Different cultural experiences have shaped the evolution of Taiwanese cuisine. A mix of Chinese, Japanese, indigenous Taiwanese, and Dutch-inspired flavors have contributed to its diversity. The migration of people from the regions of Fujian and Guangdong in China brought new and dynamic culinary traditions to the table. Across a substantial period of time, Japanese governance from 1895 to 1945 additionally influenced the culinary landscape.
1. Bubble Tea (Boba)
While not a traditional dish in the historical sense, bubble tea is a highly popular Taiwanese beverage that originated in the 1980s. It consists of tea mixed with milk or fruit flavors and often contains tapioca pearls or fruit jelly. The drink’s unique combination of flavors and textures has made it a worldwide sensation.
2. Braised Pork Rice (Lu Rou Fan)
This dish showcases succulent and flavorful pork belly that is slow-cooked in a fragrant blend of soy sauce, rice wine, and aromatic spices. It is served atop a bed of steamed rice. Originating from southern Taiwan, the combination of the sweet and savory flavors in this dish creates a truly delightful experience for your taste buds.
3. Stinky Tofu
Stinky tofu is a dish made from fermented tofu, renowned for its strong aroma and distinctive flavor. It is commonly prepared by deep-frying and accompanied by spicy sauce or pickled vegetables. The exact origins of stinky tofu are subject to debate, but experts believe that it draws influences from both Chinese and Southeast Asian culinary traditions.
4. Scallion Pancakes (Cong You Bing)
Scallion pancakes are thin, crispy pancakes layered with chopped scallions and sometimes other ingredients like egg or sesame seeds. They are believed to be influenced by Chinese scallion pancakes but have taken on their own unique variations in Taiwan.
5. Taiwanese Hot Pot (Shabu Shabu)
Taiwanese hot pot, often known as “shabu shabu” due to the Japanese influence. It is a communal meal where diners cook various ingredients, such as thinly sliced meats, vegetables, and noodles, in a pot of simmering broth. While hot pot itself has Chinese origins, the Taiwanese version is known for its wide array of dipping sauces and ingredients, such as shacha sauce and raw egg yolk.
6. Taro Balls
A dessert made from taro root, these chewy and colourful balls are often served in a sweet soup or with other ingredients like sweet potato and tapioca pearls. This dessert highlights the use of local root vegetables and creative culinary combinations.
7. Pineapple Cake
A delightful pastry with a crumbly texture, housing pineapple jam inside. When Taiwan was under Japanese rule from 1895 to 1945, pineapple farming and exports boomed. This inspired the invention of Pineapple Cakes to make good use of surplus pineapples and make them last longer. Offering Pineapple Cakes is linked to sharing kind wishes and positivity, making them a favourite pick for celebrations, holidays, and even business exchanges.
8. Oyster Omelette
A savoury omelette made with fresh oysters, eggs, starch, and vegetables. It’s often served with a tangy and slightly spicy sauce. This dish showcases the influence of Fujianese cuisine.
9. Beef Noodle Soup
A hearty and flavorful noodle soup made with tender beef, chewy noodles, and a rich broth infused with soy sauce and aromatic spices. This dish is believed to have been influenced by Chinese cuisine, specifically from the Sichuan province.
10. Iron Egg (Braised Pork Jerky)
Taiwan is known for their popular snack, Iron Egg, also called Braised Pork Jerky, featuring a chewy texture and rich flavor. By cooking eggs or meat, specifically pork, in an assortment of soy sauce, spices, and other seasonings, Iron Egg is slowly cooked until it absorbs the flavors. Over time, the dark, caramelized exterior develops.