Today’s Taiwan Tuesday post is all about breakfast!
If you’ve followed my stories from Taiwan, you’ve probably already figured out that food — especially from street vendors — is a big deal in Taiwan. But it’s not just at the night markets. Cheap, fresh eats start at the crack of dawn, with small shops that specialize in fresh soy milk, shao bing and you tiao. One of the things I really love about food in Taiwan is that most stands or restaurants specialize in one type of food, and they make everything from scratch and they do it really well.
Although the hotel where we stayed served a serviceable morning meal (rice porridge and various toppings, white toast, and an assortment of ho-hum stir-fries), just down the street was a hole-in-the-wall shop dishing up hot soy milk.
People dressed in business clothes queued up outside on their way to work, as you or I might stop by Starbucks to pick up a latte before heading to the office. On an outside counter, the grandma of this family-run business rolled out strips of fresh wheat dough and deep fried them until they puffed up into the glorious crullers called you tiao (which in Mandarin literally means “oil sticks”).
These type of shops often sell other bread products, such as tsung you bing, shao bing, and steamed meat and vegetable bao.
But the most comforting of the comfort foods is a hot you tiao dipped into a bowl of hot dou jiang (soy milk). Just like you might start your day off with coffee and a cruller in America — if this were the 1970s and you were a sitcom cop. Besides being warm, the milk is liberally sweetened with sugar. I cringed as I watched a vendor dump a heaping soup spoonful of white crystals into my soy milk. No one was complaining, though, as the sweet steam wafted off the bowls.
There were times when my boys balked at the choice of foods in Taiwan. But as long as (soy) milk and (Chinese) doughnuts were available, I didn’t need to worry about people cleaning their plates.