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Eek, I don't know if I can get a copy of Travel+Leisure Southeast Asia here in South Africa! Can I bribe you to pass along those street treats? I'm currently engaged in making a list of all the things I want to eat in Thailand, but my list for Taiwan will be coming up soon too... -X


What a wonderfully written post. Your words bring such waves of nostalgia for me. You are totally right that doujiang is not a substitute for milk. The combination of hot doujiang accompanied by you tiao for breakfast is one of my fondest memories of Taiwan and something I've been eating since visiting as a little girl.


I used to drink freshly made doujiang every morning, but I've never had a freshly fried youtiao. That's one of my goals... IF I ever get to go to Taiwan.

Katy Biggs

Do you have an older post about a breakfast store in Taipei? Remember reading about it but can't find it. Anyway, don't think you mentioned Fan Tuan (Glutinous rice ball)in these breakfast places (apols if you did)?
They usually come with youtiao (sweet filled with peanut powder and sugar) and savory (typically with meat floss and dried radish). This I am guessing is a 'Taiwanese ‘adaption to suit the locals as the filling (in particular the savory's)is typically Taiwanese.

I also think there is a genuine mix up of many food bloggers celebrating a 'Traditional Taiwanese Breakfast store' being one of the best place in the world, what they really are saying is Taiwan is a great place to sample Chinese breakfast food and what they found is a typical (NOT traditional) Taiwanese breakfast store in the present day.

The 'authentic (traditional) Taiwanese breakfast' would be like this: a bowl of congee, meat floss (fish or pork),salty duck egg, pickles, dried radish (with eggs) and plates of tofu skin/soy beans variations (with a touch of Japanese influence). These would have been what were put on the breakfast table for my parents' generation in most of their adulthood. This is not 'typical' in the 21 century but nonetheless 'traditional'!
Robyn, a task for you on your next trip to Taiwan - find a 'Traditional Taiwanese breakfast store'...please!

Katy Biggs

Oh, how can I forget - crispy fried salty peanuts of course. They would have used local ingredients as society was poor and food scarce too.


katy, what you described is not really "traditional taiwanese" breakfast. Congee in the morning is pretty popular in much of south eastern provinces of china. Granted, meat floss is pretty taiwanese, but I used to eat salty duck eggs, pickles, and tofu with my shanghainese grandmother in the morning .... she didn't know traditional taiwanese cooking at all.

Katy Biggs

Albert -
Taiwanese cuisine itself is often associated with influences from mid to southern provinces of China. A notable Japanese influence exists due to the period when Taiwan was under Japanese rule. I was born in the late 1950 and I am trying to recall as far as my memory takes me to the breakfast food my grandparents’ had on the table and the bags of stuff my mother bought from the mobile breakfast vendors at the crack of the dawn. One of the things I missed to mention was sweet potato - the national food after the war, it was nutritious and easy to grow –sweet potato was a substitute to the limited supply of rice – typically made it congee, leaves stir fry with garlic…etc. Also soup – Taiwanese like to eat their meals with a bowl of soup – most common tofu or miso (Japanese). I take your point that what I described is not really Taiwanese – but I would have imagined for example, call noodle soup a traditional Vietnamese breakfast food and one could argue it is not really theirs because Chinese have that too. They can get away calling it theirs by throwing in local herbs and ingredients?? There are a lot of things associated with Chinese influence in that part of the world – especially food!

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We didn't wish for a donut instead of our you tiao, or glasses of moo instead of bowls of doujiang. What we did wish -- mightily -- was that we didn't have to catch a plane back home in five hours.


Taiwanese cuisine is a regional Chinese cuisine rather than a cuisine that's independent and different from other Chinese cuisines. Yeah, it has Japanese influence but Xi'an cuisine has Muslim influence (yang rou pao mou), Shanghainese cuisine (lou song tang or Russian soup)is well, influenced by Russian cuisine. I love Taiwanese food but I think it clearly has more in common with Fujianese food than Fujianese food is with northern Chinese cuisine.

The typical Taiwanese breakfast is 70% the same as the breakfast I had with my Shanghainese grandmother. Youtiao, congee, duck egg, stinky tofu...

This is not a political thing. I support Taiwan independence and all. But I just can't see how anyone could view Taiwanese cuisine as something separate and distinct from Chinese cuisine. And I am tired of Taiwanese calling certain items that are common to Chinese cuisine as "traditional Taiwanese."


Cat - thanks for your comment. But some Taiwanese may disagree with you. Surely there are dishes unique to Taiwan; whether they are influenced by China does not necessarily make them a marker of a 'regional Chinese cuisine.'

Is Malaysian Nyonya food a regional Chinese cuisine because it incorporates strong influences of the Fujian traders who immigrated to Penang in the 1700s and 1800s? Is pad thai a regional Chinese dish because it originated with Chinese immigrants to Thailand?

And surely people on Taiwan were ... eating food before the Chinese colonized the island? And thus the island's cuisine is influenced by indigenous dishes/ways of cooking/ingredients as well.

Also -- Taiwan's a pretty varied island. I can't say for sure if the dishes I describe above are what EVERY Taiwanese in EVERY part of the island eats for breakfast.

Chinese culinary influence is, as Katy points out, huge in this part of the world.
If Taiwanese food is really a regional Chinese cuisine, then so is Malaysian Chinese food, Indonesian Chinese food, Filipino Chinese food, dishes made by Hakka in Calcutta. Which doesn't make sense to me.

Katy Biggs

Cat - The debate about whether a bowl of congee is a traditional Chinese breakfast or a typical Taiwanese breakfast continues. I am no expert in food culture, but I would have thought in the 21st century, local derivation and the use of local products constitutes a local ‘cuisine’.

Unless you are a food historian searching for the precise origin of food and the label ‘Taiwanese cuisine’ gets to you, to that extent, it is /or has become political. It sounds to me as if other ‘regions’ in Asia where items common to Chinese cuisine are adopted into their own aren’t criticised for the labeling of their ‘local’ dishes for one reason only – they are not in the same tangled political relationship with China that Taiwan is.

On Shanghai mayor Han Zhang’s recent visit to Taipei, he said he loved ‘Tai wan niu rou mian’ (我愛台灣牛肉面). Whether he meant he loved the 40% Taiwanese style 60% Chinese origin beef noodle soup, 70% Taiwanese born chef’s beef noodle soup, or 100% Taiwan produced beef – noodle soup, you’d have to ask him! I personally would interpret it no more than “Han Zhang just had a damn good bowl of niu rou mian in Taiwan”!

Meister @ The Nervous Cook

Oh heavens, now you've gone and made me miss Taiwan, not leaset of all the soy milk there!

I fully agree with you that most Americans experience soy milk as a pale "substitute" for dairy milk, which I think has much to do with the skepticism so many stateside folks approach it with -- even worse when they consider it some kind of faux "health food!"

I pity the person who turns up his or her nose at fresh, high-quality soy milk for those reasons: It's the perfect breakfast treat.


Very nice post, thanks! What you say about soy milk is so true! It really makes a difference when you get the fresh one.
Can't say that I love the youtiao, the fried dough, but the soy milk I gladly have. For breakfast I am more keen on the congee though, maybe with a bowl of soymilk on the side.
One thing to be careful about is that if you buy the pre-packed soymilk in Hongkong or Taiwan, much of it nowadays (even more so in HK) is mixed with normal milk so it is not automatically suitable for people with a lactose problem. The soy milk on the street I never had problems with though.

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