Eating

Chinese Food

Depending how you look at it, the May '92 opening of McDonald's on the corner of FengChia Road and Fuxing Road is either a blessing or an evil enticement. But admit it, it would be a tremendous shame to limit your eating experiences to this and other Western-oriented establishments. Taiwan is renowned for its outstanding Chinese cuisine, both local and imported from the Mainland mainly after 1949. If you start sampling here in Taichung, you can find excellent food from all over China — Sichuan, Yunnan, Hakka, Shanxi, Beijing, Guangdong, even Mongolia (we won’t start a historico-political discussion here) — and most for very reasonable prices.

If you can resist the temptation of the Golden M, and be a little bit more open-minded, delicious, mouth-watering Chinese cuisine awaits you in the diverse restaurants (almost all family-run) crowded together on Fengchia Road, Wenhua Road, Fuxing Road and their side alleys, especially on Biandang Jie or Lunchbox Street, the first alley on the left and right once you leave through the main gate. The last few years, however, there has been a strong trend to convert the restaurants into shops selling shoes, clothes and glasses. A deplorable trend, but money seems to be made much quicker that way.

Chinese food — very different from Chinese food in Western countries apart from the fact that both may be packed with MSG — tends to be oilier than Western food, and may take some getting used to. If you go to a typical Chinese restaurant, another aspect you should get used to is the setting and atmosphere. If your idea of an enjoyable meal is a dimly lit, quiet place with a serene atmosphere and some privacy, then just forget it. You’d better head out right away and try to find your expensive Western restaurant instead, because this is not the way the people of this country think about the art of dining. Hot and raucous is a translation of what Taiwanese perceive as the ultimate in dining, entertainment and fun. Re nao includes guys at the table next to you playing loud drinking games, the noise of the food being prepared in the kitchen, or glasses and bowls tossed in big buckets with the typical clang and bang to prepare for the next round of customers. And all of this happnes under the light of the mercilessly clear fluorescent bulbs. All of this is part of the enjoyment, but it sure takes some time before you will start to enjoy this.

Cafeteria food is pretty good, cheap and practical. There, you can choose from vegetable, meat and noodle dishes served (optionally) with steamed rice. Affectionately called Pointers (you just point to what you want!), these restaurants can seem a Godsend for those who don't speak the local lingo.

Most of the tearooms all over town also serve simple but substantial fried rice or fried noodle dishes or evergreens such as chicken curry, or pork cutlet and chicken leg with rice or noodles. You could also try the zillion plus stands and small restaurants in the basement of Mitsukoshi, Sogo, Idee, Chung You Department Store or First Square. They all offer a tremendous variety — though not always as cheap — and offer a nice opportunity for a break while shopping.

Traditional food that should be shared, can be found at the following places:

  • You can't survive winter in Taiwan without having shared a ginger duck. Boiled in rice wine and very tonic, so they say. You'll need some company for this, because they serve half a duck as the minimum. Check out on the corner of Xitun and FengChia Roads, by far the best around.
  • Hot pot is another winter favorite. Numerous places for this traditional dish are found around Feng Chia. You pay a fixed price and get all the meat, vegetables and other goodies from the buffet and drop them in the central pot on the table and all you have to do is fish them out again when they are finished. Be sure to go with a group of hungry people and don't be in a rush! Hot pots can last for hours and hours.

Chinese Food

Depending how you look at it, the May '92 opening of McDonald's on the corner of FengChia Road and Fuxing Road is either a blessing or an evil enticement. But admit it, it would be a tremendous shame to limit your eating experiences to this and other Western-oriented establishments. Taiwan is renowned for its outstanding Chinese cuisine, both local and imported from the Mainland mainly after 1949. If you start sampling here in Taichung, you can find excellent food from all over China — Sichuan, Yunnan, Hakka, Shanxi, Beijing, Guangdong, even Mongolia (we won’t start a historico-political discussion here) — and most for very reasonable prices.

If you can resist the temptation of the Golden M, and be a little bit more open-minded, delicious, mouth-watering Chinese cuisine awaits you in the diverse restaurants (almost all family-run) crowded together on Fengchia Road, Wenhua Road, Fuxing Road and their side alleys, especially on Biandang Jie or Lunchbox Street, the first alley on the left and right once you leave through the main gate. The last few years, however, there has been a strong trend to convert the restaurants into shops selling shoes, clothes and glasses. A deplorable trend, but money seems to be made much quicker that way.

