Grazing and snacking, we love it! Just like the Taiwanese who prefer to eat small amounts throughout the day. But then from a multitude of dishes; so you can taste a lot. The best part? The food fest starts in the early morning hours. So if you’re tired of muesli and smoothie, sink your teeth into a filled rice roll and slurp down a bubble tea: that’s how you start the day with a Taiwanese breakfast.
This is what a typical Taiwanese breakfast looks like
Taiwan is the perfect destination if you like xiao chi : ‘little bites’ from street stalls. You can also have breakfast on the street at the street vendors. Although Taiwanese cuisine is rich in seafood and fresh (tuber) vegetables, a typical Taiwanese breakfast mainly consists of a lot of carbohydrates and eggs. There is a lot of deep-fried food and it’s all quite comfy, but that’s also part of the charm.
But no matter how powerful and heavy a Taiwanese breakfast is, there is always a warm glass of soy milk ready to wash everything down. There are fried dough sticks the size of your hand ( you tiao , literally translated “oil stick”), velvety steamed buns, grilled turnip cakes, and pancakes – oh so many pancakes! The dishes tend more towards savory than sweet and ensure that you can start the day completely grounded.
The Taiwanese are lyrical about their pancakes. You could compare it to the role that roti, paratha or naan play in other South Asian cuisines.
Pancakes are not only eaten in the morning: there is a matching pancake for every moment of the day. Fujian and Chaozhou immigrants brought the popiah to the island: it’s a thin, crepe-like pancake that, after baking, is filled with meat and vegetables like a burrito, or as a sweet dessert with a sort of shaved peanut nougat, ice cream and cilantro.
The latter is now on the menu at Win Son Bakery in Brooklyn. A Taiwanese baker who is not Taiwanese himself, but had learned the tricks of the kitchen from his mentor, a Taiwanese chef. He became obsessed with the food, almost in a trance, and opened his own American-Taiwanese restaurant Win Son.
Not much later, a bakery followed where he put the combination of peanuts, ice cream and coriander on the map. Bold, because he never thought this would appeal to American guests. But the warm crunchy peanuts, the creaminess of the ice cream, and the floral qualities of the fresh coriander worked insanely well. It is now the only dessert that is always on the menu. You can also eat classics such as the scallion pancake and fan tuan, which made Bon Appétit editor Christina Chaey a bit emotional.
These are the main Taiwanese breakfast dishes
The list of Taiwanese breakfast dishes is long, seriously long, but here are a few classics you don’t want to miss:
Dan Bing is a thin pancake with egg on top. There are several variations: you can season the egg with sesame oil and chopped spring onions, or change the filling and add pork, bacon, or corn. You eat it rolled up, cut into pieces. Or if you’re in a hurry, you can eat it to-go as a wrap or burrito.
Similar to a bao bun . You traditionally fill the steamed buns with pot roast, sour mustard and coarsely chopped peanuts.
Dou Jiang (warm soy milk)
Milk was introduced by the West, before that soy milk was (and still is) the main breakfast drink. Many street vendors make their own soy milk. Sometimes they add black sesame powder and peanut ( Zhi Ma Dou Jiang ) or they make a salted variety ( Bei Fang Dou Jiang ).
Literally means oil stick and is essential in a Taiwanese breakfast. Usually the dough bars are dipped in the soy milk. The dough (flour and baking powder) is made the night before so that the dough can rise. These dough bars are also eaten as a filling for a pancake, for example in the dish Jian Bing You Tiao .
This baked wheat bun is one of the most iconic Taiwanese breakfast dishes of all time. There are different variants in which the shao bing is filled with, for example, eggs and meat. Because it is baked, the dough takes on a flaky texture. The ingredients are water, flour, sesame seeds and yeast.
Cong You Bing Jia Dan (spring onion pancake with egg)
The pancake batter is actually more like a dough through which the spring onions are mixed. After kneading you make a ball that you roll out and roll up again like a snail shell. After baking, a scrambled egg is added on top and more spring onions.
There are many different types of steamed and baked buns. For example, Luo Buo Si Bing is filled with turnip, pork and shrimp and topped with sesame seeds. Xiang Gu Rou Bao is filled with mushrooms, pork and spring onions and Xiao Long Bao are small filled soup dumplings.
Fan Tuan – rice roll
A super-layered rice roll consisting of a thin layer of warm glutinous rice on a square piece of cling film. On top is a piece of fried egg with a just set yolk, followed by a piece of impossibly crispy you tiao (which looks a bit like a churro). Nestled around the fried dough bar is a tuft of pork floss and everything is further flavored with soy sauce, spring onions and crispy salted radish pickles. Divine!
Mantou is a standard Chinese sandwich, quite average and tasteless on its own. But it’s the perfect carrier for delicious fillings like egg and pork floss.
> Would you like to taste such a Taiwanese breakfast yourself? Then go to Jen’s Bing – Bubble Tea & Taiwanese food in Amsterdam.