One of the reasons I absolutely love travelling is being able to sample the local cuisine. I was lucky enough to have an assortment of fantastic food experiences whilst I travelled South-East Asia (more on that in my Food Glorious FOOD section). Living in Taiwan for two years allowed me to taste lots of Taiwanese and Chinese food, as well as their take on Western staples. It was all fabulous (well 99% of it, Taiwanese Italian….no thanks) but all the food was interesting and definitely more delightful than painful.
Eating in proper Taiwanese restaurants and night markets was always a hectic experience, lots of people and lots of noise. It’s not like the western restaurant experience of a calm atmosphere and waitress service. Often you would order your own food my ticking what you want off a check list or by going up to the counter. You are rushed in and out pretty quickly because the turn over of tables was always really high. Also you wouldn’t really be asked if you wanted a drink until after your meal, something that Westerners find strange because in our culture the waiters really push the drink orders before you’ve even picked up a menu! None of this was a bad thing, it was part of the Taiwan food experience. Although, table manners in the East are very different to the West. It’s common place to have diners spit out unwanted pieces of food on to the table whilst doing massive belches for everyone to hear. However no-one would ever bat an eyelid, this was normal restaurant behaviour which the visiting Westerner would have to get used to.
If you want to see what foods and places tickled my taste buds in Taiwan, keep scrolling down and have a look!
Unfortunately I’m a REALLY indecisive person and I can never ever decide what my favourite meal in Taiwan was BUT this comes very close to the top…Anping Shrimp Rolls. They were incredible, I even had them for my last Taiwanese meal on my way out of Tainan on the High Speed Rail.
Taiwan – Anping – delicious shrimp rolls at Mr Chou’s restaurant
You can get them from the legendary Mr Chou’s Shrimp Rolls in Anping, a suburb of Tainan city. They are super hot and crispy and full of flavour on the inside with spring onions running nicely alongside the soft shrimp. Also Mr Chou has an English menu which is always a bonus for a non Mandarin speaker ordering food in Taiwan. Not only that but the small bowl of noodles that comes with pork, coriander, prawn and a sweet brown sauce was great too.
Taiwan – Anping – shrimp rolls and noodles at Mr Chou’s restaurant
You can’t go to Taiwan without eating their amazing soup dumplings (called Xiao Long Bao…I googled that!). My mouth is watering just remembering the amount I used to eat when I lived in Taiwan. The dumplings have a really thin skin, they feel incredibly delicate. They are filled with soup (which always comes boiling hot) and either pork, shrimp or vegetables. They arrive at your table in their bamboo steamer, you get about ten dumplings per steamer. To eat them you use chopsticks and a Chinese spoon. First you place the dumpling on your spoon, next you poke a tiny hole with your chopstick into the dumpling, then you suck the soup out and after that you eat the dumpling. TASTY. This was always a classic takeaway meal after a late night of English teaching! I loved the restaurant I ordered from in Tainan, you could see the dumpling chefs working away in their kitchen making thousands of dumplings for the waiting crowds. They also had a huge menu of other delicious Taiwanese treats. Alongside the soup dumplings I often ordered spring rolls, wontons, huge noodle soups and shrimp tempura.
Taiwan – Tainan – Lots of delicious treats at the soup dumpling restaurant (hover over the picture to find out what it is).
This was a must see Taiwanese food experience for any visitors to Tainan. I had great fun taking my parents there in 2009. The owner of the restaurant even sent over free desserts for us all to enjoy…well I say enjoy it was a Taiwanese dessert so something with cold beans.
Taiwan – Tainan – Taking my parents on the soup dumpling experience!
You can’t go to Asia without experiencing a night market. It’s the main place everyone gets their food, fast at night time. In Taiwan the night markets are huge and there is definitely one on every night of the week. They are really crazy places which are jam packed with people searching for and sampling the best food possible. They can be an absolute nightmare to walk around because of the sheer masses of people who descend on them. I would try and miss the one on a Saturday night in Anping, Tainan because I’d end up spending my whole evening at the night market slowly moving at tortoise speed with the crowds. Night markets are great places to grab an assortment of food which you can eat while you wander or takeaway home and enjoy in peace.
Taiwan – Tainan – The Night Market – eating at the market and at home
You know a stall is good by seeing the size of the queue. In my first year I always went to the night market on Linsen Road in Tainan and there was a great BBQ stall which was always busy. The chef had his t-shirt off and his music on really loud whilst he cooked up pieces of steak and sausages which were served chopped up alongside garlic and ginger.
Taiwan – On the left the night market in Anping, Tainan. On the right at a market in Juifen.
