Must Eat in Taiwan!
Taiwan is a culturally and ethnically diverse country that pursues integration. Dining is the best way to experience local culture. Even the CNN has reported on the top 10 must-eat Taiwanese cuisines. Travel Taipei has listed 10 must-eat cuisines. Starting with tasting the local dishes is the best way to experience Taiwanese culture in-depth.
Beef noodles is one the most liked common cuisines in Taiwan. Delicious beef noodles require three essential elements which are noodles, broth and beef. Broth is especially crucial because it is the soul of beef noodles. There are two kinds of beef noodles, braised and clear stewed that come with stewed sirloin and cow tendon. Street vendors and old shops alike endeavor to cook the best beef noodles of the finest taste, and beef noodles have become the pride of Taiwan.
The famous snack originated from the south of Changjiang. It features small size, considerable amount of fillings, juicy and fresh taste, thin wrapper and exquisite shape. Soup is the soul of traditional soup dumplings. In pursuant of paper-thin wrappers and nice presentation, chefs spread flour on the rolling pin before rolling the dough. Traditional soup dumplings have at least 14 folds each, but in some stores that are particularly dainty about soup dumplings like Din Tai Fung, a soup dumpling might have over 18 folds.
Minced Pork Rice (Stewed Pork Rice)
A bowl of regular-looking minced pork rice will surprise your tastebuds with the tenderness of the pork without greasiness. You can find minced pork rice everywhere from a street vendor to a five-star hotel. It was even once featured in a state banquet. Gastronome Shu Guo-Zhi, the “founder of Taiwanese snacks”, once commented that minced pork rice is the “national rice” of Taiwan. Stewed pork rice commonly refers to the minced pork rice served in Northern and Central Taiwan of which the pork is minced by a knife and stewed with soy sauce. In Southern Taiwan, the pork is minced by machine and the dish is called minced pork rice in direct translation from Chinese. Whereas, stewed pork rice in the South refers to rice that comes with stewed pork bellies which is called soy-stewed pork with rice in Northern and Central Taiwan.
Intestine and Oyster Vermicelli
Vermicelli is a common Taiwanese food. Other than birthday vermicelli, pork knuckle vermicelli and sesame oil vermicelli, intestine and oyster vermicelli using red vermicelli is probably the most renowned Taiwanese dish. The main ingredients of the dish are oysters and vermicelli. Oysters are coated with cornstarch. Sometimes stewed intestines are used as well. Whether a dish of oyster vermicelli is successful depends on the freshness and size of the oysters. The stewing process of the intestines and the ratio over vermicelli are crucial, too. When enjoying a nice bowl of intestine and oyster vermicelli, you can add some of the store’s signature chili sauce, black vinegar, minced garlic and coriander to elevate the flavor!
A perfectly cooked oyster omelet has a crispy texture from the coating made of yam flour and cornstarch. Each store boasts their signature chili sauce that adds to the smooth and chewy mouthfeel of oyster omelets. The rich scent of eggs explode in your mouth as you first take a bite of the omelet with refreshing vegetables including garland chrysanthemum and bok choy. Then, as you chew on the star of this dish, the fat, moist and fresh oysters, the crisp sweetness and natural savory taste of the sea pervade your mouth. It is a must-eat snack when you visit a night market!
Stinky tofu was named after the special aroma of fermented tofu. Whether it is deep fried or steamed and stewed, that indescribable flavor is what makes it an iconic local snack. Most stinky tofu vendors in Taiwan offer deep fried ones with non-spicy Taiwanese kimchi or sichuan kimchi as a side dish to balance off the greasiness of the tofu. Spicy stinky tofu is a new way of enjoying fermented tofu in recent years. It comes with duck blood curd and pickled cabbage in a thick spicy broth immersed in the unique stinky tofu aroma. Some vendors add intestines to the dish known as “intestine stinky hotpot”.
Chicken cutlet has earned a special status among all Taiwanese snacks with its reputation as the “evilest national food that is most-liked”. Variety in flavors ranges from chili pepper to various seasonings like five-spice, seaweed and wasabi. There are even variants like barbecued chicken cutlet with sweet sauce and Japanese-style cheese chicken cutlet with cheese fillings. Cooking method varies from the traditionally deep fried version to charcoal grilled or cheese casserole. There are also vendors that feature gigantic chicken cutlets or chicken thigh cutlets. Speaking as whole, chicken cutlets are portable and absolutely fulfilling. They are probably the most common street food in Taiwan.
Bubble Tea (Pearl Milk Tea)
Speaking of chicken cutlets, we must not forget about bubble tea. Chicken cutlet and bubble tea make a classic snack combo. Not only does bubble tea looks awesome with different layers, the chewy tapioca balls (pearls) immersed in the mellow milk tea are the spirit of the drink that takes you on a journey of revolutionary tastes. The texture of bubble tea is so special that it is extremely well received and has become the most iconic drink of Taiwan. What’s more, bubble tea has even become popular in East Asia, Europe, the United States and the Middle East!
Shaved ice was first introduced to Taiwan during the Japanese colonial period. It is made with an ice-shaving machine and added with different toppings and sauce. It has since become a very common treat in Taiwan. The hot-selling mango shaved ice was selected by CNN and a travel magazine as one of the world’s finest desserts. Top choices include a bowl of mango shaved ice rich in Taiwanese flavor, taro shaved ice and red bean shaved ice that are most mesmerizing in the mind of many Taiwanese adults and the sweet, retrospective brown sugar shaved ice!
Pineapple cake is a renowned Taiwanese snack made of flour, butter, sugar, eggs, Chinese squash and pineapple jam. The tender fillings inside the shortcrust coating is full of local flavors that are simple yet authentic. The Taiwanese pronunciation of pineapple sounds like “ong lai” which signifies auspiciousness and prosperity. It is also one of the most popular souvenirs in the minds of foreign tourists in Taiwan.