What’s the first thing that springs to mind when you think of Taiwan? For many, it’s the food. Be it street, fusion, urban or traditional – the Taiwanese just seem to have their food figured out, making each traveler’s gastronomic experience across the mighty island nothing short of pure delight.
Listed below are Rolling Grace’s top picks for “must-eat foods” while in Taiwan.
Every country has a national dish and Beef Noodles has definitely clinched that esteemed title in Taiwan.
A dish claimed to have originated from the southern city of Kaohsiung, it is comforting, savoury, spicy to a precise degree, and most of all – enjoyable.
The beef is stewed to perfect tenderness, its noodles are freshly hand-pulled, the broth is mindbogglingly rich with all flavours imaginable, and coy yet beautiful specks of green from the scallion victoriously give the dish a perfect finish.
How offensive that this masterpiece is labelled stinky. It is unique, has an amazing perfume and is a work of outstanding artistry.
The perfect snack for any time of the day, these tofu cubes are fermented up to a few months in a brine cocktail consisting of vegetables, meat, fermented milk, dried shrimps, amaranth leaves, bamboo shoots and an assortment of herbs.
To serve, the tofu is deep-fried and topped with pickled cabbage. Fun fact: A 2012 chemical analysis discovered that there are 39 volatile organic compounds that help give stinky tofu its distinct taste and smell.
Pearl Milk Tea
Ah, the sensation that took the world by storm. Despite having a sugar content that is twice as much as a can of Coke, this drink is still the best-selling edibles in liquid form not just in Taiwan, but across the globe.
The most popular bubble tea currently is “brown sugar pearl milk tea”, which is prepared using black tea, brown sugar syrup, tapioca pearls, water, fresh milk and needless to say: more sugar.
This omelette dish, created by the Teochew Chinese, comes with a delicious combination of fillings consisting primarily of tiny, bite-sized oysters gloriously wrapped within a thick, silky layer of egg.
Depending on the cook, some oyster omelettes might come with an extra gravy serving to further elevate the taste.
Lu Rou Fan
Believed to be the most-loved comfort food in Taiwan, Lu Rou Fan is translated as braised pork rice – where luscious braised meat sauce is served over a bowl of hot, steamy rice.
Other toppings include hard-boiled egg sliced in halves lengthwise, and bok choy cooked in boiling water.
It’s old news by now that Taiwan is famous for its “bigger than your face” deep-fried chicken cutlets, which people queue-up for hours for and get sold out in minutes.
Almost 30 cm in width, the cutlet is showered generously with seasonings of choice, namely salt, pepper, chilli powder, seaweed and plum.
This dish is a ravishing Chinese-style sandwich with two primary modules: the softest, pillowy steamed buns and the juiciest, most tender braised pork belly chunks nestled inside.
Other additions include suan chai (pickled mustard greens), coriander leaves, coarsely chopped peanuts and a tantalising chilli dip.
Pig’s Blood Cake
Horrified by the name of the dish? Don’t be! This one-of-a-kind delicacy is made using pork blood, cooked sticky rice and homemade soy broth before being shaped into cuboids.
It is served hot and steamy on a stick and coated generously with peanut flour.
Xiao Long Bao
Another dish that needs no introduction – little steamed buns in bamboo baskets.
Xiao Long Bao is known to the world as soup dumplings as they are each loaded with hot broth within and hence, must be very carefully eaten to avoid spills and burns.
Traditionally stuffed with minced pork, it also comes chicken, crab, shrimp and roe.
Meat and Scallion Pies
Every Taiwanese dish mentioned so far is absolutely mouth-watering, but topping the list is the country’s pan-fried buns or Shen Bing.
The dough that forms its wrapper is incredibly divine – thin yet capably thick of being both crispy and chewy.
Its meat-and-scallion filling requires the simplest of preparations, yet it transforms into a gourmet item when padded within the doughy envelope and pan-fried to sublimity.
This article first appeared in rollinggrace.com
Grace Ng is a serial wanderluster, solo female traveler, award-winning recipe developer and travel writer.