A History of Bubble Tea (and Other Taiwan Foods)

Location | New York City

Bubble Tea, Boba Tea, Pearl Milk Tea (珍珠奶茶), whatever you may call it was invented in Taiwan sometime during the 1980’s. Very few people know that it was actually invented at one of my VERY FAVORITE tea shops in Taichung: Chun Shui Tang Teahouse (春水堂). Although there’s another tea house in Tainan (southern Taiwan) that also lays claim to inventing bubble tea, we all know that Taichung is superior (heh).

Chun Shui Tang originated bubble tea through experimenting with cold milk tea. If you ever have a chance to visit any of their locations in Taichung, please try their milk tea with small bubbles. You will get the frothiest milk tea imaginable, with perfectly cooked bubbles. Furthermore, their thick sliced toast with condensed milk or peanut butter is mouthwatering delicious for what it is.

Everyone should also try to cook the bubbles themselves! It’s really rewarding when you get the perfect consistency and realize that you can make your own instead of crossing your fingers you don’t get a bad batch every time you go to a tea shop in Chinatown and/or St. Marks.

Taichung is also known for their suncakes (太陽餅). They come in various sizes, but my favorite are the large suncakes. Flaky on the outside and soft, sweet and gooey in the center. Originated by a branch of the Lin Family (not directly related to me) there is a mile stretch of stores on the road into Taichung where you can find hundreds of variations of suncakes.



The oyster omelette is a food enjoyed all over Taiwan (and parts of SE Asia and China).  I bring it up here because my aunts (on my dad’s side) run a restaurant that specializes in oyster omelettes.  A mixture of egg, starch (to thicken) and small oysters then a nice sauce on top makes for a delicious snack! Top that with fried tofu or any other items and you have the perfect Taiwanese street food.

Another perennial favorite is stinky tofu. As awesome as it sounds (/sarcasm), it really does taste good. Because it is fermented tofu, you can literally smell it from a mile away. If you get your wits about you and suck it up, it’s worth a try. Really. Really, just plug your nose and eat it!

How does something so delicious looking smell so bad?

How does something so delicious looking smell so bad?

As I further my hunger… other favorites:

  • Oily Rice (油飯) – rice baked with oils, pork, shitake mushrooms and dried shrimp
  • Ba-Wan (肉圓) – a bowl with a translucent dough stuffed with meat, served with a sweet or spicy sauce and cilantro
  • A-gei (阿給) – Danshui’s (north of Taipei on the coast and my home for the summer of 2005) specialty – fried tofu stuffed with clear noodles and fish paste
  • Oyster Vermicelli (蚵仔麵線) – clear noodles thickened with oysters and in soup
  • Ground Pork Rice (魯肉飯) – what NYC Cravings is pretending to make, but in reality it’s not a glop. Ground pork marinated in soy served over rice with pickled mustard greens
  • Radish Cake (蘿蔔糕) – using white radishes that are mashed into a paste then steamed until it solidifies into a gelatinous “cake” shape. Pan fry, serve with soy sauce, AMAZING.
Radish Cake

Radish Cake

I am so hungry as I read the Wikipedia article on Taiwanese cuisine (to remind myself of what else to write about). My goal is to eat my way to Taiwan. If I come back about… 20 lbs heavier, just be nice.

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10 2009

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  1. 1

    Loved this post on Taiwanese foods; my family is Taiwanese as well and blogs that post about Taiwanese cuisine are far and few between so it was nice to come along this post :) Btw, all the foods in your list are amazing (though I find 蘿蔔糕 to be the greatest comfort food of all)

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