Taiwan is geographically and to some extent politically isolated from China, and the Taiwanese have developed their own style of eclectic cuisine. Taiwan food blends a variety of Chinese styles brought by settlers, particularly from Fujian and Guangdong, its own Hakka and aboriginal minorities' cooking styles, Japanese food styles, and local tastes for seafood and game.
Popular Taiwanese foods include spicy hotpots, fried meat dumplings, turkey strips, stinky tofu and cuttlefish soup. Oyster thin noodles ("oa misua"), Taiwanese beef noodles (niúròu miàn), fish heads (yú tóu), and Taiwanese-style porridge (zhōu) are favorite meals, and favorite desserts and drinks include aiyu (àiyù) jelly, Taiwanese oranges (li?dīng), and Bubble Milk Tea (bōbà nǎichá).
Favorite Dishes in Taiwan
Oyster Thin Noodles (Taiwanese: oa misua; Oyster Vermicelli)
Oyster vermicelli is the English name for a local popular kind of noodle soup. Its main ingredients are oysters and misua (Taiwanese vermicelli). One of the famous restaurants serving this is in Dihua Street, Dadaocheng, Taipei. A special steaming technique caramelizes the sugars in the dough and imparts a unique flavor.
There is a large upmarket Taiwanese restaurant group that specializes in serving this soup with outlets spreading over China.
Beef Noodles (niúròu miàn)
Taiwanese beef noodle soup is made of portions of stewed or braised beef, beef broth, vegetables and Chinese noodles. Every year, the city of Taipei holds an annual Beef Noodle Festival during which various chefs and restaurants compete to see who makes the best bowl of beef noodles in Taiwan. It is Taiwan's national dish and an excellent filling meal to try.
The braised beef noodle dish is said to have originated in Kaoshiung at the southern tip of Taiwan. The dish is also known as "Taiwanese Beef Noodles". Big chunks of braised or boiled beef and local vegetables differentiates it from the Hui Muslim beef noodle dish (Lanzhou lamien) widely eaten in China. Lanzhou lamien is a soup that usually includes only small bits of dried beef, wheat noodles, and red hot pepper and herbs for seasoning.
Taiwan Tan's Fish Head (yú tóu) Restaurant
Fish heads of a variety of kinds of fish is a popular Chinese dish. There are a variety of styles. You can now try the Sichuan style in Taiwan.
A new restaurant chain was started in Chengdu in 1995 by a man named Tan. It is called Tan Yu Tou (Tan Fish Head). The chain now has branches in about a hundred locations in China, and now it has spread to Taiwan and Wan Chai in Hong Kong.
(I couldn't location info. about the Taiwan branch, but I saw a site that says that the chain has a branch in Taiwan.)
Taiwanese Porridge (zhōu)
In Taiwan, it is common to eat rice porridge for breakfast. It can be a simple dish simply made of watery rice, bits of chicken or other meat, and sweet potato. It is also called "congee".
However in Taiwan, Taiwanese Porridge restaurants serve up classy, upscale Taiwanese Porridge buffets and even romantic porridge dinner meals that feature specialty porridges and side dishes.
Favorite Taiwanese Desserts and Drinks
In Taiwan, good places to go to find Taiwanese-style desserts and drinks are the night markets. You'll find vendors selling a variety of different foods, desserts, and drinks.
Aiyu Jelly (Mandarin: àiyùdòng; Taiwanese: ò-gi?)
This is a favorite Taiwanese dessert that is mainly relished in Taiwan and Singapore, but isn't commonly found in other places. Aiyu jelly is also known as ice jelly. It is a jelly made from the seeds of a variety of fig that is found in Taiwan.
The jelly is usually served with honey and lemon juice, but it is also included in beverages or icy deserts. Sometimes, people put aiyu jelly in hot pots to sweeten the soup.
Taiwanese Oranges (li?dīng)
Liuding oranges are a variety of orange similar to Valencia oranges. It is harvested all year through except during winter. They are sweet, and they are eaten raw or are made into a common orange juice drink you can buy on the streets.
Bubble Tea (boba milk tea, bōbà nǎichá; pearl milk tea, zhēnzhū nǎichá)
Bubble Tea is a Taiwanese invention, but now it is popular in many areas of East Asia, and it has been introduced in Europe and America. It was invented in the city of Taichung or in Tainan (there is controversy about who invented it first) in Taiwan in the 1980s. It is basically tea with milk and/or fruit plus chewy white or black tapioca balls.
The original style of bubble tea was tea or milk tea with tapioca balls included. One possible originator was Ms. Lin Hsiu Hui of the Chun Shui Tang Teahouse in Taichung who poured sweet tapioca balls into tea in 1988 and served it to customers.
It is thought that another possible inventor was Tu Tsong-he who was the owner of the Hanlin Teahouse in Tainan, Taiwan. He put white and black tapioca balls into tea.
During the 1990s, bubble tea became very popular in many Asian countries, and a variety of styles have developed. Most bubble tea recipes contain a tea base mixed with fruit or milk. There are also ice-blended fruit smoothie versions composed of ice blended with fruit or syrup.
Most bubble teas around the world still contain tapioca balls. In Hong Kong, a variety made with coffee instead of tea is popular. On the streets and in the night markets in Taiwan, the tea is usually served in plastic cups with a plastic cover. Punch straws through the plastic to drink the mixture.