Eat like a local in food paradise
The Beginner’s Guide to Local Taiwanese Eateries: unlock a whole world of food, without having to read and speak a word of Chinese.
In many ways, Taiwan makes it easy for the tourist or business traveller who doesn’t speak the language. English is spoken at the major destinations, a well organised metro and rail system helps you get around, and as long as you have your hotel’s business card in your pocket and enough money for a cab fare, you’ll never get truly lost. There are plenty of restaurants with English menus, so you shouldn’t have trouble trying shabu-shabu (hot pot) or Din Tai Fung’s famous soup dumplings.
But what if you are a bit more adventurous and would like to eat in places that are not “designated restaurants for international tourists”?
In that case, the menu will usually look like this:
Unless you’re travelling with a local who is unusually well-versed in English food vocabulary, that’s a problem.
There’s a whole world of fantastic food out there that’s just waiting to be discovered, if it weren’t for the language barrier.
Sold everywhere, in unassuming little holes in the wall, or on the night market: breakfast dishes like savoury pancakes, steamed taro-flavoured buns, or turnip cake; lunch classics like noodle soup and night market favourites like oyster pancake and crispy fried chicken. And don’t even get me started on beef noodles and Taiwanese steak!
I am Taiwanese, I love food, and when I started working on my Taiwan traveller’s notebook, I wanted to make all this wonderful food accessible to the foreign traveller.
It turns out something works in your favour: a Taiwanese eatery usually sells just one type of food, and the menu is pretty much standard. You also don’t have to speak a word of Chinese to order, because all you do is mark your selection on a form. Dead easy … if only you knew what all these characters mean, right?
Here then is the simple three-step process for enjoying your favourite Taiwanese food:
- Find the eatery that sells the food that you want. I have written a separate article about that.
- Since I have already gone through all the trouble of translating the standard menus, all you need to do is pick the right menu, mark your selection, and hand it to the friendly proprietor. (You can download a sample here!)
I hope you will find my Taiwanese food menus useful. I would love to hear your stories and see pictures when you try them out in Taiwan! You can contact me through my website, ph6point6.com. There, you can also find more information on the Taiwan Traveller’s Notebook.