By Engelberta Yue.
During spring break, I had the luxury of flying out across the East to a small but lively country that is often overlooked in the global community – Taiwan. There, I was amazed at the comparably “super cheap” prices of their edible culture (in comparison to the food costs in America). With prices already including tax, friendly service, and a massive variety of flavors and styles, the best part of Taiwan, by far, was its food.
Listed below with their relative prices are some of the most delicious, popular, and original dishes I found during my exquisite experience in tasting Taiwan.
DOHUA (Sweet Tofu)
Made from an extremely soft tofu, Dohua is the perfect dessert choice when roaming the streets of Taiwan. Usually served with a cool syrup broth and topped with sweet green beans, the Dohua tofu is made to seemingly melt in your mouth.
A typical cup of dohua ranges from $30-$40 NT, about $1-$1.32 USD with the price increasing slightly with more ingredients. The Dohua with green beans (underneath) costs $35 NT, or $1.16 USD.
BAOBING (Taiwanese Shaved Ice)
Basically shaved ice coated with a super sweet brown sugar syrup, Baobing is the right treat to combat the heat and humidity of a summer day in Taiwan. Usually, the shaved ice stands will let you choose up to five toppings that are included with the order of one shaved ice. Such toppings include but are not at all limited to coconut jelly, almond jelly, red bean, grape jelly, mango pudding, tapioca pearls (boba), grass jelly, and various fruits as well!
A very large portioned bowl of Baobing costs about $45 NT, or $1.49 USD – a great deal for such a delicious and plentiful snack!
I-MEI MANGO ICE BAR
A real simple sweet treat! An ice bar of which half is a creamy, mango ice pop and half is soft vanilla ice cream, the I-MEI Mango Ice Bar is one of the best fruit bars I have ever tasted. Both halves are creamy and with just our luck, you can find these at selective local Asian supermarkets.
A box of five ice bars can cost around $45-$60 NT, or $1.49- $2 USD. Such a great and tasty investment!
If you’re the adventurous type, try their other flavors including Pearl Milk Tea, Red Bean, and Melon Ice Bars!
Invented in the Taiwanese city of Taichung in 1983, Bubble Tea, through its original flavor, Pearl Milk Tea has come to be known by many names including Boba, Tapioca, or the zhenzhu. Featuring tiny, chewy Tapioca pearls, the drink itself often pairs the unique condiment with typical Milk Tea. Other common flavors include Taro Milk Tea, Black Tea, Green Tea, and many new different (and sometimes wild) flavors have been invented. Bubble Tea can be found at street vendors, local shops, or large nation-wide chain stores. This is truly one of Taiwan’s most notable delicacies.
The cost of Bubble Tea is typically the same regardless of “dine-in” or “take-out”. Usually $35 NT ($1.16) for a large and $30 NT ($1 USD) for a small, the price is so much cheaper than what you’d normally find in the States.
TAIWAN BEEF NOODLE SOUP
Just like how Japan is famous for its udon, then Taiwan can claim the fame of their traditional beef noodle soup. Made with a meaty broth and thick, chewy noodles and topped with greens and the just right amount of tender, soft beef, the dish has proven to be one of Taiwan’s most popular meals. Check local restaurants for the best results and try different locations for specialization in flavors.
A bowl of beef noodle soup is priced around $109 NT, or $3.60 USD. Despite what the picture may suggest as it was taken after I had already started my meal (apologies!), a large bowl of beef noodle soup is usually accompanied by a side dish of your choice and a small drink – all included! Along with my beef noodles, I chose to pair my meal with kimchi (spicy pickled cabbage) and a fountain drink. In different places, prices may vary slightly, but from what I’ve seen, they are relatively the same.
Taiwanese ramen is known for its QQ texture or its chewiness that is quite hard to define. (Think mochi or boba texture, but in a ramen noodle.) Paired with cooked and salted sliced pork, seaweed, and green onions, the salty stock of the soup and perfect noodles are a must have in Taiwan. This dish could really rival ramen in Japan and definitely blows Cup Noodles out of the water.
Ramen is usually accompanied with complimentary tea and a pudding dessert; all at the price of $200 NT give or take, relatively $6.61 USD.
Being an island country has its perks! Taiwan’s nearby ports bring in fresh seafood and delicious sashimi. After a long day shopping at the large and luxurious SOGO department store complex in Taichung, I discovered a shop selling sushi and decided to give it a try. A bowl of sushi rice drizzled in vinegar and topped with salmon, tuna, and shrimp sashimi, as well as egg, tofu, imitation crab, pickled radish, and seaweed, also came with a side of miso soup.
A bit more on the “pricier” side of Taiwan’s relatively cheap meals, this sashimi bowl came out to be around $220 NT, or $7.27 USD. However, this restaurant was in a pretty fancy department store, so I’m sure sashimi bowls at local shops are priced at an even better rate.
TAIWANESE CRISPY DUCK
The country’s own take on the original Peking Duck, Taiwanese crispy duck, is sold by the duck! You can watch the butchers expertly carve the golden brown perfectly crisped duck in front of you and marvel and salivate when you experience its divine texture and smell the umami scent of its fats’ aroma.
The whole crispy duck, priced at $500 NT ($16.54 USD) is carved to give the maximum amount of meat, given on a nicely displayed platter. The unused parts of the duck are thrown away, but some parts, which contain small portions of meat and bones, are cooked in a wok with fresh vegetables and prepared for you as well. In addition, a stack of flour wraps (Taiwan style tortillas) and sweet sauce is also included for you to add in order to enjoy the best of your meal.
After writing this post, I’m drooling. How could you not be? So, what are you waiting for? Hurry up and book a ticket out to Formosa. Enjoy the beautiful beaches, locations of long standing tradition, but most of all, the cheap vast variety of delicious traditional Taiwanese local tastes and delicacies.
Images © Engelberta Yue 2017.
All images have been used with the permission of Engelberta Yue. All rights reserved. No part of these images may be reproduced without the prior permission of Engelberta Yue.