A Taste of Taiwan in Tokyo

Yes, it’s another food post. Shock.

On Sunday my mate Kat (who possibly likes food even more than me) and I went to the Taiwan Festa at Yoyogi Park which was, essentially, a shit-load of food trucks serving a range of Taiwanese dishes. It was a similar set-up to the Kebab Grand Prix a couple of years back – in other words lots of similar dishes served with ever so slightly different twists on them!

No confusion here.

It had been a while since I’d eaten Taiwanese food and in particular I found myself craving xiaolongbao – that’s steamed dumplings to you and I – so I went on the hunt pretty much as soon as we arrived. Seemingly my horrendously hungover Christmas day dinner in Taipei last year didn’t put me off, either that or I’ve forgotten the trauma. They do say time is a great healer.

The problem wasn’t so much what to eat, but which stall to buy it from. I’ve realised from my time in Japan that a long queue doesn’t necessarily reflect quality as people are often more than happy to follow the crowd and just assume things must be good. These shops don’t usually live up to the hype so I assumed it would be the case with the stalls here. With this in mind we took the opposite approach and went for a place with a smaller queue. Hipsters.

I peaked too early.

Eventually we found a place where I could get my dumplings and Kat could appease her mango shaved ice cravings and only had to wait a few minutes. I managed to take a layer of skin off the roof of my mouth with my first dumpling – a trick I usually reserve for pizza that has come straight from the oven. I guess you could say I’m a jack of all trades. Anyway, the dumplings were good so I guess it was a fair trade-off. It was four for ¥500 which although not the cheapest was a little less than I expected.

After a beef noodle soup (mouth burn number two) we set about having a wander as there were a few non-food stalls to check out and also some live music on the stage. It was at this point we saw a pair of guys carrying some birds on their arms. And no, I don’t mean they’d been on the pull. Like, actual creatures.

A solid 6 out of 10.

I’m going to let you into a secret here: I have something of a phobia of birds. Again, I’m not talking about women. I’m talking the flying things with flapping wings, and I’ll tell you why.

A few years ago, my mates Rick, James and I were on a train back from a particularly heavy night in Liverpool. The three of us were in a very delicate state and a little on edge due to our hangovers. At this point, a pigeon wandered on to the train and started waddling in our direction. Panic stations.

Picture the scene: three grown men cowering from a tiny pigeon. The bird started flapping about the train, and we had absolutely no idea what to do. We were weak and defenceless. And then I think someone shooed it away with a newspaper.

Anti-climax? Maybe, but to this day I’m scared of birds as a result. So what happened when this guy clocked me taking a photo of him with his birds?

Don’t be fooled: that is pure fear in my eyes.

Yep. Scarred, for life.

In order to get over this traumatic sequence of events I opted to get some mango shaved ice too. I went to a different stall (seriously, about 50% of the stalls served shaved ice) and was rewarded with an absolute whopper of a portion. There was no fresh mango on mine, but if you’re a quantity over quality person then there’s only one winner!

Well deserved.

After some rather underwhelming ‘cheese’ dumplings which tasted absolutely nothing like cheese, we went for a further stroll and discovered that it wasn’t just a Taiwanese festival, but there was also a Peruvian event taking place too. It was a real carnival atmosphere with lots of dancing and more meat than you could shake a stick at.

Fiesta time!

Unfortunately by this point we were both more than stuffed and decided to call it a day. We made our way out past a bunch of Thai stalls which were seriously tempting, but ultimately we resisted. Apparently they have these kinds of events on quite regularly in this area – why am I only finding this out weeks before I leave Japan?!

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