Sunday, September 21, 2008

The New York Times takes notice of Taiwan

...except they have this bad habit of calling it "The Other China", or "another side of China" or some such, which annoys many of us to no end.

This article is particularly fun to read - all about food in Taipei and why it's, not to mince words, better than food in Beijing.

Which, of course, it is!

It's long so I'll just post a link: Feasting at the Table of the Other China

But hey, I bet some NY Times editor somewhere realized that it would be big trouble to write about Taiwan without implying a kinship to China (it might "seriously hurt the feelings of the Chinese people" or some other such bullcrap), so they have to put it in there somewhere.

Or maybe they figure "Taiwan" won't grab readers - and therefore sell ads - as a headline, but "China" will. I dunno.

This follows up on several other NY Times articles, including the good - but not fantastic - 36 Hours in Taipei where they have great suggestions but hit the tourist points mostly, leaving out some of my favorite spots. With limited print space I guess that's what one has to do, though.

Both of these articles use the adjective "Taiwanese" later on in the piece, but not after a top heavy spiel about China, its influence and its pull. Why not be neutral on the issue, or better yet, call it what it is - Taiwan? I realize I'm starting to sound like Johnny Neihu on a bender here, but there's no way to avoid that.

There is, of course, the extremely well-written but also very long "Last Days of Taipei" in their magazine a few months ago.

This last one is the only one that seems to really get to the heart of life in the quiet lanes that lie just off the busy thoroughfares of Taipei city. It's worth a read, or at least a skim.


Prince Roy said...

This article is particularly fun to read - all about food in Taipei and why it's, not to mince words, better than food in Beijing.

Which, of course, it is!

Actually, no, it really isn't. And Shanghai beats Taipei as well.

Taipei is good, but not great. I'd put BJ, Shanghai, and Chengdu ahead of Taipei, and also Singapore and HK.

Jenna said...


It's a matter of opinion I guess. I can say "it is!" and you can say "it isn't!" but neither of those can be a proven fact.

I was completely disappointed by food in Beijing. Honestly. The only good food I've had in Beijing was food from other places.

Shanghai? If you like dumplings, sure.

Singapore and HK I'll give you, but the article was comparing Taiwan to China and Singapore's not China. HK is, but it's, well, different.

So I still stand by the article. I think Taipei is great for food - especially things you can't get in China (oyster omelets, mba wan, yilan youbing) or things you can get but they're not as good (beef noodles, stinky tofu).

As for Chengdu, it's OK, but I lived in Guizhou where the food is better than Chengdu's. Obviously for Sichuanese food those areas will be better than Taipei, but I prefer Taiwanese food to Sichuanese, so Taipei, in my book, is better.

Prince Roy said...

I'd agree that the 'native' Beijing cuisine isn't much to write home about--except the dumplings (jiaozi)--more filling varities (even veg!) than anywhere else I've been in China--the Taiwan dumpling scene is pretty weak in comparison. Beijing also has the best and most varieties of all regional Chinese food. That's what makes it a great food city. And international, too. I've had really good Indian food in BJ, far better than any I tried in Taiwan.

Again, 'native' Shanghai fare is also not my thing--but really good regional representation, more international-there's even an outstanding Nepali restaurant.

And Uighur food--don't even get me started. Both BJ and Shanghai have amazing Uighur food. BJ is the best. Taipei has no real Xinjiang restauraunts to speak of.

The thing about BJ and Shanghai is that their size can make it a bit of a chore, so I'd say it's more convenient to eat in Taipei, but variety is way, way better in the PRC. Both BJ and Shanghai are more international than Taipei, which only makes sense, because they have vastly more foreigners there.

For me, Taiwan food tastes rather bland, although I like some night market snacks, like BBQ corn, and tiebanshao. Taipei is a snacker's mecca for sure, but for substantial fare, I'd choose any number of Mainland cities over Taipei.

Jenna said...

Taiwan has at least two Uighur restaurants though I haven't tired either to say how good they are.

I had one good Indian meal in Beijing, but it wasn't any better than meals I've had in Taiwan (after requesting that the food be cooked to Indian specifications).

I like dumplings - a lot - but have found my 'spot' for them in Taiwan which I personally prefer to Dingtaifung or whatever overpriced chicanery is being touted as "Shanghai dumplings". I like them savory and hearty, not delicate, and dumped in a spicy vinegar concoction rather than dipped lightly.

But I guess the main reasons I like Taiwanese food can be summed up in two parts:

1.) Seafood. Taiwan seafood is better than China's. Full stop. There's more of it and it doesn't taste like murky pollution the way China's does.

2.) Taiwanese food that isn't standard night-market fare. The stuff you get when you're invited to someone's home and get served heaps of savory beef, mustardy chicken and spicy mountain pig. The stuff you get at Auntie Xie's, which I reviewed early on in the blog. That stuff is DELICIOUS and so much better than anything I had in Beijing.

As for Beijing - I never found good Middle Eastern there but find the M.E. food here to be, if not as good as my mom's cooking or my own, acceptable. I only found one good Indian restaurant and it didn't offer south Indian. Beijing food in itself is pretty blah. The Sichuan hot pot I had in Beijing couldn't hold a candle to ACTUAL Sichuan hot pot...even the stuff in Taiwan is better. Xinjiang food-wise, after going to Xinjiang itself I was not too impressed with Xinjiang food in Beijing. It was OK. It was nothing to rave about after the real thing.

Also, I love Hakka food - young bamboo and fish cooked in rice wine, that sort of stuff. Much better here than on the Mainland.

But hey. I was only in Beijing for 10 days. There's a lot I never discovered there.