the world, especially soup dumplings. (If you’ve never had soup dumplings, do so as soon as you can. Trust me. They will change your life, and there’s really no way I could make them at home.) Heard of night markets? This is where they are from, and where they’ve been perfected. Hello Kitty? Yes, although ugh.
Anyway, here is our date night plan. I hope you enjoy and try it for yourself!
Taiwanese-Themed Date Night
Eat: Beef Noodle and Feng Li Su
If Taiwan has a national dish, it would be beef noodle. Wheat noodles, rich and spicy broth, beef, vegetables (normally bok choy). The result is satisfying and magical. As quarantine makes my shopping limited to a single grocery store, I couldn’t find the spicy bean paste normally used, so I made do. And it was great! I seasoned my beef broth with ginger, garlic, sriracha, lime, and soy sauce, and poured it over udon noodles with some beef, bok choy, and cilantro. Slurping made for a great evening!
I love all soup, and this one was no exception!
A, as always, added dessert. Taiwan, like many East Asian countries, isn’t known for sweets. But we found these pineapple cakes, called feng li su, and they were really tasty, although not as sweet as our western palates have been accustomed to for after dinner delights.
Pineapple cakes. Solidly good!
Learn: Is Taiwan a Country
All hail the dinner documentary! This time, our Scottish friend from France and Germany’s documentaries returned to talk to us about the history of Taiwan, and whether or not it’s an independent country. The short answer isn’t short at all, and you’ll just have to decide for yourselves. But the history is fascinating, as the early Taiwanese governments were China’s government in exile, and therefore not only does China claim Taiwan, but Taiwan claims all of China!
Watch: Hello Kitty
Taiwan is in love with Hello Kitty, one of its most famous cultural exports. There are restaurants, hotels, airplanes, and more all themed with the iconic cute little cartoon. Personally, I had never seen anything Hello Kitty related, so it was time for that to change. We watched Hello Kitty as Alice in Wonderland, and besides the obvious issue with a little cat-girl thinking “this strange bottle smells good so I’ll drink what’s in it,” it was actually decently done. Should I have kids, perhaps Hello Kitty will make a return.
Experience: The National Palace Museum
Taiwan’s largest museum, home to more than 700,000 ancient Chinese artifacts (one of the largest collections in the world), is considered one of the best museums in the world. Sadly, it is now closed for renovations through 2023 (although the second branch outside of Taipei is open), but some of the collection is on Google Arts and Culture. Don’t miss the rock shaped like pork belly, or the jadeite that is carved into a cabbage. Seriously.
The jadeite cabbage
Watch: The Layover – Taipei
Anthony Bourdain inspired me, and continues to do so. He is a large part of the reason The Royal Tour exists, and will forever hold a place in my heart. His least known show was called The Layover, the premise being a long 1-2 day layover in a major air hub. In Taipei, he explores the night markets, eats more amazing things than I can count, and visits the aforementioned National Palace Museum. I miss him, but he never fails to make me smile and salivate.
I miss Anthony Bourdain.
Taiwan is an awesome place, one I wish I’d been able to see this year as planned. But it awaits my visit, and until then, my virtual tour will have to do.
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