This staying in Taipei was very short, under a slight rain and an unexpected cold weather, we discovered typical places and met local people very linked with Italy.
I remember the first time I visited this city, I was expecting something completely different and ultramodern, but I found a City that was a sum up of many cultures and a mix of different people. As green and hot as Hong Kong, it also reminds me about any other city in South East Asia: full of motorcycles, street food, 7 Elevens and street markets. Over the summer the heat is unbearable but locals seem to not even notice it.
Taiwanese people speak mandarin but write 繁体字 traditional characters, instead of 普通话simplified characters used in Mainland China. Everyone here is very nice and sweet, and the atmosphere that you feel here makes you feel comfortable.
Maybe this could be confusing …is Taiwan…China?
Taiwan is part of its own definition in China ROC (Republic of China) and not a part of China under the PRC (People’s Republic of China).
Is Taiwan independent? It’s a yes and no.
The government operating in Taiwan is a self-sustaining and democratically-elected government unrelated to Beijing.
Located between China to the west, Japan to the northeast and the Philippines to the south, it gets different influences from each of this place.
Over the last years Taiwan, especially Taipei, is facing a fast growth and the living standard is getting higher and higher.
We arrive on Tuesday afternoon, actually dinner time for Asia (if you go at 9 pm, the kitchen will be already closed, and can you imagine being Italian?).
We go straight to Ding Tai Fung 鼎泰豐. These kinds of restaurants established in Taiwan are old typical places where to eat xialongbao 小笼包 - type of Chinese steamed bun (包子) associated with Shanghai region, prepared in small bamboo steaming baskets (小龙) and traditionally filled with pork and its juice (in Shanghai you can suck it through a straw).
The place is small, with steep narrow stairs developed in three floors, full of waiters like in any Chinese restaurant. There is an open kitchen, we peep through the window to observe the cooks making baozi 包子, as soon as they noticed these two blondies, they start smiling and turn red. We have pork xiaolongbao, baozi, jiaozi, steamed spinach, shrimps, bean sprouts. We sit next to an old Chinese couple, very sweet. I notice a woman in front of me, eating alone, on her phone and I-pad with a movie in front of her.
The second day we wake up with a slight drizzle coming down, covering the city’s landscape. We take a walk to the Taipei 101(description) and Chiang Kai-shek memorial, taking thousands of pictures. After a quick lunch, we meet with Limei and Alan of Ascent way in their wine shop, where they have an outstanding selection of Italian wines, cheeses, coffee and I don’t even feel I am in Taipei anymore but back home in Italy waiting for some friends and for a glass of wine.
Limei and Alan bring us to a typical Chinese restaurant according to the wine we have, to pair Italian wine and Chinese food: this is the key to dive into two cultures at the same time and feel all connected. Eating with chopsticks and drinking in wine glasses. The best pairing is the Argiolas sparkling wine, Tagliamare, made from Nuragus grape, matched with Sichuanese fried chicken - the Sichuanese cuisine is well known to be the spiciest in China, a kind of spice called 麻辣 that hits the end of your tongue - the spicy flavour in your mouth is washed away by the freshness of the wine, leaving in your tongue a crisp feeling. The second pairing is the beef wrapped in rice 牛肉稻梗, steamed and very tender, the meat is not too salty and has a buttery texture that goes perfectly with the red Chianti Classico of Castello di Ama, San Lorenzo 2013. The last day, before catching the plane, we visited a bakery in center of the city, where Sasa, the owner and the cook, makes delicious bakery stuff in a french style.
In 1997 Limei started working in the Italian wine market in Taiwan, when at that time consumers only associated the world “wine” with France. She strongly believed that good quality would have attracted costumers, and so it did. She likes Italy and Italian quality life, by sharing with passion what she thinks and feels with her friends and circle of people.
The problem was to overcome the image of French wines which costumers where used to, selecting a proper range of Italian labels that people could understand.
Nowadays she often travels to Italy - Piedmont with his countryside touches her heart every time: delicious local food and outstanding wines. Her favourite wine is Barbaresco, with its floral notes and aromas. Limei, like us, believes in the pairing between Chinese food and Italian wine and that could be a turning point for people to get closer to these two cultures.
Three pairings that you shouldn’t miss out: Pork with soy sauce pair with Ripasso, spice hot pot with Rosè, steam fish with Podium (Verdicchio).
Chinese Ding Tai Fung, Xinyi - location: No. 194, Section 2, Xinyi Road, Da’an District, Taipei City
Qiyan ONE, The Gaia Taipei - location: 2F, N 199, Lequn 2nd Road, Zhongshan District, Taipei City 104
Taiwan Bakery&Kitchen Des Glaneuses - location: No. 5, Lane 391, Zhuangjing Road, Xinyi District, Taipei City, Taiwan 110