Food is one of the most important parts of Taiwanese culture.
And the variety of food choices we have on offer in Taiwan is a reflection of our complicated history.
One of the very best things about this complicated history is the diversity in Taiwanese cuisine we see today.
We not only embrace all different kinds of food; but we also twist, blend, mix and match them into our own unique Taiwanese food styles.
Here are three different types of fusion food found in Taiwanese cuisine, and how these localized ‘fusion foods‘ have already become widely recognized as ‘Taiwanese food‘.
C: Robert_pastryK – pixabay.
Most foreigners can’t really tell the difference between Taiwanese cuisine and Chinese cuisine.
Even if you ask Taiwanese, you probably can’t get a straightforward answer either to many questions posed.
In fact, Taiwanese dishes are heavily influenced by cuisine from regions all over China.
The complex historical roots and the fact that we are so close to each other geographically means that in Taiwan, you can easily find all kinds of dishes that share similar tastes, textures, and even names to those found in China.
Most originally came over from the Asian mainland.
However, Taiwan has in many ways made them its own, and some are now even presented as Taiwanese cuisine.
An obvious example is beef noodles.
It’s commonly believed that the Taiwanese beef noodle soup was created in Taiwan by a military veteran immigrant who cooked up the first dish of beef noodle soup based on his own hometown spicy flavours after relocating with the-then Republic of China government to the island of Taiwan.
And the tomato flavour based soup version is also believed to be associated with Shensi Province in China which has, over time helped change Taiwanese eating habits as early residents of Taiwan more often than not were not accustomed to eating beef.
These Chinese flavours and eating habits from all over China came into Taiwan along with the huge number of Chinese soldiers who moved here in the 1940s and over time was blended into the unique Taiwanese dishes we see today.
One of the best examples of Taiwanese beef noodles as they are served today that really can be found everywhere in Taiwan, even features in the “Taipei International Beef Noodle Festival” held annually to honour our ‘national delicacy‘ and to encourage chefs to make their traditional recipes more creative.
The winner of the 2020, competition was the Royal Inheritance Restaurant which once again won the champion’s title in the red braised beef group.
C: Royal Inheritance Restaurant
For those wanting to try it, head to 134, Xinhai Rd., Banqiao Dist., New Taipei City.
Japan colonized Taiwan for fifty years before the Republic of China took control.
Obviously not an easy time for the residents of Taiwan back then, the Japanese lifestyle and diet that came over with the occupiers in many areas has, however, stayed, and still influences Taiwanese culture even now.
In terms of cuisine influences left behind, tempura is one of the food items that has made its way from being a foreign dish to one of the most significant dishes in some of Taiwan’s night market.
The fish paste used in tempura is cooked by deep-frying and it can be served as soon as it leaves the fryer, or used as oden (a kind of Japanese stew pot dish) with white radish and tofu.
No matter which style you prefer, tempura in Taiwan is always served with a sweet but hot sauce to make it a richer and more Taiwanese-preferred flavour.
There is a fun fact about tempura related to it actually being influenced by Portuguese missionaries who introduced the deep-fried cooking technique to Japan centuries ago.
Tempura has now become a daily food item in Taiwan and I think it one of the best examples in helping to understand the diversity of food culture here.
Mei Er Mei, on the other hand, a breakfast food brand created by a Taiwanese man, became a game-changer for the nationwide Taiwanese breakfast market.
After the first McDonald’s opened in Taiwan, not only did western food culture start to spread here, but so did the ‘exotic‘ dining atmosphere – reinvented to suit a Taiwanese imagination.
The founder of Mei Er Mei used this interest in things American to build a very successful business from the ground up, selling burgers and sandwiches from a breakfast stall.
When his first shop opened, it was soon followed by more and more similar shops in cities all over Taiwan.
One thing led to another, and those breakfast shops ended up changing the whole concept of breakfast culture in Taiwan.
There are many Mei Er Mei style breakfast shops in Taiwan today, and it is believed that Mei Er Mei is now the most representative of all Taiwanese breakfast offerings.
C: pixabay_ marukox11050
So, what is your favourite cuisine in Taiwan?
Go behind the food itself, and you will find there are more than a few interesting stories explaining just how some of the things we – you – eat so often have joined our day to day dining culture.
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