Taiwan: The culinary gem shaped by history
A look at Taiwan's culinary heritage plus a list of the best restaurants to visit in the country this 2022
The food culture of Taiwan is steeped in history.
The type of food that makeup what has largely become known as contemporary Taiwanese cuisine has been the product of immigration integration and political transformations that the country has undergone throughout its historical odyssey.
From the Hakka aboriginal cuisines of Austronesians and the Hakka Tribe, who settled in Taiwan as early as the 16th century, arose dishes like steamed pork with mustard greens, and stuffed tofu with pork and shrimp fillings which can still be found today in Taiwanese restaurants.
Sushi, miso, and sashimi in Taiwanese cuisine and even the style and preparation hark back to the Japanese colonial period, while ingredients like seaweed, tempura, and wasabi also seeped their way into Taiwanese culinary consciousness. In Taipei, there are many existing Japanese establishments offering affordably priced authentic Japanese cuisine.
But the most profound culinary influence that has largely shaped Taiwan’s food identity comes from the Chinese settlers from the southern part of the Fujian province (Hookien). Fujian cuisine has made its way into Taiwanese family tables in the form of hot pots, broths, oyster omelets, and many other dishes like the think soup geng which are now a staple food in Taiwanese homes today.
Night markets and award-winning restaurants
The culinary playground of Taiwan is none other than its bustling 70-night markets, which are spread out across the country, 30 of which are just in Taipei alone. Night markets date back to the Tang dynasty and have gone through their own evolution and culinary styles. From the 50s when food stalls were selling xiaochi (Taiwanese snacks), today it’s a place where a hodgepodge of Taiwanese culinary delights and (pop culture!) are on offer to cater to every social class and traveler.
While street food is arguably a fixture in Taiwanese culture, fine dining restaurants have sprung up on another side of the restaurants to the level of award-winning status. In 2018, Michelin Guide officially entered the Taiwanese market to award 20 of the best restaurants in Taipei. By 2022, the Michelin Guide has expanded to include Taipei, Taichung, Tainan & Kaohsiung, a testament to how far Taiwan’s food scene has become.
To date, there are now a total of 170 eateries of Michelin-starred restaurants including Bib Gourmand in Taipei alone, followed by Taichung with 68, 44 in Tainan, and 39 in Kaohsiung.
Bouncing from COVID: reopening of borders on Oct 13
Taiwan had one of the super-strict lockdowns during COVID-19 which severely affected the restaurant industry. But thanks to hospitality operators who had the foresight to open other revenue streams like online delivery and the government’s initiatives to boost domestic tourism during summertime, Taiwan has fared better economically than other neighboring countries.
This July, the country has also recorded its highest sales of 75.48 percent or NT74.8 billion compared to last year with 75, which according to the Ministry of Economic Affairs is pre-pandemic level and the trend continues as locals begin to dine out more.
From Oct 13 onwards, Taiwan will finally open its borders to international travelers, marking the end of mandatory COVID-19 quarantine and PCR testing, although tourists are expected to undergo health monitoring for seven days and have rapid tests.
This long-awaited reopening is a positive step to boost the hospitality industry after a two-year slump.
Leading the recovery in the restaurant industry are some of TableCheck clients who are using the booking system platform not only to provide memorable experiences to guests but also to drive guest loyalty.
1. The Westin Tashee Resort Taoyuan
Just 2.4 miles from the historical district of Daxi old street lies the majestic Westin Tashee Resort Taoyuan. Its proximity to Daxi Golf course makes it popular among avid golfers and even hikers. The hotel has five dining venues: Seasonal Tastes, Li Xuan, Lobby Lounge, Pool Bar, and the deli.
Seasonal Tastes offers buffets and a la carte dishes for both breakfast and dinner for those with hungry appetites. But for those craving to sample authentic and classic Chinese cuisine, head over to Li Xua. Chefs incorporate local ingredients around Daxi District to concoct creative dishes while guests dine surrounded by charming interiors and an art centerpiece called ‘Poetry of Time’ by abstract artist Yang Chihong. Still, the food is the main attraction. From crispy roasted duck, and roasted suckling pig to Sichuan-style beef stripe, it’s a smorgasbord of delightful dishes to enjoy.
2. W Hotel Taipei
W Hotel Taipei offers luxury dining in the most perfect location, close to Taipei 101 and Taipei Arena. Diners can enjoy a casual all-day dining experience at the Kitchen Table or taste nouvelle Cantonese cuisine presented in Western style at the Yen restaurant on the 31st floor with an adjacent bar aptly named YEN bar. At the YEN bar, one can enjoy its famed signature afternoon tea set or cocktails while watching Taipei's skyline. The bar experience also extends to the casual WOOBAR and the WET Bar.
