Heaven on Earth

During childhood visits to Taiwan, my mom would joke to friends that we were going on vacation to eat and then see family. If there’s one thing that I wish little Yangpu Qu had, it would be better food. Taiwanese food is great, but what’s best about it is to food culture. Nearly neighborhood has a nightmarket-like area filled with food vendors that are hoping from dawn to early morning. The locales value every meal of the day and the options reflect that. Visiting for a month last year with a friend traveling to Taiwan for the first time, we tried something new everyday for over a week. It started with my favorites, which I try to get my fix of as soon as I hop off the plane. Often after being picked up from the airport, we’ll head straight for some面线(oyster vermicelli) or a quick 红豆牛奶冰 (red bean milk shaved ice) before heading home to see the relatives. After my personal cravings were taken care of, some of which Bennett wasn’t very fond of, we explored the unknown.

Taiwan has gained a reputation internationally, especially among Asian countries, for having delicious food and it has spurred the evolution of an immense food culture. Returning nearly every year, I seem to stumble upon a new food stand or my uncle will divert us from our usual watering holes to new places closer to home. The Taiwanese have embraced their reputation and have a strong drive to maintain it. The food therefore has only gotten better. Night markets have begun to focus more and more on small eats and Taiwanese delicacies and less on clothes and tourist goods. I honestly cannot remember the last time I spent money at a night market aside from food.

This is not to say Shanghai’s food has been less than adequate. I’ve been pleased, but there is definitely a discrepancy in culture. Street lined food vendors are simply hard to come by and the few that exist are great. Jianbing, the crepe-egg-fried dough breakfast sandwich is a great start to my day and nowhere has the ubiquitous xiaolongbao restaurants with countless “longs” ready for take out in minutes. While there are many things that the two cities can learn from each other, food is one aspect of culture that Shanghai could use a few pointers from Taipei.