Wow, where and what to eat in Taiwan? There’s bubble tea cafes, bakeries, fried chicken stalls, night market food stalls, barbeque / hot pot restaurants and awesome chinese dumplings! We were clearly spoilt for choices. Pork is a common staple in the Taiwanese diet and you will find minced pork on vegetables, inside dumplings, stirred with fried rice, cooked with prawns, braised with soya sauce. If you are not a fan of pork like me, there are other options and you will not go hungry for sure.
Here’s a round up of Taiwanese food.
- Braised Pork Rice (Lurou fan)
The popularity of this humble dish cannot be overstated. From your mother’s version of lurou fan to the one served in a restaurant, it’s the one dish we truly cannot live without. A good bowl of lurou fan features finely chopped pork belly, slow cooked in soy sauce with five spices. There should be an ample amount of fattiness in which lies the magic! The meat is then spooned over hot rice. A little sweet, a little salty, this braised pork rice is comfort food for locals.
- Beef Noodles
I heard that there is an obsession that it gets its own festival. Beef noodle soup inspires competitiveness and innovation in Taiwanese chefs. It’s no surprise everyone wants to claim the “beef noodle king” title.
- Stinky Tofu (smelly tofu)
This could be the world’s premier love-it-or-hate-it snack and Taiwan does it just right. The “fragrant” cube of bean curd is deep-fried and draped with sweet and spicy sauce. If you hold your nose, it looks and tastes just like a plain ol’ piece of fried tofu, with a crisp casing and soft pudding-like center. But what’s the fun in eating that? Inhale deeply and relish the stench. The smellier, the better. I was with mum at Jiu Fen Old street when I tried this. She could not stand the smell but I gobbled it all down. It tasted really really good actually.
- Flaky scallion pancakes
There are few things more appetising than the sight of a flaky scallion pancake being slowly torn apart. Add cheese and egg fillings to maximize the visuals. This night market staple needs to be devoured in a few bites to ensure it stays steaming hot and chewy.
- Oyster vermicelli
A bowl of great oyster vermicelli should have a thick, flavourful soup base while the thin rice noodles and oysters retain their distinct texture. Some people add chopped intestines to add a new dimension to the soup. It’s a gooey, slurp-able dish with an intense, briny taste. Most Singaporeans will go to Ay-Chung Flour-Rice Noodle located in the heart of Xi Men Ding. You will see a huge crowd standing outside the stall slurping down on this bowl and I promise you don’t want to miss out on this. Tasted good and cost 2 dollars (50 TWD) for a bowl.
- Fried chicken
Taiwan deserves a special place in the fried chicken hall of fame. Not only has it made the giant fried chicken cutlet — Hotstar Chicken Cutlet — a cult legend (which has swelled from one street stall to an international franchise owner), but its popcorn chicken is dangerously addictive. The chicken is chopped into bite-sized pieces, marinated, dipped in batter and deep-fried. A generous sprinkling of salt, pepper and deep fried basil complete the morsels.
- Pineapple cake
This iconic Taiwanese pastry – mini-pies filled with candied pineapple is one of Taiwan’s best food souvenirs. For one of the top pineapple cake experiences there’s SunnyHills, which uses only local pineapples. The result is a darker filling, rougher texture and sourer taste than most. I prefer my pineapples fresh inside of blended into a cake but it’s worth to try!
- Iron egg
It’s called ‘iron egg’ because it’s so tough! These chewy little eggs are dyed black from long braising in soy sauce and it’s highly addictive in Taiwan. There’s about 20 eggs in a packet and I ate them all in 2 days. Often made from quail’s eggs, the protein balls are cooked for hours in soy sauce then air-dried. The process is repeated over several days until the snacks become tough and acquire the desired chewiness. It actually taste like hard jelly.
- Pan-fried buns
These buns are made with spongy white chinese bread that’s pan-fried on the bottom. Break one open and you reveal a moist, porky filling.
- Oyster omelet
Here’s a snack that really showcases the fat of the land in Taiwan. You’ve got something from the sea and something from the soil. The eggs are the perfect foil for the little oysters, which are easily found around the island, while sweet potato starch is added to give the whole thing a gooey chewiness — a signature Taiwan food texture.
- Mochi (mua chee)
These glutinous rice balls are as soft and chewy, filled with sweet or salty ingredients. The most traditional mochi are filled with red bean paste and rolled in peanut powder.
- Bubble Tea
The city is filled with bubble tea joints. Variations on the theme include taro-flavored tea, jasmine tea and coffee, served cold or hot. This is so good and addictive especially in summer. Bubble tea in Taiwan wins in Asia, hands down!
- Xiao Long Bao (soup dumpling)
Taiwanese restaurant Din Tai Fung does this best with its succulent pork-soup dumpling. Their paper-thin wrapping hold rich hot broth and tender pork meatballs. There is a method to eating this dumpling properly.Step 1: Bite off the dumpling’s ‘nipple’
Step 2: Drain the soup inside into your soup
Step 3: Slurp the soup
Step 4: Dip the dumpling into black vinegar & add some ginger slices and chow down
I promise you will not go hungry in Taiwan. The city is easy accessible and food is aplenty. I loved it so much that well exploring Eslite bookstore, I was tempted to even buy a Taiwanese cookbook. It’s now saved in my Book Depository wishlist alongside a ton of other books.