3. Grand View Resort Beitou Hotel
In the vicinity of the famed Danfung mountain near the Beitou district of Taiwan, is the Grand View Resort Beitou Hotel, a resort hotel with great accommodations and top-of-the-line restaurants offering great dining experiences.
Nature and nurture plus great food are what one can find in C’est Bon restaurant, where diners can enjoy panoramic views of the Danfung mountain coupled with cuisine that’s tastefully prepared in French style combined with the best local and seasonal dishes. One of the most popular dishes is the roasted US. beef wellington (seasonal vegetables, grilled vegetables, black truffle sauce).
For those who prefer to eat local cuisine, head out to Chinese Cuisine, where one can taste dishes like stewed beef ribs with sanshin scallions sauce or their stir-fried abalone and pork tendon with sesame oil, rice wine, and soy sauce (using Taiwan pork) while being surrounded by stunning three-side views of the mountain. In the meantime, Aqua Deck offers an array of light meals during afternoon hours.
4. Grand Hyatt Taipei
Grand Hyatt Taipei is located on Songshou Road right next to the iconic Taipei 101 and the Taipei World Trade Center in the wealthy neighborhood of Xinyi district. The hotel boasts 10 dining venues namely: Cafe, Irodori, Yun Jin, Pearl Liang, Bel Air Bar Grill, Ziga Zaga, Cheers, Baguette, Cha Lounge, and Club at the Hyatt.
There are lunch and dinner buffets at the Cafe with their "Taste Around the World" themed dishes. In Iroiro, it’s all about authentic Japanese cuisine, while Yun Jin, a recently opened restaurant, goes all out in Chinese fine dining, Pearl Liang serves Cantonese dishes.
European cuisine is well represented in Bel Air Bar Grill with its steak and seafood dishes, while Ziga Zaga serves Italian favorites, and last but not the least, at the Cha Lounge, one can enjoy a variety of English afternoon tea and desserts.
5. Caesar Park Hotel Kenting
Located in the Hengchun Peninsula at the southern tip of Taiwan and inside the national park, Caesar Park Hotel Kenting has been providing unforgettable vacations and dining experiences to guests since it opened its doors 20 years ago.
Compass restaurant navigates diners through to see the beautiful view of the ocean while providing a sumptuous buffet during breakfast and dinner amidst Balinese-style interiors. There are three bar venues in the hotel to cater to different tastes: Tucano Bar which offers indoor and outdoor seating to enjoy jazz music and cocktails, the Beach bar which is right along the beach so guests can enjoy watching the sunset, and the Lobby Bar, which is situated in the gardens of the hotel for a much-needed laid back fun.
6. Hotel Royal Chiao Hsi
A consistent winner in the World Luxury Awards, Hotel Royal Chiao Hsi is a five-star hotel in the heart of Wufongqi Scenic Area. It features an outdoor spa, natural springs, golf course– all accessible just a 50-minute drive from Taipei. The hotel has four dining areas: Western Restaurant, Zen Garden, and the Lobby Bar.
It is all serenity in the Japanese-themed Zen restaurant but the Western Restaurant has expansive space to hold banquet dinners and parties. The Lobby bar is a good place to hang out with friends and family while overlooking the beautiful scenery outside.
7. Renaissance Taipei Shihlin Hotel
Located in the Shihlin district, predominantly a residential area of Taipei, Renaissance Taipei Shihlin Hotel boasts four distinctive restaurants and bars: Shihlin Kitchens, Wan Li restaurant, R Bar, and Tea Lab.
At Shihlin Kitchens, guests can savor dishes inspired by the night markets of Shihlin and other types of international cuisines while they can try Cantonese fusion cuisine in the elegant restaurant of Wan Li. A combination of canapes and cocktails make the R Bars an interesting place to hang out while at Tea Lab, one can experience tea rituals in the guise of indoor and alfresco dining.
8. Hotel Indigo Alishan
A boutique hotel brand from the IHG group, Hotel Indigo has expanded its footprint into the Alishan region of Chiayi. Hotel Indigo Group features 84 stunning rooms in a sleek design, an outdoor bar an all-day restaurant.
From managing online reservations to optimizing restaurant operations, these hospitality operators use TableCheck to provide an award-winning experience to their guests.
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