Chinese food — very different from Chinese food in Western countries apart from the fact that both may be packed with MSG — tends to be oilier than Western food, and may take some getting used to. If you go to a typical Chinese restaurant, another aspect you should get used to is the setting and atmosphere. If your idea of an enjoyable meal is a dimly lit, quiet place with a serene atmosphere and some privacy, then just forget it. You’d better head out right away and try to find your expensive Western restaurant instead, because this is not the way the people of this country think about the art of dining. Hot and raucous is a translation of what Taiwanese perceive as the ultimate in dining, entertainment and fun. Re nao includes guys at the table next to you playing loud drinking games, the noise of the food being prepared in the kitchen, or glasses and bowls tossed in big buckets with the typical clang and bang to prepare for the next round of customers. And all of this happnes under the light of the mercilessly clear fluorescent bulbs. All of this is part of the enjoyment, but it sure takes some time before you will start to enjoy this.

Cafeteria food is pretty good, cheap and practical. There, you can choose from vegetable, meat and noodle dishes served (optionally) with steamed rice. Affectionately called Pointers (you just point to what you want!), these restaurants can seem a Godsend for those who don't speak the local lingo.

Most of the tearooms all over town also serve simple but substantial fried rice or fried noodle dishes or evergreens such as chicken curry, or pork cutlet and chicken leg with rice or noodles. You could also try the zillion plus stands and small restaurants in the basement of Mitsukoshi, Sogo, Idee, Chung You Department Store or First Square. They all offer a tremendous variety — though not always as cheap — and offer a nice opportunity for a break while shopping.

Traditional food that should be shared, can be found at the following places:

  • You can't survive winter in Taiwan without having shared a ginger duck. Boiled in rice wine and very tonic, so they say. You'll need some company for this, because they serve half a duck as the minimum. Check out on the corner of Xitun and FengChia Roads, by far the best around.
  • Hot pot is another winter favorite. Numerous places for this traditional dish are found around Feng Chia. You pay a fixed price and get all the meat, vegetables and other goodies from the buffet and drop them in the central pot on the table and all you have to do is fish them out again when they are finished. Be sure to go with a group of hungry people and don't be in a rush! Hot pots can last for hours and hours.

Must-try Places

Little Shanxi

No. 210, Section 1, Tianjian Road 
Shanxi food is pretty distinct from what is regarded as classical “Chinese” food in the West. Try the cat’s ears (noodles, don’t worry) or the mutton fire-pot.

Yuanyuan Mother Liao’s Shop

No. 205, Section 3, Wenxin Road, 2296.0667
This place — which is not too far from Feng Chia University — serves great Hakka food and has famous plum liquor, made by Mother Liao, author of Hakka cookbooks.

The Outer Mongolia All Sheep Restaurant

No. 20, Zhaofu Road, 2254.9124
Claims to be the most authentic of the Mongolian barbecues around town. Meals are served in yurts (Mongolian tents) and the chefs were trained in Ulan Bator, while sheep and horses occupy pens in between the yurts. NT$ 400 to NT$ 600 per person.

Yuan Tai Tsu

No. 345, Section 2, Chongde Road, 2249.3522 
With their all-you-can-eat Mongolian barbecue at NT$ 297, is great value if you’re very hungry. You pick the meat and veggies you like, douse them with one of the many kinds of oils,?and have it cooked on a big iron plate.

 
Yunnan Wei

No. 25, Wuchang Street — off Wuquan Road, between Xueshi Road and Daya Road
As the name of the place indicates, here you can try out one of the southernmost province’s food. Pretty distinct from the rest of Mainland China. Sample the following: fried meat with pickled vegetables, crispy steamed pie, chicken cooked en casserole with pickled papaya or the peppered sesame frog.

Meixiang Eatery

No. 42, Lane 20, FengChia Road
This place has one famous dish ‘fried rice with peppered beef and egg’, a basic but delicious creation. Their place is at the end of the first alley to the right on FengChia Road (right side, next to a dry cleaner’s). (NT$ 60)

Chuanwei

No. 31, Lane 20, FengChia Road
Many students like to go to one of these eateries for lunch, because they're close by, and the food is excellent- including great kung pao chicken and onion and egg cakes.

If you’re in for something special, try the duck noodles (dry or with soup) on the first alley to the right of Wenhua Road, past Fuxing Road (right side, third shop). It opens around 17:00. And if you fall for it, take a side dish of duck liver to go with the noodles!

Vegetarian

It's not easy to avoid meat in Taiwanese/Chinese foods, but it may be possible for those with firm determination and diligence. Everybody has his own ideas about what he will and will not eat (meat, meat products, dairy, whatever). Meat is considered a delicious part of Chinese food, so even vegetable dishes often contain meat for flavoring. For vegans, there is, however, a whole variety of soy milks and other supplements. Compared to the West, there is actually more opportunity for a creative, cheap and well-balanced vegetarian diet. The main problem is that the language keeps most people who have just arrived from discerning what food is safe.

