Taiwanese cuisine is a delightful fusion of influences, drawing from traditional Chinese, native culture, and Japanese tastes that were introduced during the island’s 50-year Japanese rule. The result is a culinary landscape bursting with unique flavors and creative concoctions.
1) Beef Noodle Soup:
– Beef Noodle Soup, or New Rou Mian, enjoys such popularity in Taipei that it boasts its own annual festival. This beloved dish features thick-cut wheat or flour noodles bathed in a hearty beef broth and adorned with tender beef cuts. Simplicity reigns here, with minimal herbs or spices, allowing the delicious flavors to shine. Some street vendors add a touch of chili butter for an extra kick.
2) Xiao Long Bao:
– Xiao Long Bao, the signature dish of Din Tai Fung, tantalizes taste buds with its bite-sized dumplings. These delicate parcels encase tender pork meatballs in a rich, hot broth. A local and tourist favorite, these dumplings have earned international acclaim for their exquisite flavor. Caution: let them cool a bit to avoid a scalding surprise!
3) Pineapple Cake:
– Pineapple Cake makes for an excellent souvenir from Taiwan. Crafted from fresh pineapples harvested in the Bagua Mountains, these sweet, fruity treats feature a rich pineapple jam filling enveloped in a slightly buttery pastry. For the finest, seek out the gourmet “Sunny Delights” from Sunny Hills.
4) Stinky Tofu:
– Stinky Tofu, a polarizing Taiwanese snack, either delights or repels, often influenced by one’s sense of smell. It consists of deep-fried bean curd fermented in various brines, producing a complex mix of textures and flavors. Served with a sweet and spicy sauce, it’s a culinary adventure best found at Taipei’s night markets.
5) Chicken’s Feet:
– Chicken’s Feet is no misnomer; it’s exactly what it sounds like. Surprisingly popular in Taipei, these slightly gelatinous and fatty treats even grace cinema snack menus, offering a unique alternative to popcorn. While they may be a tad fiddly to eat, they’re available in various preparations, making them an interesting and tasty snack.
6) Mango Shaved Ice:
– Mango Shaved Ice, known as Baobing locally, provides a refreshing respite on sweltering Taipei days. This dessert consists of fruit (mango, strawberry, or melon) mixed with ice and condensed milk. With generous servings resembling an erupting volcano, it’s a delightful way to cool down.
7) Oyster Omelette:
– Oyster Omelette, found in Taipei’s night markets, is a gooey, chewy delight. This popular snack incorporates small oysters from Taiwan’s coastline into a slightly thicker and chewier omelette, thanks to sweet potato starch. Often served with savory sauce and optional chili for added spice.
8) Pig’s Blood Cake:
– Pig’s Blood Cake, akin to European blood pudding, offers a chewy treat composed of pig’s blood and sticky rice. Steamed and coated in peanut powder, it’s served lollipop-style and boasts a unique blend of salty, spicy, and sweet flavors.
9) Gua Bao:
– Gua Bao, often referred to as Taiwan’s answer to the American hamburger, resembles its Western counterpart. However, it features a steamed bun, braised pork belly, pickled Chinese cabbage, and powdered peanuts. This delightful market snack offers a diverse flavor profile with salty, sour, and sweet notes.
10) Braised Pork on Rice:
– Lurou Fan, a beloved Taipei dish, is a comforting culinary masterpiece. It features finely-chopped pork belly slow-cooked in soy sauce and Chinese five spice, spooned over rice to soak up the rich, flavorful sauce. The result is a mouthwatering comfort food with a delightful blend of sweet and salty flavors, sparking debates over its origin.