9 foods you must try in Taipei, Taiwan

Article published in Matador Network  (www.matadornetwork.com)

1. Daifuku

Also called Mochi, Daifuku is actually a Japanese dessert quite popular in Taiwan. It looks like a big marshmallow, with a much softer texture that melts in your mouth. Outside its made of sticky rice dough and inside you find all kinds of surprisingly delicious fillings: fruits, mainly strawberries, with cream, cake or red bean paste. It’s an Asian version of a Kinder Surprise Egg because, like Forest Gump said about life – you definitely never know what you’re going to get.

Daifuku

  1. Pineapple egg yolk cake

Pineapple cake is one of Taiwan´s signature food. How about adding a salty boiled egg yolk to it? Just delicious! My favorite “sweet and salty” combination ever!

pineapple yolk cake

  1. Bubble Milk Tea

Bubble Milk Tea or Pearl Milk Tea is a Taiwanese drink invented in the 80´s by Lin Hsiu Hui, who owned a tea-stand business. Lin wanted to create a new drinking experience and came up with the idea of adding boiled tapioca starch balls/pearls to the milk tea so people could drink and chew at the same time. He became very rich with this idea, which was copied by other Taiwanese tea-stands until it spread to other countries. Congratulations to Mr. Lin for this innovation on the beverage field – apart from making a delicious combination, the tapioca pearls make the drinking process funnier, you´re always wondering when the next pearl will come up on your straw while your zipping up the milk-tea.

Bubble Milk Tea

  1. Iron Eggs

Iron eggs are a Taiwanese delicatessen, from Tamsui District, New Taipei City. I must say it is a challenging gastronomic experience: that moment you are about to put a chewy black colored egg in your mouth. They are a common street food made of chicken, pigeon or quail eggs cooked and re cooked many times in tea or soy sauce with herbs and spices. They shrink and harden due to the multiple cooking times. In ancient times, these eggs were cooked in horse pee.

iron eggs

  1. Wonton soup

Wonton is a kind of dumpling used in infinite ways on Chinese cuisine, same as the ravioli in Italy. The word itself means, “eating a cloud,” once wontons do look like clouds when floating in the soup. It´s made from thin samples of dough wrapped around meat, shrimp or vegetables filling, then boiled to make the soup. It is broth based and blended with various ingredients: salt, spices, green onions, egg, bits of pork, etc. It makes a quite robust meal yet light on flavor.

Wonton Soup

  1. Radish or onion buns

Along with Wonton soup, radish or onion buns are a must. They are simply buns topped with a crust of sesame seeds, filled with braised onions or radish. Also, they make a fantastic snack.

Onion Radish Buns

  1. Bolo Bread

Bolo Bread is a Taiwanese invention with several versions throughout China and Japan. It is also called Melon or Pineapple bread/bun, not because it has any filling with those fruits but because the crispy and square patterns on the top do make the pastry recall a melon or a pineapple. For me it’s a muffin and a croissant combined together: it has the shape of a big muffin but crunchy on the outside and softly crispy in the inside, just like a croissant. It´s filled with sweet milk.

Bolo bread

  1. Water Chestnuts

Or water caltrop, buffalo nut or bat nut are simply chestnuts with a very peculiar shape, reason why they have so many names. I baptized them as “moustache nuts”, they straight reminded me of a moustache. I glimpsed them on a stand at the Night Market, while they were being steamed, and bought half dozen: I had to try those weird shaped nuts. They are very similar in texture to the chestnuts I´m used to eat in Portugal in wintertime, a little less flavored perhaps. Still they give a nice and healthy snack.

Water Caltrop

  1. Taiwanese Shaved Snow

It´s basically a mixture of ice cream infused with flavors – green tea, mango, vanilla, etc. – frozen into hard cylinder blocks. These cylinders are then “shaved” in a spinning machine. The result is a coral look and a soft flake texture, which is combined with fruits and several toppings. I adventured myself on the Taiwanese flavors and tried green tea with black bean topping and shaved ice with lychee, pineapple and osmatos tea – different but very tasty. Also tried vanilla with mango and vanilla with passion fruit topping. What a delicious rush of flavored cold air in my mouth. Highly recommended!

Shaved Snow
On top: Green tea topped with sweet black beans | Below: Vanilla topped mango and passion fruit
Shaved ice with lychee, osmatos tea and pineapple
Shaved ice with lychee, osmatos tea and pineapple

Special thanks to my friends Danuta and José who made this trip so unforgettable and deliciously amazing! Xièxiè!

Me, Danuta and JoséMaria Bonifácio Lopes

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