The safest bets are Buddhist restaurants; although some of the food may look like meat, it's all made from beans and vegetables. These shops or stands are often marked with a reversed swastika (this symbol may also be found on safe, \"Buddhist' packaged food in grocery stores). The drawback is that these places may use MSG or sweeteners to enhance flavor.

If you want to avoid meat altogether, there are a few of these Buddhist food stands in the Feng Chia locale.

A popular vegetarian place nearby is the Zhong Xing Restaurant at #454, Fuxing Road. The buffet is diverse and tasty and includes the option of brown rice. A meal may cost $50 to $80. This is one of the few food places that I've ever seen with something akin to the egg rolls of U.S. Chinese foodfame. If you look for Zhong Xing Vegetarian Self Service Restaurants, you can find eight more branches spread all over Taichung. It may be good to know that all these places have a sign that asks you not to talk when taking food from the display to prevent saliva from spatting on the food.

A similar place is Zheng Yi Vegetarian Restaurant, located at #2, Alley 20, FengChia Road (about twenty meters in the first alley on the right on FengChia Road). Their food is spicier than most cafeterias but prices are comparable.

Or check out the outlet of Xiuyu at #467, Section 2, He-nan Road, (2702-3890) a bit further away from our campus. A lavish self-service banquet of the most exquisite vegetarian delicacies, very artfully presented and extremely delicious. Be careful, everything looks so attractive that you very often end up with an overloaded tray that you won’t be able to finish. Save some place for the special soups (two kinds) or the mouth-watering desserts. A little more expensive than the standard vegetarian places, but definitely worth it. You may well become a vegetarian yourself, just by going here once.

Ethnic Food

Authentic Taiwanese Cuisine

With the growing awareness of Taiwan's identity as being different from Mainland China's, there is also a true renaissance of traditional Taiwanese cuisine. Two establishments have an extremely typical atmosphere and are certainly worth a visit, though you’d better go with a minimum of four people to split the bill and sample the food.

Ju Twa
No. 10, Lane 32, Jiulong Street, 2232.5979
The restaurant's name is Taiwanese for a group of people who go out to drink liquor. It is located in a crumbling, graffiti-walled farmhouse near the intersection of Beitun and Taiyuan Roads. You sit on low stools and drink beer out of antique-looking bowls. English doesn't work, Mandarin is understood, but Taiwanese is preferred. The best solution is to let the owner decide on your menu; he will probably serve fried radish cakes, thread noodles, stir-fried sweet potato leaves and three-cup chicken. An unforgettable experience. NT$ 300 to NT$ 400 per person. Open from 18:00 to 02:00.

Shu De Shan Zhuang 
No. 7, Fungle Lane, Nantun District (close to Wenxin South Seventh Road 2382.3861 
Located at the other side of town, in Nantun. The setting here is an authentic three-sided farm house in the middle of the rice paddies, that has been converted into a very casual and boisterous restaurant — re nao still being the Chinese version of good fun. Similar food as in Ju Twa, though due to the bigger space and the understaffed waiters, service tends to be slow. Both restaurants should be avoided between 18:00 and 20:00 because they are really jam-packed. If you want to feel (and taste) what real rural Taiwan is all about, these are two places to go to. Open from 17:00 to 02:00.

International Cuisine

International cuisine may be one of Taichung’s fastest expanding businesses; more and more places cater for a Taiwanese and foreign clientele that wants to try different ethnic food. So far Taichung has Caribbean, French, German, Italian, Indian, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Mexican, Pakistani, Spanish, Thai, Turkish, Swiss and Vietnamese restaurants. Giving details about all the restaurants in town, would be a full-time job, since the scene changes so fast. For a fairly complete listing of the latest in ethnic food, log on to the Compass website and check out their restaurant reviews. The site lists all the restaurants and eateries that have been reviewed since January 1999. For a thematic listing of restaurants according to their ethnicity, browse through the Dining Listings of the Compass Magazine.

For our Korean students who want to cook their own Korean food, ingredients can be bought at the Da Han Restaurant, #296, Dadun 12th Street (2319.1852), behind the Dadun Carrefour outlet.

For Thai food ingredients your best bet is Kon Thai, the Thai goods supermarket in the First Square Complex, 3rd floor, unit 258 (2292.6484). Another option is the Thai Restaurant at #139, Section 3, Zhongshan Road in Tanzi, Taichung County (2532.3331).