After two weeks in Taiwan, I’m now several pounds heavier and more in love with Taiwanese food than ever. From the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed, I was eating. Breakfast, lunch and dinner with several snacks in between. It’s incredible how much good food there is at a tiny island country. Though I enjoyed everything I ate, here are my favorite spots in the motherland for those of you in Taiwan (and for those of you who wish you were).
These buns are the perfect breakfast. They’re freshly steamed at the storefront, right next to the long line. (You know it’s the real deal when all the locals are eating there too.) The best way to describe these are large soup dumplings: They’re plump, tasty and full of soup.
Pan-fried soup dumplings at Kenting Da Jie
If you like pot stickers or soup dumplings, you must try these. They combine the best of both worlds. The owners take steamed soup dumpling, add a small rectangle of dumpling skin with green onions and let it sizzle away. There are a variety of flavors, but you can never go wrong with the traditional!
Afternoon tea at Magic Cafe
With its prime location on the beach, Magic Cafe is perfect for afternoon tea. The menu includes coffees, smoothies, teas and desserts. Everything is delicious, but I recommend the affogato and mango smoothie. Though I love a good coffee, the best parts about visiting Magic Cafe are definitely the atmosphere and view. You can choose to sit on the beach (chairs and umbrellas provided) or upstairs overlooking the ocean.
Grilled Taiwanese Tempura at Liuhe Night Market
My favorite way to eat Taiwanese tempura: skewered on a stick and grilled fresh right in front of you. The tempura is chewy and features a slightly charred and sweetly barbequed flavor.
Tea Eggs at 7-Eleven
Though it sounds silly, tea eggs at 7-Eleven are quite delicious and cheap. It’s kind of like the ice cream at Mc Donald’s—you’re really getting the bang for your buck. Be sure to pick the eggs that are super cracked and dark; the tea flavor has seeped into these eggs the most.
Mochi dipped in black sesame at Sanmin
Mochi found in the United States simply cannot compare. I can’t speak for what mochi’s like in Japan, but Taiwan’s mochi is delicious and very chewy. For just 50¢ you can get a delicious mochi, about the size of a computer mouse, dipped in black sesame or crushed peanuts. I recommend getting one mochi dipped in each topping so you can cross dip and enjoy the flavors of black sesame and peanuts together.
Native Amis Cuisine at Hualien
True to its roots, Amis cuisine features native grasses and fish. One of the dishes my family and I had was fish soup. When we arrived, the chef began the cooking process by taking out hot lava rocks from the fire pit, rinsing them with water and putting the rocks in the “pot” (pictured above). The hot rocks boiled the water, and after a few changes of rocks, the soup was done. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience.
According to the internet, Ding Bian Cuo is “made by liquid rice poured around the rim of a big pot.” The dish tastes similar to extra chewy noodles, but actually only has a couple rectangles of steamed rice paste in a soup that’s flavored by various vegetables, pork potage, shrimp potage and seasoning. Ding Bian Cuo is a must-try. Its light flavor and feel make it stand out among other night market foods when your taste buds are getting overwhelmed, and it’s nothing like I’ve ever had before.