Find out about some of Taiwan's local specialities as well as details about breakfast and desserts...
Taiwanese food tends to be less spicy than that from Sichuan, but more so than food from northern China. Fish and seafood are mainstays of Taiwanese cuisine; bigeye tuna, swimming crab, lobster, red frog crab, clams, sea cucumber and shark are popular. After seafood, chicken is the most popular meat eaten in the country. San Pei chicken is a popular traditional dish; the chicken is served in a sauce made by simmering soy sauce, rice wine and sesame oil together for a long time.
Taiwanese food focuses on freshness and light, natural flavours. The most widely used flavourings are rice wine, soy sauce and sesame oil. Others include pickled radishes, peanuts, chilli peppers, black beans, parsley and a local variety of basil.
Stir-frying and sautéing are the most popular cooking techniques; both preserve the food’s flavours. Soups and stews are also popular. Congee, a rice porridge, forms the basis of many meals. It is eaten with side dishes and rice. Traditional side dishes include omelette with pickled radishes, pickled vegetables, stir-fried fish with peanuts and dishes made from soybean curd.
In Taiwan people often eat breakfast “on the go”, buying food from street vendors on the way to work. Popular choices include turnip cake, a dim sum made from shredded radish, and twisted strips of deep-fried dough, known as crullers. Breakfast rice rolls are part sushi and part tamale (corn dough) rolls filled with radish, fried egg, shredded pork and sweet rice. Other popular choices include man tou (steamed bread) and dan bing (egg pancakes).
Soybean milk, or dou jiang, is a popular drink at breakfast time. It is served either hot or cold and there are both sweet and salty varieties. It is usually served in a small bowl with a wide spoon. Many people dunk pieces of a yellow sponge cake, known as ma la gao, in their milk.
Many traditional desserts are made from sweet potatoes; golden sesame puffs, where the potatoes are used to make the puffs, are an example. Other popular desserts include sweet stuffed empanadas (stuffed baked or fried pastries), cheesecakes and egg tarts.