The island of Taiwan has some interesting culinary traditions. Following the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949 and the retreat of the Nationalists to the island, Taiwan became a melting pot for migrants from throughout mainland China. In the ensuing years, mainland cooking styles mixed with pre-war Taiwanese cooking to create contemporary Taiwanese cuisine. Food blogger Mei put together a list of her top ten Taiwanese quick eats. Our favorites are the xiao long baos (dumplings), the Taiwanese-style shaved ice and the beef flatbread wraps (a riff on the Beijing-style sesame pancakes with meat found at NYC’s Dumpling House), but they are all pretty much delicious.
Taiwanese food is a bit thin on the ground in Philadelphia. Chinatown restaurants have traditionally served Hong Kong, Sichuan and Cantonese cuisine, while the new crop of immigrants over the past 10 years has been mostly Fujianese and Overseas Chinese. Nonetheless, there are a few Taiwanese restaurants in and around Philly. Ray’s Cafe is a pan-Asian tea house/lunch counter with a menu section dedicated to Taiwanese specialties. The nearby Serendipity plays mostly to a teenage crowd and has a few Taiwanese items on their sushi-heavy menu. Then there’s Empress Garden, a venerable Chinatown restaurant with a Taiwanese-heavy menu mixed in with Northern Chinese items.