Some of my favourite things to eat from the night market were the huge, stuffed cheesy jacket potatoes, prawn toast, dumplings, coconut milk, deep fried sweet chicken, deep fried chicken stuffed with cheese and ham, Thai salads, duck wraps, steak, egg and noodles (yes, steak and egg!), stuffed omelette pancakes, spicy sausages, naan bread, fresh fruit juices…..an endless list with lots of garlic, ginger and soy thrown in too. There are still some things I ate which I don’t know the name of but it tasted good at the time. I just wish I had more photos of everything!
Prawn toast, deep fried crispy sweet chicken & prawn dumplings.
Steak, noodles & egg served on a hot place and the best cheesy stuffed jacket potato around!
The prawn toast stall, dumplings and another incredible potato.
Waiting for our food & enjoying a wide variety at home.
Bizarre tadpole like juice, fried omelette & myself enjoying naan bread & coconut milk at home.
I never tried chicken feet which were a common sight at the night market. My boyfriend did and he said that it was a really chewy experience, not something he could get used to. I tried the tiny spicy snails at a night market in Hualien which were ok but a little strange because you had to suck them out of their little shell.
Taiwan – Delicious chicken feet???
If you’re ever in a hungry rush in Taiwan the meal to get is a lunch box. You can get them from tons of little and large restaurants alongside the road. You choose the meat you want and three side dishes to go with it. You can always eat it in the restaurant but more often than not people take them away and eat them on the go. Some of the lunchbox restaurants offer basic dishes, for example crispy chicken with morning glory, sweet corn and beansprouts. It will always come with rice and a soup. Whilst I lived in Tainan a more creative lunch box restaurant opened called Daily Deli. This place was fantastic, it gave customers a modern take on the classic lunchbox meal. You could get different pasta dishes, vegetables not deep fried, potato salads, and other Asian salads as side dishes. The main dishes ranged from Hungarian goulash to a spicy Indian chicken leg. Daily Deli was fab because good pastas, salads and potatoes were not easy to come across in Taiwan.
Taiwan – Top left a traditional lunch box and on the right a new, modern lunchbox from Daily Deli in Tainan.
Below, Daily Deli in Tainan, a new modern lunch box place. I LOVED THIS PLACE!
Another great meal in Taiwan would be found in the Tapinyaki restaurant, a Japanese classic. This was another hectic, fast moving place to eat but also a lot of fun because the food is cooked right in front of you by super speedy chefs. Everything comes with a small bowl of boiled rice (we are in Asia after all). You can order pretty much any meat or seafood which is fried in front of you on the large hot plates with a bit of garlic, ginger, chilli, spring onion, cabbage, regular onion or peppers.
I can’t talk about food in Taiwan without mentioning its flipping fantastic FRUIT supply. You can get a wide variety of tropical fruits in Taiwan because the majority of them are grown there. It’s great because you get to actually witness fruit seasons unlike in the West where any tropical fruit is available all the time because the supermarkets make sure they are grown unnaturally all the time. Each month at the fruit markets in Taiwan new fruits would appear and old ones would disappear.
Every tropical fruit you could imagine and some I’m sure which you won’t even know the name of!
From the left, DATES…my favourite fruit in Taiwan; melon and bananas grown by the side of the road.
Mango season is what everyone waits for. Fresh, ripe mangoes everywhere. You can even visit mango town.
Two fabulous Taiwanese fruit desserts, mango & ice-cream on the left and on the right ice-cream with a bit of everything.
The Taiwanese/Chinese food experience was always exciting and really tasty. I could write about it for ages and post even more food related photos but then this would be an even longer post than normal (is that possible?). So I’ll leave you with just a few more delicious snaps of some of the best food I tried.
Classic Asian vegetables which you would eat a lot of in Taiwan, morning glory and cabbage (so much cabbage)!
Spicy “Gong Bao Chicken” always a great choice and “Three Pot Chicken” a traditional Taiwanese dish made with a pot of oil, rice wine and soy sauce (three pots). This was really flavoursome and I remember the steaming pot warming me up nicely after a long and chilly motorcycle ride in the Taiwanese mountains.
You can’t go anywhere in Taiwan without getting a bowl of white, boiled rice. Chinese cuisine just wouldn’t be the same without it!
The best thing about my experience with Taiwanese food was that it was fantastic food to share. You got a massive table, a bunch of your mates and ordered as many dishes as you wanted. It would cost next to nothing and everything would appear at random times in the middle of the table so everyone could dig in together, perfect!
I loved Taiwan.
Read more about what Taiwanese life involves here.
Read my previous blog post about packing for your travels.
Take a peak at some great Taiwanese photos by wildyellowbelly photography.
Or if you want to change continent completely have a read of Magical, Mystical Machu Picchu.