As a midwesterner I’ve always been almost completely ignorant of seafood. I’ve had some decent Great Lakes fish and some good imported salmon, but the more exotic offerings like squid and snail at local places like Red Lobster have always been stale and rubbery. I never thought I could really get into seafood, but then I started to visit places where seafood is fresh and delicious.
Sampling the cuisine in the Florida Keys earlier this year started to broaden my horizons. I had a variety of fish and conch snail fritters that put midwest seafood to shame. It opened my mind to what came next.
My seafood adventures really took off when my wife and I visited Taiwan last week. Seafood is a staple there, and with our adventurous palates we were fortunate enough to try foods that ranged from “amazing” to “not so great, but at least interesting.” Although we ate seafood at every lunch, perhaps the best restaurant we visited was near Yehliu Geopark:
The restaurant next door had a more decorative facade, but I imagine the cuisine was similar:
As we approached the building we noticed many saltwater aquarium tanks holding live seafood for their menu:
The fried octopus was my favorite. I don’t know if I could eat whole tentacles with the suckers and everything, but when prepared like this the meat was somewhat chicken-like and the breading was great. The garnish was dried fruit:
The tofu and oyster was a close second. I never would have imagined I could like tofu or oyster. I’ve had some bad tofu, and I had heard oyster was like snot, but in this dish both were flavorful and melt-in-your-mouth tender:
These fried fish were meant to be eaten whole, and I obliged. The heads were a bit fishy-tasting, but the rest was great. Surprisingly there were no bones:
Although I’m not a fan of shrimp, these proved to be better than most. I don’t know if they were meant to be eaten whole like the smaller fried shrimp we had in Taiwan, but I played it safe and removed the heads. There’s just something weird about eating shrimp eyeballs:
By far the most interesting dish was this seaweed soup with young fish. I thought it was edible, but the texture and flavor was somewhat disagreeable:
Street markets also featured a wide variety of seafood, and the most common was probably squid. The squid we had at a couple of other lunches was quite good.
I was really impressed with most of the seafood in Taiwan, and I could get used to eating food like this on a regular basis. I’m eager to visit more coastal areas of the world to see what they have to offer.