I just remembered that I once had an AWESOME Bacon fried rice at this Jiufen restaurant. My thought at that time was : Most Asians don’t know how to cook bacon well, and I am at a very touristy place so tourist traps must be a dime a dozen. But no, it was divine really.
So I guess that’s two Taiwanese dishes I wouldn’t mind eating: Pork Chop and Bacon fried rice. Keep the pigs coming!!!
I’m visiting Penghu again right now and I spent one night on Wang’an Island. There I had cuttlefish soup at a “famous” eatery. It was OK but nothing to write home about, just not much of any flavor. So my two nights on Penghu proper I opted for Mexican food over local, and it was really tasty. That probably says more about me than about the food.
I can’t handle the “famous” oyster omelette and ba wan with that pink sauce, nor many of the “gloppy” soups. That said, I’ve eaten some excellent pumpkin and chicken soups, and I really like san bei ji and guabao.
In my experience, home cooked food here generally tastes better than what you get from food stalls and restaurants. Years ago, a student gifted me a bilingual cookbook with many Taiwanese and Chinese dishes. The food I cook myself from these recipes is usually outstanding (not that I’m a good cook; I just follow the recipes).
“Liking” Taiwanese food is more radically important than belonging to the correct political party or having the right amount of money or a house in the right neighborhood or having the right color of a Mercedes Benz.
You can’t give honest thoughts about Taiwanese food in public.
In public, people say they like Taiwanese food, including me, because I don’t want to be ostracized by colleagues, friends, family, excetera.
And then are the other group of people that are receiving some kind of benefit by promoting Taiwanese food.
I can count on one hand the number of times someone said this dish isn’t good or something like that.
You take your food, you eat it, you smile and say you like it. That’s the Taiwan way.
This here is a safe space (hopefully) to give honest thoughts about Taiwanese food.
Kinda like Spaghetti Carbonara outside of Italy really.
Carbonara in Italy: creamy because it’s lathered in eggs.
Carbonara everywhere else: creamy because … of cream sauce.
Where this parallel falls apart is that in Singapore, Fukiens are a plurality, and Fukien is where oyster omelette originated. So the Taiwanese version doesn’t necessarily have a claim to authenticity.
I’m visiting Penghu again right now and I spent one night on Wang’an Island. There I had cuttlefish soup at a “famous” eatery.
I thought the way to have cuttlefish in Penghu is get on a night fishing boat and eat cuttlefish sashimi the moment you hook one out of the ocean.
The thing is when it comes to seafood, real traditional Taiwanese dishes want to keep the sweet taste of fresh seafood without overpowering it with spices. That’s why when you go to “famous” eateries, which usually mean they’ve been trying to stick to traditional local cooking, without frying and covering everything with up with chilies and soy sauce, the flavor usually is more subdued. Chilies being a plant from South America wouldn’t be a part of “traditional cooking” in any parts of Asia.
The thing about eating cuttlefish sashimi is that they taste sweet without needing to add anything, not even soy sauce. Same goes for the soup. Of course, the prerequisite is that the seafood has to be really fresh.
That’s fine, a lot of European cuisine is similar, let the original ingredients shine. But a pinch of salt brings out the natural flavour. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve eaten in Taiwan and said, this dish could do with a lick of salt. Often it has a little stirring of sugar in there instead, which to my palate is gross at the dinner table. Save the sugar for dessert. Taiwanese cooks reach for the wrong white powder, in my opinion.