Taiwan is home to a multitude of culinary styles that developed when refugees from all over China migrated to Taiwan. The capital city of Taiwan, Taipei offers the widest variety of Chinese cuisines. Restaurants serve Beijing, Cantonese, Sichuan, Shanghainese, Hakka, Hunan, Mongolian barbecue and native Taiwanese.
Those who prefer less spicy food might fancy this mild, but hearty cuisine. Wheat is the staple and is used to prepare noodles, dumplings and breads. Peking duck, flavored with sweet bean sauce and garnished with scallion is the hometown favorite and is traditionally served in a thin crepe made from unleavened dough. Freshwater fish and chicken are also widely used in the cooking of Beijing.
Appealing to the eye as well as to the taste buds, this cuisine is most famous for its dim sum. An endless variety of Cantonese delicacies, such as dumplings, sweet pastries, roasted meats and steamed treats are served on trays wheeled around by waitresses. The ingredients and methods of preparation are more varied than elsewhere in China, with the southerners exotic tastes using every part of the pig, lizard and other unusual animals. Other tasty dishes on the more expensive side include abalone, shark's fin, bird's nest and pigeon, a Cantonese specialty.
This popular cuisine is having a renaissance in Taiwan, with Hakka-style dishes and snacks served in restaurants across the country. The popular plate served here is a winter dish, hot pot, or firepot, served with vegetables, meat and seafood cooked right in front of you. Adventurous visitors might be tempted to try more earthy dishes which include tripe, pig's knuckles, tongue, kidney, and kou rou (fatty pork cooked with dried salted vegetable). Snacks are also a tasty favorite including anything from salty flour balls made with mushrooms, to shrimp and pork turnip cakes or sticky rice dipped in sugar or peanut powder.
Another hot and spicy cuisine that makes use of its chili peppers. The traditional favorite is a popular honey ham dish.
Whether you're a vegetarian or someone who is a serious meat eater, you'll enjoy watching the expert chefs "stir-fry" your meal on a huge iron "skillet," or slab. Choosing from a variety of fresh vegetables, herbs and spices and then you can add lamb, pork, beef or chicken, as you wish. These chefs are masters at not over cooking and do it with a flourish!
The most popular regional cuisine in Taiwan is for those who like their food hot. Making liberal use of hot peppers, one of the cuisine's signature dishes is kung pao chicken. Other richly flavored specialties include duck smoked with camphor and tea and egg-plant with garlic and tofu. Most dishes are served with rice, but a succulent Sichuan specialty is the breadroll, which comes steamed or deep-fried.
If ginger happens to be one of your favorite ingredients, the cooking of this island nation will be particularly appealing. Seafood is the specialty, often fried in pork fat. For the healthy eater, poached shrimp or squid, grilled eel, grilled clams and turtle soup are also featured on menus. Taiwanese food is known for its use of a local variant of very fragrant basil which is used to season soups and fish dishes.
Vegetarian cooking is anything but bland here and vegetarians will not leave Taiwan hungry. Served at a variety of restaurants as well as Buddhist temples, the cuisine is healthy, innovative and delicious.
The annual Taipei Chinese Food Festival is celebrated every August. At the exhibition , visitors will find numerous pavilions showing different kinds of cuisine, including herbal health food, rice dishes made with Taiwan's legendary rice, seafood from coastal Taiwan and mountain-grown delicacies, Hakka cuisine and dishes made with the produce of Taiwan's recreational farms. Teams of renowned chefs from around the globe (Beijing, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, the U.S. and Taiwan) compete every year for the culinary crown and visitors can sample specialties from a number of Taiwan's five-star hotels and leading restaurants.
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