Ever thought of Taiwan as a hot destination for foodies? Neither have we, until now.
Its reputation is growing steadily and last year Conde Nast Traveller magazine named Taiwan the ‘Foodie Destination of 2015’ with CNN naming the country the ‘World’s Best Food Destination’.
Strong influences from Japan and Mainland China create a delicious melting pot of dishes and many of Taiwan’s regions have their own specialities worth travelling for. Travel to Tainan for some of the best Shimu Yu and Dou Hua, Taichung is home to the best Suncakes while the capital of Taipei has no less than 20 streets dedicated to delectable street food.
Tainan, in the southern part of the island, is considered to be the culinary centre of Taiwan. The ‘city of snacks’ attracts people from far and wide to try the vast array of dishes which are served up everywhere from the West Central District to the Anping District which are particularly good for sampling traditional Taiwanese cuisine.
Tainan’s specialities include Danzai Mian and Shimu Yu (milkfish soup). Shimu Yu is a southern Taiwanese speciality made with a whole milkfish and sliced ginger for extra zest. Milk fish are described as being the ‘fish of every household’, and Tainan is even home to its own Milkfish Palace, where visitors are invited to delve into the history and best recipes for milkfish.
Tainan, once an Asian hub of sugar production, is famed for its sweet dishes such as the delicious Dou Hua. This sweet tofu dessert is coated with sticky syrup and topped with flan. Visitors to Tainan shouldn’t expect lots of high-end restaurants, but instead bustling markets filled with vendors offering freshly cooked, authentic Taiwanese cuisine for incredibly affordable prices.
Tamsui is a beautiful and traditional district located just north of Taipei. It’s highly popular for the stunning views out across the ocean, and also for the tasty treats on offer on most street corners.
Ah-Gei is arguably the most famous dish in Tamsui, and is comprised of fried tofu stuffed with glass noodles, fish paste and a spicy sauce, adding to the rich flavours. In fact it is so popular amongst people in Tamsui that it’s important to pick some up early, before it all sells out.
Another popular food snack in Tie Dan(iron eggs). These pickled eggs, which are slowly stewed in a mix of herbs and spices, can be found almost anywhere in the district. Although popular with street vendors throughout the area, Danshui Old Street is said to be the best place to find them.
Taichung is located on the western side of Taiwan, and is the country’s third largest city. Endowed with rich history and beautiful scenery there is a thriving Taiwanese culture from the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts to the Taichung Outdoor Amphitheatre.
Amongst all of this, the cuisine of Taichung plays a significant part, with ‘Suncakes’ taking centre stage. Commonly eaten with tea, these flaky pastry desserts filled with a rich maltose are so popular that the people of Taichung line the streets to get their hands on them. Suncakes first originated in this western city, making this the best place to try the traditional delight.
Culinary highlights from the capital include Taiwanese spring rolls, three cup chicken, Bao and Stinky Tofu. Stinky Tofu is a made by soaking fresh tofu in a brine of milk, meat or vegetables, and is said to have first originated in Shen Keng, a district of Taipei.
Three-cup chicken is another culinary speciality in the Taiwanese capital, and the basic recipe requires three main ingredients; soy sauce, rice wine and sesame oil. Thai basil and ginger add to the stew-like dish to create a heavenly comfort dish. Similar to the majority of traditional Taiwanese cuisine, the three-cup chicken is thought to have originated many years ago when residents of Taipei did not want left over chicken and other common household ingredients to go to waste.
Taipei also hosts the Chinese Food Festival each year during August. Attracting over 100,000 people from all over the world, the Taipei Chinese Food Festival introduces visitors and locals to the most popular Taiwanese and Chinese cuisine alongside some of the more unique dishes, such as scorpions and bak kut the.
Tempted and already feeling hungry? You can get more information on Taipei cuisine and watch highlights from Ching-He Huang’s Amazing Asia via the Taiwan Tourism UK Facebook page.