For those familiar with Asia and its veritable deluge of drool-inducing cuisines, Taiwan is a no-brainer candidate for the top of the list. This awesome lil island nation is home to a number of scrumptious dishes that are largely inspired by Northern Chinese grub.
Nirvana for your taste buds can be found in the country’s various metropolises and night markets (AKA daily, nocturnal celebrations of Taiwanese culture in gastronomic form). On my trip to this dope vacation spot, I was able to sample some of the best Asian eats I’ve ever had. Here are a couple highlights:
魯肉飯 (Pronounced: Loo-Row-Fahn)
If you’re an avid follower of our humble publication, you may remember another article sent out into the interwebs a while back regarding this dish’s slightly healthier cousin, 肉燥飯. Though the two are remarkably similar, 魯肉飯 has a distinctively fattier, more savory flavor in its marinated pork-based sauce.
However, both courses are served on a bed of steamed white rice and varied pickled vegetables. Definitely not what I would recommend as the centerpiece to a healthy diet, but most certainly worth eating as a starch-heavy, meaty binge.
牛肉麵 (Pronounced: Neeoh-Row-Miiehn)
There are a number of adaptations on Asian noodle soups containing spiced beef stock broths, but Taiwanese 牛肉麵 definitely holds its own in the international arena. Deceptively simple at first glance as just noodles and some brisket in a dark soup, you’ll instantly fall for 牛肉麵 once you’re within smelling range.
I’m talking major cravings upon first scent here, people. Kept at boiling point often for hours on end, each shop has its own special stock that contains exotic spices like anise star and Sichuan pepper complemented by perfectly textured noodles and melt-in-your-mouth marinated beef brisket.
肉圓 (Pronounced: Row-Ywehn)
Almost every culture around the world seems to have an obsession with meaty food pockets, be it Lithuanian cepelinai or Japanese gyoza, but TYBG for this one. 肉圓 differs from the others with its chewy outer layer and thick, soy-based sauce that is equal parts savory and sweet.
Various fillings are used but I enjoyed one that contained diced Chinese barbecued pork similar to that found in pork buns.
鹽酥雞 (Pronounced: Yan-Soo-Jee)
This one is hands down a personal fave. Known commonly in the states as popcorn chicken, 鹽酥雞 is a staple product of any night market in Taiwan. This mouthwatering snack is marinated in a soy-ginger mixture and then deep fried with a light flour coating. It basically screams umami after it is given the finishing touch of salt, pepper, and Chinese five spice powder.
Oh, and don’t forget the deep-fried basil. The nice, earthy crunch it contributes turns these morsels of goodness into heaven for your mouth.
鳳梨酥 (Pronounced: Fung-Lee-Soo)
Ah yes, desserts. Though typically advertised as mini pineapple shortcakes — which, mind you, already sound scrum-didly-umpcious — 鳳梨酥 actually contains a 60/40 mixture with winter melon paste as the majority and the rest being pineapple jam.
Regardless of the misnomer, this pastry, when freshly made, knocks it out of the park as a crowd-pleasing souvenir for international travelers. A great complement to a nice cup of tea or coffee or just by themselves in large amounts eaten only by you.
車輪餅 (Pronounced: Chuh-Lwun-Bing)
車輪餅 are a sort of hard-shell sponge cake sandwich with a number of fillings, the most popular being a butter-based cream or sweet red bean paste. You will find it sold almost exclusively from snack carts on street corners.
Popular among children and adults alike, I wouldn’t deprive my worst enemy of these wonderful bites of goodness. The fact that they ring up to about half a US dollar each adds just that much more to their binge value.