While Tokyo is celebrated as one of the gourmet capitals of the world, it is actually quite difficult to find quality, authentic food for every cuisine. That's why food festivals like the Taiwan Festival that celebrate foreign cuisines are so precious when you're an expat living overseas; they're definitely a treat you wouldn't want to miss. A few of our members went out to try some of the foods offered at this year's Taiwan Festival held at Tokyo Tower.

Leslie Lee

There were a total of 18 booths selling both Taiwanese food and drinks. In the outside venue, the booths were surrounding a portion of Tokyo Tower. The foods being sold are all commonly found at Taiwanese night markets, ranging from noodle or rice dishes to sweet desserts.

1. Rice Noodle Soup Mianxian


panda670928 on Flickr

Mianxian is a popular noodle dish consisting of rice noodles in a thick soup topped with chili sauce, black vinegar, and cilantro. In Taiwanese, it is referred to as Mee-sua. Some of the fillings included along with the vermicelli noodles are pig intestines, and Taiwanese oysters. Mianxian is also a winter comfort food, because it's always served piping hot, fresh out of the pot. 

2. Taiwanese Braised Beef Noodles Niuroumian

Leslie Lee

Beef noodle soup, or niuroumian, is another popular noodle dish. In some noodle shops, shopkeepers will ask if you want to have regular noodles or hand-pulled noodles. Hand-pulled noodles are often chewier and range in thickness and size. The soup is made out of beef stock and a mixture of spices including five-spice powder, peppercorns, chili peppers, and star anise. It is also often topped off with chopped scallions and a type of pickled cabbage known as suancai, which directly translates to "sour vegetable." 

3. Sticky Rice Migao

Leslie Lee

Migao is a popular sticky rice dish with shiitake mushrooms and seafood fillings from central and southern parts of Taiwan. It is made with glutinous rice and is flavored using dried shrimp, shiitake mushrooms, garlic, five spice, and soy sauce. The shrimp and the shiitake mushrooms gives the rice an umami flavor, so it is eaten more as a side dish than as street food. The migao offered at the festival was generously topped with two crab legs and was quite a deal at just 600 yen (just around 5$ USD).

4. Pepper bun Hujiaobing

Leslie Lee

Hujiaobing is a bun with a pork and scallion filling flavored with lots of white or black pepper. It originated from Fuzhou, China, but has now become a popular Taiwanese street food. The buns are traditionally baked lined on the walls of a deep, long, cylindrical clay oven with a charcoal furnace on the bottom. After the buns are done cooking, they are scraped off the walls of the oven using a metal knife or spatula. Hujiaobing gained popularity after being featured on several travel programs such as Anthony Bourdain's The Layover. Now, many tourists come to night markets to try famous hujiaobing stands. 

5. Tofu pudding Douhua

Leslie Lee

Douhua is a dessert made out of tofu in a soup sweetened with sugar syrup. It can be served hot or cold. Since it was hot that day, the vendor added lots of crushed ice to help customers keep cool. In Taiwan, crushed peanuts, adzuki beans, mung beans, and tapioca are often added as toppings and many places even let you customize the combination of toppings to your liking! The tofu is very soft and doesn't require any chewing. It's a popular dessert after eating lots of savory foods at the night market. 

6. Ice Cream and Peanut Wrap Huashengchunjuan

Leslie Lee

This is a special dessert that is often sold by roadside vendors or at night markets. Huashengchunjuan is ice cream topped with peanut candy shavings and cilantro wrapped into a spring roll; it's essentially an ice cream burrito. The cold, sweet ice cream along with the crunchy peanut shavings give it a distinct texture, along with the aromatic cilantro. While the cilantro is optional, it's a great complement to the peanuts and ice cream. 

7. Mango shaved ice Mangguobing

Leslie Lee

Mango shaved ice is a summer classic of Taiwanese food. This type of flavored shaved ice is known as Xuehuabing, or snow ice, because the ice soft as snow. Out of all the food we tried, this was by far the favorite because every bite had a strong mango flavor and the ice had been ground so finely that it created a delightful melt-in-your-mouth feeling. This dessert was definitely worth the wait and was the perfect ending to the day at the Taiwan festival.

Overall, this festival was a great chance for people to try popular Taiwanese street foods. However, each dish was around 600-700 yen ($6 USD), so the costs can add up. All in all, the Taiwan Festival was a great chance for the members to try some foods together and enjoy the festival!