If you are fortunate enough to make a trip to Taiwan you’ll realize how seriously they take food. You cannot walk more than a few steps and not find food. Everywhere you turn there is another mouthwatering sight of food. The streets are lined with food stands, food stalls, small counter restaurants, full fledged dining establishments and of course the famous night markets. The Taiwanese night market scene is a culture of it’s own. Noticeably, more of these night markets are in close proximity to schools, colleges and mast city centers. It seems like Taipei 101 Taiwan Cuisine (not the skyscraper) took a page out their homeland play book and opened up within close proximity to University of Central Florida.
Imagine a night market and street food stands rolled up under an indoor roof. The setting is quite clean and bright. This has to be the cleanest bathroom I’ve seen in a restaurant this size in a very long time. Glass topped tables with Taiwanese newspapers and magazines allow for browsing while waiting. There is an ordering counter with a huge kitchen. Place your order, pay and take a seat. Your food will arrive as its being cooked. Most of their items are small portions or snack sized and priced accordingly. No doubt pricing has something to do with it’s college clientele more so, I think pricing has to do with Taiwan street prices. You can get really full with a few dollars walking down a Taiwanese street or snacking at a night market. There is no getting around the distinct difference between Taiwanese cuisine and other Asian cuisines. Taiwanese lightly season to allow the true flavors of food to shine. Although, there are regular American Chinese fare like General Tso and Orange Chicken on this menu also. Your less adventurous friends will not feel left out. We ate to our hearts delight.
Taiwanese Apple Soda Hey Song Sarsasparilla – Wonderful apple flavors with good bubble factor.
Da Mian Chao – egg noodle with minced pork, shitake and wood ear mushrooms. You read minced pork on a menu and imagine ground pork stir fried and placed on top of noodles. Stop. Not here. This is slow braised to tender perfection and then minced into these tiny slivers of heaven. Pork flavor was a good balance between savory and sweet with hints of star anise. I could easily eat that container full of just minced pork. Egg noodles were firm and flavorful. Shitake and Wood ear mushrooms add an earthiness that takes this simple dish to a whole new level.
Gua Bao – steamed buns with braised pork belly, peanuts, cilantro, drizzled with sweet and sour sauce. Attention all you pork belly aficionados who are dropping pork belly on every menu across town. Go here and taste this pork belly. Is there a hint of stench? No. Is it too greasy? No. Can you taste pork flavor? Yes. That’s how you do pork belly. Tender, clean, sweet soy, star anise and porky fat melts in your mouth like…not butter…pork belly! Peanuts and cilantro cut through this delicate meat with texture and flavor. I saved one of these just so I can have a midnight snack.
O-A-Jian – Oyster omelette with Taiwanese lettuce. The chef starts with oysters then bean sprouts and lettuce, cracks an egg over the whole thing, flips the entire omelette and it’s done. Pours sauce over it. Not much cooking there. Yes, the egg is still very runny and raw so is the oyster. Fear none this is the correct preparation of this Taiwanese delicacy. I’ve had it the same way in Taiwan. The oysters might have been just out of water, after all Taiwan is an island. But this dish came very close. If you are not into gelatinous textures, this might not be the dish for you.
Yan Su Ji – Salt and Pepper Chicken with jalapenos, red pepper and basil. I’m going to venture out and say this might be one of the wonders of Taiwan. This version is hot. I don’t mean temperature. Although, temperature wise this is hot also, allow some cooling. But the jalapenos and spicy powder cranks up the heat factor. Some versions serve the spicy powder on the side. I am sure this restaurant will accommodate heat on the side. It is edible, but fair warning. Five spice powder comes out deep into the meat. Some places call this popcorn chicken, they are that addicting.
O-A Mi-Soa – Oyster and chitterling in vermicelli noodle. Clean, straight forward, gelatinous. Oyster and chitterling stand out. The simplicity of this dish is a testament to full flavor profiles. Not everything needs manipulation.
Pao Bing – Shaved ice with mung bean, red bean and taro. A staple of Taiwan and probably most of Asia. There are little stands and carts that serves up various renditions of this. Toppings were nicely done, ice was finely shaved. I needed more condensed milk.
Taipei 101 has certainly presented Taiwanese Cuisine well on the East side of Orlando. If you are hesitant to try something new, go for the American Chinese food and slip in a item that you would not have tried. Take it from there. This restaurant does not offer a fanciful dining experience, but an honest straight forward look into their food. I encourage you to go with a group, order many items and try them. You might be surprised to find yourself liking some of these items and end up on a plane to experience the real night markets of Taiwan.