I have nothing critical to say about the Taipei food scene, except that it was too hot in many instances to eat certain 'can't miss' dishes. When the mercury climbs close to the century mark (that's about 40C), I'm not in the mood for a great big bowl of beef noodles, in a greasy, soy-based stock. That, and the human crush of the night markets, coupled with soup steam and fry heat in Taipei's August sizzle, did occasionally border on torture. Especially in pants.
But one style of eating made perfect sense during the season which the Fujianese across the Strait poetically call The Summer Tiger. And that's the late-night beer and seafood feast, at one of the city's ubiquitous Pijiu Wu. These are bar-slash-restaurants that specialize in sashimi, salty stir-fries, pickled seafood and little glasses of cold beer. As my guide for the night Monica told me, it's 'the tapas of Taipei.' And she should know; she runs the show at a popular tapas restaurant there.
Above is a dish of raw clams that have been pickled in rice wine, Chinese spices, and salt. They're cool and refresing, sweet and yet briny, and were utterly delicious.
Then we moved on to slices of juicy goose, lightly smoked, dipped in a vinegar-based chili sauce. Oh my. If you have the chance, don't miss this. For a second I felt a pang of guilt, as I nearly ate the entire plate... but you can't get this in Bangkok. And what followed just might be mankind's perfect accompaniment to brew:
Crunchy peanuts and crispy bits of battered squid (the mouth of the squid, I am told), dusted in lots of salt and white pepper, fried with leeks and few chilies.
The entire meal was light and fresh, perfectly designed for easy snacking with friends, sitting on low stools in a place somewhere in the darkness. We ate slowly, in a restaurant packed with young Taiwanese raising toasts, backlit by buzzing neon beer signs. Then I made my way home in the late evening breeze, and didn't even break a sweat.
The restaurant in question is called (I think) Shun Xian Hai Cai Dian, and it is located on Bade Lu, Lane 300, in downtown Taipei. Call 2711-7189 if that doesn't get you there.