Taiwanese food hasn’t won me over yet, and here’s why.
One of my favorite things about moving to a new place is sampling the local cuisine, and usually I’m won over pretty easily. But Taiwan has yet to snag my heart with its local specialties. That doesn’t mean I’m not determined to find some good eats though, so I’m scouring the cities and towns for interesting meals and I’m open to even more suggestions. Here’s what I’ve tried so far.
1. Oyster Omelette
Yuck. I know this one is a Taiwanese staple, but very chewy oysters covered in half-cooked egg and then doused in some gooey, sticky concoction that I’ve since learned is probably sweet potato paste, makes for a slimy, Halloween-party dish.
Verdict: I’m glad I gave it a shot, but I won’t try it again.
2. Turkey Rice
There’s nothing to complain about here. It’s just rice, covered in chicken (or possibly turkey), and then doused in oil/gravy. It’s nice-ish, but nothing special, and considering it’s the “speciality of Chiayi” I was expecting something a bit more impressive than plain white rice and a bit of meat.
Verdict: It’s okay, and I don’t mean to be harsh, but come on. It’s nothing to write home about it.
3. Pork Rice
See turkey rice. This dish is basically the same, only strips of pork are substituted for “turkey.”
Verdict: Again, it’s okay. I like it. But it’s just plain white rice, plain pork, and a bit of a pickled vegetables (usually scallions and a radish, although the one above has cabbage and cucumber). It’s nothing to complain about or rave about.
4. Scallion Pancakes
Okay, this guy is good and it’s the one breakfast dish that can get me out of bed before noon. It’s pancakes with an egg fried onto one side and a variety of available mix-ins for the filling (my favorite being plain scallions or ham). This is my favorite dish of Taiwan so far and my mornings where I get up early enough to grab scallion pancakes and douse them in hot sauce are always the best.
Verdict: Sus out some dan bing while in Taiwan. You won’t regret it.
5. Mushroom Soup
This dish is pretty good. It’s a bowl of mushroom gravy and reminds me of Thanksgiving dinner, which is a bit funny as a meal on its own, but it’s not bad.
Verdict: It’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with gravy.
6. Pig Blood’s Cake
Pig blood’s cake is a little sweet and a little sticky, but it doesn’t have a lot of flavor. Maybe it’s just the one’s I’ve eaten? But for something with such a “scary” ingredient, it doesn’t taste like anything really.
Verdict: I can’t complain, and it is unusual, but I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to eat it.
(I don’t have a photo because I always eat my dumplings before I remember to photograph them. Sorry.)
Second only to the scallion pancakes, dumplings are my favorite food in Taiwan. I’ve had dumplings with curry, dumplings with cabbage, and dumplings with pork and thus far have been impressed each time.
Verdict: Dumplings are the bees knees. I love them and if you’re in Taiwan I recommend finding a good dumpling place for some little dough balls filled with heaven.
8. Red Bean Pudding
I’m not sure what this sweet is called, but it’s all over the place in Taiwan. It’s essentially red beans covered in pudding and other sweeties, like gummies, fruits, or just ice.
Verdict: Frankly, I don’t love red beans as a sweet. Keep the veggies and lentils away from my desserts, please. Although I did enjoy the novelty of beans covered in sugar as it just seemed so wrong to me, haha.
9. Toffee Tomatoes
I bought this stick of “cherries” covered in toffee.
Verdict: Did I say cherries? I meant cherry TOMATOES. Yikes. See the above. No veggies in my sweets, please, although apparently Taiwanese people classify tomatoes as a fruit. I know… I know… technically they are. However, biting into a giant cherry tomato covered in toffee was a startling experience.
10. Taiwanese Fried Chicken
It’s just fried chicken, isn’t it?
Verdict: Good, duh.
Honorable Mention: Bubble Tea
I wasn’t sure whether to include bubble tea in the list because it’s not really a meal or food, but I love to-go cups filled with sugar and tapioca balls, so it’s made the list.
Verdict: Get yourself some sugar in a cup for an any-time-of-the-day delicious sugar overload while in Taiwan.
I’m still looking.
Other than scallion pancakes and dumplings I’ve yet to find a particularly good, exciting, unusual, different, or delicious dish in Taiwan. And as much as I love dumplings and crepes, I can’t eat them every day. So let me know if you’ve been to Taiwan and what you ate/liked so I can give it a go. Hopefully in a few months I’ll be writing a new article titled “The 10 Taiwanese Foods That Have Won Me Over.”
Author’s Note: I’ve also tried fried rice and hot pot dishes in Taiwan. For the record, fried rice dishes and hot pot meals taste the exact same everywhere in the world, so I didn’t bother including them above, although of course they’re both pretty good. Not great. Not bad. (In my opinion, anyway.) If you know of a hot pot place that you think will knock my socks off, then I’m game. Just give me the address and I’ll add it to my list of places to hit up in Taiwan.