So, Tainan is one of those places in Taiwan that gets talked about as a ‘Foodie Paradise’, and as a place where you can find ‘true Taiwanese classics’. Well, yes, this is partly true. But, it’s not just the classics that make Tainan so good, but the new restaurants popping up and offering something different, too.
Tainan City Government is working hard to make Tainan a city accessible to everyone, and have worked hard to run an English-Friendly store project for the last 3 years – check out their Facebook Page, here.
Below I am going to share with you 5 restaurants we visited over a weekend (yes, 5 in 1 weekend!).
This may be a specialist chain soy milk shop, but they do much more than that.
Anything with 豆漿 in it, means soy milk. So, for the soy milk selection, we have: sesame (芝麻), adlay millet (薏仁), black bean soy milk (黑豆漿), almond (杏仁), and black tea (紅茶).
But, it doesn’t stop there, this shop focuses on healthy drinks. So, we also have: roselle tea (洛神花茶), black wood ear longevity tea (養生黑木耳), or the beautifying white wood ear (冰釀銀耳露).
Here they are in all their splendour! So, I tried each one, all for you guys – you’re welcome.
Actually, they were all really good. I was surprised by the texture, firstly, of the soy milk. It was thick and gloopy – often words you don’t really want associated with milk, I get that. But, soy milk can quite often be watered down or just brimming with sugar, rendering it essentially unpalatable. This, on the contrary, was fresh and packed a natural flavour that hit the spot. From left to right we have: black tea with soy milk, black tea with milk, original soy milk, black bean soy milk, sesame soy milk, adlay millet soy milk, almond soy milk, white wood ear, roselle, black wood ear.
My personal favourite: Almond Soy Milk.
Why? It had such a fragrant almond flavour even upon opening the bottle. The deep flavours of almond came through straight away, giving way to the natural earthiness of the soy bean in its thick milk.
They speak English, too! ^^
An avid fan of soy milk pudding 豆花, I had to give it a shot. The thing that sets Doja apart from places like YongHe Soy Milk King is that this soy milk pudding is light and smooth. Whereas others tend to be almost grainy with more of a bite to the pudding itself. This tastes healthier, and paired with the lightly sweetened red bean, or adlay millet, it’s a great shout.
GuaBao, know it? If the answer to that is anything but an emphatic “Yes”, then you’re going wrong somewhere. Imagine a light, fluffy steamed bun, filled with slow-cooked pork, topped with pickled mustard greens, peanut sugar, and a sprinkling of coriander.
Now, Booking-Young go for a slightly different approach to their GuaBao. They realise that a lot of shops offer the same flavour, and whilst it is delicious, they want to offer up some more flavours for the more adventurous looking for a different angle.
They have Japanese style flavours, Korean kimchi, and some interesting takes on Chinese and Taiwanese classics such as XO sauce, or three-cup chicken.
I tried out their specialty – Sha Cha Pork 沙茶醬炒豬肉, and also their Korean kimchi 泡菜豬. Both arrived with a perfectly fluffy bun, rammed full of ingredients, smelling great.
Whilst the Kimchi was great, the ShaCha pork was more suited to my taste. Salty, fishy, lightly spiced and frangrantly garlicy in flavour, ShaCha sauce can be used in anything from barbecue to stews.
I also had to try their brown sugar GuaBao with Taro paste 黑糖包配芋泥. Offered as a sweeter option, the taro is sweet, but pairs with the brown sugar really well. Great flavour combos!
Next on our stop was this shrimp wanton restaurant in the north of the city, out near the DaQiao Railway Station.
Specialising in a slightly different wanton, Shih Chiu look to keep it simple, whilst packing flavour.
They also manage to provide a good selection of food they can quickly braise for you in their house stock, which goes well with their smoked chilli sauce.
Even though it looks like a lot, there’s not a huge amount on the menu here at Shih Chiu. But, that’s not a bad thing.
Of course we ordered a mix of the braised food to accompany our noodles and wantons, and it was pretty good, too.
The wontons here at Shih Chiu are packed with meat, but with less of the wanton skin you may be used to in other dishes – bonus.
One thing that I particularly liked at Shih Chiu was the Kombu seaweed soup they use with the wonton soup. It has a real healthy feel to it, whilst also delivering on deep and rich flavours. They stick a spoonful of their house made meat sauce in there for good measure, too. The noodles are good, and the dumplings are good.
When I saw ‘fish soup’ on the menu, I was thinking it was probably going to be the same fish you see everywhere in Tainan – Milk Fish. So, I was happy to find out that none of that goes on here. Actually, the owner goes out of his way to make sure of that. As this is a 3 year old restaurant, they accept that they cannot compete with the restaurants in the area that have over 40 years experience selling Milk Fish. So, they take a different approach, and go for the deep sea fish instead.
As well as having deliciously fresh fish, they also have deliciously fresh tempura, too! Fish paste that is made into a cake and deep fried to crispy perfection. But, hold on a minute, they say this is healthy! Actually, the owner goes out of his way to make sure the oil is fresh and of high quality, and that all ingredients are fresh and responsibly sourced. You get my tick of approval. The skin on this is crispy and light, whilst the inside remains soft and chewy. The flavours are spot on.
You gotta get some of this grouper fish soup, too! Great flavours all round. Why? Because the owner personally gets up at 2am every two days and heads over to the fish market in Tainan. Where he picks out the fish he wants to use, brings them home, prepares them, and puts them on the menu. Ideal.
If soup or tempura isn’t up your street, then have no fear. Korean kimchi with Korean marinated pork over rice to the rescue. It’s tasty, but I’m all about that fish soup.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this place, as the title says plum soup and spicy food…
The owner of the shop is now a 3rd generation plum juice maker and distributor. So, that explains the plum juice. The owner also says that not only does plum juice compliment spicy food, but it also helps to lessen the spice if it is overwhelming, but also it helps it to settle better in your stomach – thoughtful, ey?
Created in Tainan, the owner ships it all over the island to a whole bunch of different resteraunts – it’s that good! I had two big glasses, and took two bottles out, too! Expect a smokey and sour flavour of plum coming through, that is just moreish and delicious.
You could pair it with his XO sauce rice, where he cooks rice with peanuts and scallions, then spoons over XO sauce. Mix it in, and eat it just like that. Simple, but the XO sauce is made on site, and you can taste the freshness.
They sell this XO Sauce so you can take it home, too! Win! $300/jar is a steal, truth be told, as the amount of time and effort (as well as cost) that goes into each jar is definitely worth it.
You should also try out their spicy wontons, too. The spicy sauce round the outside is subtle at the start, but builds up wonderfully after a short time. Then, wash down with plum juice, and
As if this wasn’t enough, the curry noodles had to be tried. If noodles with curry if something you’re into, then you’d probably enjoy these. I like my curries with rice, if I am honest.
The owner speaks great English, and is more than happy to talk to you about anything you don’t understand on the menu – perfect!
“臺南市政府經濟發展局廣告 Advertisement from Bureau of Economic Development, Tainan City Government.”