Thursday, March 11, 2010

Taiwan’s Snack Food

All countries have foods that are indicative of their culture and taste buds. The Vietnamese have pho for breakfast and dinner, Beijing residents treasure their roast duck, the Japanese prize their high-grade sashimi and the Germans enjoy pig’s knuckles. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, so-to-speak, but Taiwan’s diverse culinary delights are what make its culture unique.

On a daily basis, Taiwanese people enjoy a wealth of inexpensive and unique snack foods. They include oyster omelets, steamed pork buns, spicy beef soup noodles, pearl milk tea, shaved ice, soup dumplings, Wan Luan pork hocks and stinky tofu. Found readily in any marketplace or at neighborhood food stalls, these inexpensive eats offer a truly Taiwanese experience.

The next time your visit or revisit Taiwan, be sure to sample some of Taiwan’s wide variety of delicious delicacies.

Night markets in Taiwan
“Treasure Islands” of Taiwanese snacks. Photo: Hsu Yu-tsai

Oyster Omelets
Oysters are mixed with potato and corn starch, combined with eggs, vegetables before being pan fried. They are usually served with a dribble of sweet and sour sauce. Photo: Chen Chien-yuan

Soup Dumplings (aka, Shanghai Dumplings)
These small steamed buns are filled mostly with seasoned pork. After steaming, they appear semi-translucent with hot broth inside. They are usually eaten with a little wine vinegar. Originally known as a Shanghai dim sum dish, these dumplings are the house specialty at Din Tai Fung Dumpling House in Taipei. The restaurant’s signature dumplings has both locals and tourists forming lines out of the door. Photo: Liu Ching-yao

Beef Noodles
Stewed beef over noodle soup are the ingredients of this basic, but classic dish. Legend has it this originated as a Muslim meal, but others say it was invented by war veterans from Szechwan who escaped to Taiwan with the Nationalist government. It is a favorite of the Taiwanese people. Photo: Chang Chih-chieh

Pearl Milk Tea
Originally developed in central Taiwan, this refreshing sweet cold drink is a mix of black tea, milk and tapioca pearls made from yam flour. Pearl milk tea is now popular with Asian-Americans as well. Photo: Chang Chi-yu

Shaved Ice
A large block of ice is finely shaved to produce a nice pile of fine powder. It is then topped with an assortment of condiments, which may include sweet red beans, sweet pearls, cooked taro, jelly and finished with a swirl of sweetened condensed milk. An all round favorite during Taiwan’s sweltering summer months. Photo: Hsu Juei-chen

Pyramid-shaped Glutinous Rice
Made of glutinous rice mixed with mushrooms, peanuts, egg yolk and pork intricately wrapped in several layers of bamboo leaves and then tied with string before boiling. Traditionally eaten during the Dragon Boat Festival, but now sold throughout the year. Photo: Kuan-chiun

Wan Luan Pork Hocks
The pork hocks are stewed with star anise, cassia twig and other Chinese herbs. Originally developed on a farm in Wan Luan Township in Southern Taiwan. It is now a much loved dish at night markets across Taiwan. Photo: Hu Po-shu

Stinky Tofu
Fermented tofu is fried until it becomes crispy. Normally cut into four small pieces, and then served with sweet and sour pickles. It can be truly stinky and is considered an acquired taste – definitely one for the more adventurous palate. Photo: Lo Ta-chiung

Special thanks to Taiwan's Tourism Bureau for providing the photos.

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About Me

The Press Division of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in San Francisco represents the Government Information Office (GIO), Executive Yuan, Republic of China (Taiwan). GIO maintains nine Press Divisions in the United States, including the San Francisco office. The Press Divisions are in charge of promoting Taiwan's public relations and cultural exchanges. This blog is updated by the Press Division, TECO in San Francisco.