ENJOY THE TASTE OF SUMMER IN TAIWAN
by Sophia Hsu
photos provided by Taiwan Tourism
Summer is upon us, and with summer in Taiwan comes an abundance of local ingredients at the height of flavor and ripeness. If you have plans to visit Taiwan this summer, food should be prioritized in your plans. From gourmet cuisine to local specialties, Taiwan offers a mind-boggling diversity of eats. If you ask anyone who has visited Taiwan, travelers and locals alike will recommend eating your way through Taiwan by grazing, trying something everywhere you go. Grazing, though, invokes images of having a small bite here and there all day, maybe along the busy paths criss-crossing the more recent daytime version of night markets called flower markets, the ever popular night markets, the temple stalls, or the seaside stalls. Grazing, though, should not be limited to enjoying Taiwan’s street foods; you can enjoy haute cuisine and fine dining during your travels as well. In 2018 alone, 20 restaurants in Taipei have earned Michelin stars.
When travelers think of Taiwanese cuisine, the first few dishes that may pop to mind are braised pork belly over rice, pig’s blood cakes with sticky rice, or maybe even shaved ice topped with local fruits, jellies, tapioca pearls, or rice cakes. Every region, every county, and even every village across Taiwan has a distinct, unique dish that represents and features local ingredients as well as history.
Taipei is associated with deeply braised and slowly cooked beef noodles, a multitude of hot pot styles, buns and dumplings of all shapes, sizes and fillings, and pancakes of all thicknesses both savory and sweet – a popular comfort food for Chinese migrants after World War II, known as the 2nd Sino-Japanese War in Asia. Taipei also boasts the most authentic Japanese and Western restaurants such as two Michelin star Ryu Gin, a creative, modern take on Japanese cuisine and one Michelin star establishments MUME and Longtail for European contemporary cuisine and L’Atelier de Jöel Robuchon and La Cocotte by Fabien Vergé for French contemporary cuisine. Taiwanese cuisine also registered on Michelin’s radar providing one Michelin star to restaurants Golden Formosa, Ming Fu, RAW, and Taïrroir. To see the full list of Taipei’s Michelin star recipients, visit guide.michelin.com.
Tainan, Taiwan’s oldest city on the island’s southeastern coast, is the birthplace of many of Taiwan’s iconic dishes. For almost three centuries until the late 1800s, Tainan was the center of politics, trade, and culture on the island. During that time, the city flourished, and people from neighboring regions moved there in search of opportunities and influenced the food, which evolved and became ubiquitous on dining tables all over the island such as oyster omelets and danzai noodles, a small bowl of oil noodles in broth topped with meat, bean sprouts, and a soy sauce, hard-boiled egg.
Eastern Taiwan celebrates indigenous dishes like barbecued boar, sticky rice steamed in bamboo tubes that lend such a distinct aroma, and the clean flavors of millet wine.
Taichung boasts the quintessential pineapple cake, a national treasure of Taiwan.
Kaohsiung and Pingtung take such pride in their seafood in the south.
Chiayi is where aiyu, a jelly made from figs, got its start.
Learn more about Taiwanese cuisine and where to go to taste them at the Taiwan Tourism Bureau’s website got2taiwan.net.
Summer in Taiwan is guaranteed to be filled with fun and exciting events that create many happy memories. One of our favorites is the Formosa Summer Festival. The Festival runs all summer long. The Festival combines several summer activities, including sports, food, Railroad travel, Summer solstice 235, and sand sculpture art demonstrations and displays. One of the highlights of the festival is that you can travel through seven cities throughout Taiwan as you cool off and savor the different varieties of shaved ice.
1. Mango shaved ice, which is found in Tainan City, is featured in the Largest Shaved Ice Dessert World Challenge. Variations of shaved ice are popular throughout Asia, but mango shaved ice has taken on superstar status in Taiwan. Traditionally, shaved water ice in Taiwan was topped by fruit or other toppings (ie. sweet potato dumplings or tapioca pearls) and then a brown sugar syrup and/or condensed milk was poured over it.
2. Sakura Shrimp shaved ice, is primarily found south of Tawan in Pingtung, which is known for its abundance of Sakura Shrimp. The shaved ice industry has perfected a method that first fries the shrimp, sprinkles it on the ice, and then adds the homemade brown sugar syrup, which makes the ice fall. The result is an irresistible, slightly salty, sweetness.
3. Aiyu Jelly is popular in the small historical town of Chiayi in Taiwan. Aiyu is a jelly made from the gel from the seeds of the awkeotsang creeping fig found in Taiwan and East Asian countries. It is commonly served with a slice of lime to add a bit of tartness to the flavor.
4. Da One gong shaved ice from Kaohsiung, the second biggest city in Taiwan, includes a wide variety of selections, including the following must-try flavors: Rainbow red bean taro fruit milk ice, Fruit pudding milk ice, Chocolate Banana Chips Ice, and Espresso matcha red bean ice.
5. Cactus shaved ice is found across Taiwan’s outlying Penghu County. Local residents have used the plant’s fruit to make interesting foods. This includes Cactus shaved ice, which is Penghu’s most popular.
Besides the more widely known fruit ice cream, the fruit is also used to make pastries, noodles and tea.
6. Hualien Sugar Factory. The ice cream is very delicious with lots of exotic flavors such as taro, durian as well as classic flavors such as vanilla and peanut.
7. Sugar Apple Ice Cream. This special fruit is found in Taitung. It tastes very sweet and its texture is different from the apple. Many visitors come to Taitung from far away just for this special fruit. If you come to Taitung in the summertime, you must try this very special and unique ice cream flavor.