I love Taiwanese food, that's why I've stayed in Taiwan so long! Oh, and my lovely fiancé, Ruby, played a part in that too! As much as I love Taiwanese food, it is often difficult to talk about in English, and many of the English names below are just made-up approximations or descriptions. The following list is not in any particular order, and is by no-means complete. Taiwanese cuisine is incredibly diverse, and there is so much more out there for you to try! So, to start off, we have…
1. Marinated food lŭ wèi 滷味– I love this stuff, the sauce is amazing and you have tons of choices to choose from and create your own dish, so each time you can eat a new combination of foods. You pick everything out your self(usually) with a pair of tongs and place it in a basket for the cook, and they boil it all in a wonderfully flavored soup.
2. Sausage with rice sausage wrap dà cháng bāo xiăo cháng 大腸包小腸– The English name I gave it sounds kinda weird, but a true translation would be stranger. "A big sausage wrapping a small sausage" sounds great in Chinese, but just weird in English, therefore I have jokingly dubbed these "Chinese hotdogs". Many stands offer lots of favors, such as wasabi, black pepper, garlic, and others. They are awesome, so go get one!
3. Green-onion pancakes cōng zhuā bĭng 蔥抓餅– This was one of my go-to snacks when I first moved to Taiwan. They are great by themselves, but I personally always add an egg and usually corn, but other great toppings are cheese and bacon, even tuna!
4. Red-bean popsicles hóng dòu bīng bàng 紅豆冰棒– Have I mentioned that Taiwanese people love red beans, and they are a big feature in their desserts? Try one and see if it's for you!
5. Dumplings and fried-dumplings shuĭ jiăo 水餃 and guō tiē 鍋貼– I've eaten these regularly since I've been here, and I still love them! They are much better than anything you can get back home. An interesting side-note, fried-dumplings, which are usually called pot stickers, probably got this English name because in Chinese, 鍋 means pot and 貼 means stick, go figure!
6. Tofu pudding dòu huā 豆花– 豆花, which literally means "bean flower" is a great traditional dessert. Tofu is healthy, nutritious, and CHEAP, and that is why it is a big player in Chinese cuisine. I am constantly impressed with the ingenuity it took to make so many different dishes from one base ingredient! Bottom line, try it!
7. Stinky tofu chòu dòu fŭ 臭豆腐– I hesitated to add this one, as I feel it's the most discussed Taiwanese food out there, but at the same time no list of Taiwanese culinary creations would be complete without it. 臭豆腐 is aged tofu and it stinks, literally! It comes in two forms, fried with a side of cabbage, or boiled with soup (my personal favorite), but they are both worth a try. So next time you are wandering through a night market and you venture into a pocket of stink, look around and find the stand responsible and steel your stomach!
8. Hotpot huŏ guō 火鍋– This is my fiancé's personal favorite. The general idea is you take a ton of vegetables, and huŏ guō liào 火鍋料, ingredients especially made for hotpot, and you toss the, in boiling water and eat until you're about to explode! Served with fish, chicken, lamb, beef (meat is dipped into the boiling soup until it is cooked, then it is dipped into shā chá jiàng 沙茶醬 and eaten) and a variety of seafood fare, or even just vegetarian, served with your choice of rice, noodles, or dōng fĕn 冬粉 a type of thin noodle made from beans, hotpot makes for a great, and filling meal! Also, many restaurants include an nice selection of all you can eat ice cream!
9. Seafood hăi xiān 海鮮– This should be a no-brainer. Taiwan is an island, and as such, you have access to higher quality, and cheaper priced seafood than you can get in the states, and it is awesome!
10. Bubble milk tea zhēn zhū năi chá 珍珠奶茶– Also Translated more literally as "pearl milk tea", this is a Taiwanese invention that is so popular that it's hard to walk five feet down the street without passing half-a-dozen tea shops that sell the stuff. Some brands have even opened up stores in the USA, such as Come Buy. A word of warning though, it's really sweet and incredibly bad for you, so don't drink it every day!
And, just because I'm nice, I've added an 11th food…..
*11. Mochi ma jí 嘛吉！ This is probably my favorite food that I have discovered since I have lived in Taiwan, and it is definitely my favorite form of rice! 嘛吉 pronounced moa ji in Taiwanese, is a snack traditionally made by painstakingly squishing sticky rice in a big bowl with a wooden stick…it's a great form of exercise, I should know, I've done it! But nowadays, it is most-often machine-mashed. After the rice is smashed into a thick, sticky paste, it is rolled into balls and rolled around in peanut powder. There are lots of other modern flavors and styles (filling, no filling, served in a bamboo shoot, ice cream) but I love anything peanut flavored, and 嘛吉 is at the top of my list!
So the you have it, eleven more reasons to make Taiwan your next travel destination. Enjoy!
Chinese phrases of the day:
滷味= a type of marinated food
大腸包小腸= sausage with rice sausage wrapping ("Chinese hotdogs")
蔥抓餅= green onion pancakes
紅豆冰棒= red bean popsicles
鍋貼= fried dumplings(potstickers)
豆花= tofu pudding
臭豆腐= stinky tofu
火鍋料= hot pot ingredients
沙茶醬= hotpot dipping sauce
冬粉= thin noodles made from beans
珍珠奶茶= bubble(pearl) milk tea