Many overseas Taiwanese will be returning to Taiwan next month. Some will be voting in elections that are expected to bring major changes to Taiwan’s political environment. Others just want to be in Taiwan to experience the excitement and energy – perhaps to celebrate, depending on their views about the right direction for Taiwan.
Of course even though the focus will be on seeing Taiwan’s democracy unfold in the streets with political rallies, ads, and possibly civic protests, visitors from overseas will undoubtedly also dedicate as much time as they can to eating from among the varied culinary options and experiences available only in Taiwan. Here are 10 things to eat (or drink) in Taiwan if you are visiting in January — this is not your stereotypical list of bubble tea, beef noodle soup, oyster pancake, and stinky tofu!
1. “Re Chao” (熱炒)
Likely your Taiwan elections visit will include drinking and celebrating with friends, and “Re Chao” is definitely something to try out. “Re Chao” is basically an informal restaurant where you can enjoy small, cheap stir fry dishes while drinking beer with friends. It started becoming popular a few years ago, and you should be able to easily find a spot by searching for “熱炒” near your location using Maps on your mobile phone.
2. Lan Jia Gua Bao (藍家割包)
Despite “Taiwanese hamburger” becoming trendy now in the US, of course it cannot be compared to the gua bao experienced in Taiwan. One place to try out this rice-bun-sandwich of pork belly, cilantro, pickled vegetables, and crushed peanuts is Lan Jia Gua Bao (藍家割包) near NTU: No.3, Alley 8, Lane 316, Section 3, Luosifu Rd, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City, Taiwan 100
3. Honey Toast
Honey Toast is one of the outrageous creations available at Dazzling Cafe. It’s a tower of ice cream, fruit, maybe even a macaron, on a foundation of pieces of toast. This one is green tea which, as a caveat, may not be on the menu anymore. Dazzling Café has multiple locations, which you can peruse at the website here.
4. Hakka stir fry and Cao Zai Guo (草仔粿)
Hakka stir fry is a savory, yet elegant dish of tofu, pork, squid, and celery stir-fried together. Liouduei Kitchen was reviewed in the Taipei Times last year and is one place to try out Hakka cuisine in Taipei. Another interesting Hakka eat to look for while you’re in Taiwan is caozaiguo, or “grass cake”, kind of a savory filled-mochi that’s green-colored. Liouduei Kitchen’s address is: No. 42, Leye St, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106
Quench your thirst at Ounce, a speakeasy in Taipei! The craft cocktail, craft beer, and whisky scenes have been growing in Taiwan in recent years. Once you arrive, the first step is finding the hidden entrance to Ounce. Then, inside, enjoy crafted cocktails in a relaxed atmosphere. Ounce is located at: No. 40, Lane 63, Section 2, Dunhua S Rd, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106
6. Asian Swamp Eel Noodles
Sounds great, right? Food from around Tainan is unique, tasty, and, many might argue, an unexplored frontier in the mainstream food blogging of Taiwan eats. Asian swamp eel noodles are crispy fried Asian swamp eel over noodles. Asian swamp eels are actually long fish, which can be raised in rice fields. Be careful about eating this dish under cooked, however, since it can possibly (though not likely) lead to roundworm infection. One place to try out this dish is the restaurant Jin Fu at: No. 46, Sec. 1, Fuqian Rd., West Central Dist, Tainan, Taiwan
7. To To Hee Gei (土魠魚羹)
Another dish to try in Tainan is To To Hee Gei. To To Hee Gei is fried fish soup with vermicelli, usually found in southern Taiwan. It may be hard to find in the northern part of Taiwan.
8. NINAO Gelato Classico
Taiwan is an international, metropolitan country, and it shouldn’t be considered unusual to try out the Taiwanese take on various fare from abroad. In Tainan, NINAO Gelato Classico is international-award-winning gelato, located on Zhengxing Street. There’s another location at No. 720 Anbei Rd, Anping District, but the recommendation is to go to the Zhengxing Street location!
9. Silkie Chicken (Black Chicken) Soup, or Wu Gu Ji Tang (烏骨雞湯)
Another choice in Taiwan that comes from its international culture is traditional Chinese silkie chicken soup. If your partying and traveling have got you feeling a little tired and under the weather, yes, you can make a stop to drink some chicken soup even in Taiwan!
Taiwanippon is a Japanese restaurant that uses local ingredients in all its cooking. It’s also right across the street from Chuo Ying Shi (啜飲室), a craft beer location with 20 beers on tap! Alley 5, Lane 15B1, Section 107, Fuxing South Rd, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106