Lest you be overwhelmed by choice, grazing is the recommended approach to eating in Taiwan. Every town and county has its specialties. Roughly speaking, Taipei is associated with beef noodles, hot pot, buns, dumplings, and pancakes – comfort food of the post-WWII Chinese migrants. You’ll also find the most authentic Japanese and Western restaurants in Taipei. Eastern Taiwan evokes indigenous food like barbecued boar, sticky rice in bamboo tubes, and millet wine. Kinmen Island shares the passion for oyster croquettes of southern Fujian across the water. ‘Aiyu’ fig jelly was born in Chiayi. Kaohsiung and Pingtung take pride in their seafood; Taichung, its traditional pastries, including the quintessential sweet, pineapple cake.
But above all, Tainan, Taiwan’s oldest city, is where many Taiwanese dishes originated. For almost three centuries until the late 19th century, 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. They brought their influences to bear upon the food, which evolved and drifted to dining tables all over the nation. The ubiquitous oyster omelet and “danzai” noodles originated in Tainan. The latter was sold by fishermen during the typhoon season when it was too dangerous to be out at sea.
Other popular Taiwanese foods are braised pork belly over rice and Chiayi’s version with shredded turkey. Sticky rice is common and comes mixed with pig’s blood, wrapped in lotus leaves, or steamed with roe-heavy mud crab. The Taiwanese love desserts. These can be a popsicle made with the juice of local limes, or an elaborate pouf of shaved ice, piled high with fruits and a variety tasty toppings.