As November comes to a close, Thanksgiving season is just around the corner. Of course, the American classics—turkey, roast ham, mashed potatoes with gravy and collard greens—are here to stay, but this is the year to venture into a new world of cuisine.
Spice up your annual feast with these traditional Taiwanese dishes in three easy steps!
1. Main Course
To start off, the entrée is the soul of the feast—the part of your meal that’ll have your guests raving for weeks to come. Fill your platter with one of the following dishes either as a main course or a side!
- One of the most iconic street foods in Taiwan, pork belly buns (guàbāo) are a perfect slider-like appetizer to hold you over until mealtime. To prepare, sandwich a meat of your choice, vegetables, cilantro and seasoning inside a sweet dough bun.
- Soup dumplings (xiǎolóngbāo) are a popular dim sum food you can add to your lineup of side dishes. To prepare, wrap ground pork with vegetables and seasoning inside small dough circles, fashion them into the shape of a bun and place them in a bamboo steamer.
- If you’re looking for something heartier, look no further than beef noodle soup (níu ròu mìan), one of Taiwan’s most famous dishes and one of my childhood favorites! To prepare, sautée beef shank on the stove, add an array of spices (suggestions include Sichuan peppercorn, spicy bean paste and rice cooking wine) to your liking, cool it in the fridge overnight and mix in noodles the following day.
- We’ve gone over lighter and heavier dishes, but if you’d like something in between, add fried chicken (yán sū jī) or braised pork rice (lǔròufàn) to your list! Like many Asian dishes, these also involve meats, veggies and spices—a flavorful blend to complement any palate.
Drinks always pair well with the main course, so don’t miss out on these classic Taiwanese refreshments!
- Soy milk (dòujiāng) is a versatile breakfast drink, made salty or sweet and hot or cold. To prepare, peel, blend and strain soaked, fermented soybeans.
- In the mood for something sour and sweet? Then sour prune juice (suānméitāng), a cool drink to balance out a hot meal, is perfect for you! Not to mention, it provides a host of health benefits from improving digestion to treating certain ailments. To prepare, boil and drain dried sour plums, hawthorn berries and rock sugar in a pot.
- A popular street drink, papaya milk (mùguā niúnǎi) is sure to satisfy your sweet tooth! To prepare, chop and freeze papaya chunks then plop them in a blender with milk for a refreshing smoothie.
- Taiwan is internationally renowned for its tea, and for good reason. From oolong to green tea, the island has it all. To start, High Mountain oolong tea is especially popular!
Of course, no feast is complete without dessert! You’re in luck, though, as Taiwan is famous for its sweet treats. Finish strong with one of these sugary delights!
- Tofu pudding (dòuhuā) is a popular versatile snack eaten either sweet or savory. To prepare, dissolve your chosen coagulant (e.g., gelatin, citrus, and agar-agar) in soy milk and steam the mixture. Next, garnish it with brown sugar syrup, sweet red beans, tapioca pearls, taro balls and whatever else your heart desires to complete the dish!
- If you’re feeling creative, craft a self-serve station in your kitchen to recreate shaved ice (bàobīng), a summertime classic. To prepare, crush ice into a fine, powdery texture. Top it off with a splash of sweet syrup, glass jelly, tapioca pearls, taro balls and fruit.
- Don’t feel like laboring in the kitchen after dinner? Run to your local Asian supermarket and pick up a package of peanut brittle or a box of pineapple cakes.
There’s no better way to celebrate cultural diversity than having a delicious meal with family and friends. Don’t hesitate to mix and match unfamiliar dishes and ingredients with your own favorites—‘tis the season for new discoveries, so experiment away!