4 Tainan Local Specialties That You Should Try
Tainan is the city of good food after all.
· 5 min read
Taiwan is known for its diverse and delicious food scene. And if we are talking about the Taiwanese food scene, then we definitely have to talk about Tainan, a city located in the southwestern part of the island. Tainan is known for many things, and food is one of them.
Before we go into the specifics of what exactly to eat, it is probably useful to know that the food in Tainan is known to be some of the sweetest — so if you don't have a sweet tooth, the food might not necessarily be to your liking.
Salty Rice Porridge
Salty Rice Porridge (鹹粥) is a popular and common staple for a breakfast in Tainan. Rather than the congee (where it is a little milkier and thicker), the rice porridge in Tainan is more like rice added to a bowl of soup. You will get to taste the distinct grains of rice in what is typically a fish broth. The fish used to cook the broth varies from shop to shop, but most shops would feature mackerel or milkfish — a Tainan specialty. It is also common for many to order fried dough fritters to go along with the porridge, making for a very satisfying and fulfilling breakfast.
If you search up salty rice porridge in Tainan, one of your top results is likely to be A Tang Salty Rice Congee (阿堂鹹粥). A Tang Salty Rice Congee is not popular without reason — their rice porridge is delicious, and the fish is really fresh. Aside from their rice porridge, the other fish dishes are also worth a try. It is no wonder that it many domestic travelers make it a point to stop by A Tang Salty Rice Congee when they visit Tainan.
However, the prices here are now rather steep (at 300NTD for a bowl of rice congee) after a few price increases over the years, and local Tainan residents claim that it is a place only tourists go -- but yes, that includes domestic tourists. Anyhow, in case you are looking for some places that are cheaper and not so popular with tourists, you can consider checking out A Hsing Congee (阿星鹹粥) or the Salty Rice Congee at DaYong Street (大勇街無名鹹粥).
Milkfish is a specialty in Tainan, and if you are in the city, you should really give it a try. Although it is possible to find Milkfish in many cities across Taiwan, you really shouldn't miss having it in Tainan. Apart from Milkfish featuring in the salty rice porridge, there are also many other ways that Milkfish is being used in the culinary scene in Tainan.
One of the most common ways, of course, is to use it for Milkfish soup - which is also the soup base that is used in most salty rice congees. Aside from using Milkfish soup for the salty rice congee, it is also often eaten with Minced Pork rice, especially since the clear soup complements the flavourful rice really well. You will also be able to find deep fried milkfish fritters in Tainan, which could serve as a great snack if you were feeling peckish.
Some of the best shops that specialises in Milkfish include A Xing Shi Mu Yu (阿興虱目魚) and **Kai Yuan Lu Wu Ming Shi Mu Yu (開元路無名虱目魚**). If you are planning to visit A Xing Shi Mu Yu, you have to give their garlic rice a try - the garlic rice actually ranks higher than the Milkfish in our books.
Another Tainan specialty not to be missed is the Danzai Noodles. Danzai Noodles is nothing fancy - it is noodles served in a small bowl, characterized by their rich, savory broth, minced pork, shrimp, and a hint of vinegar. But the combination of flavours, along with the chewy texture of the noodles, makes a really appetising meal. Danzai Noodles was originally a form of a side dish or 'snack', so their portions are often much smaller than you would expect of a full meal, making it a great option for a mid-day meal or late-night supper.
One of the most popular places for Danzai Noodles in Tainan is none other than Du Xiao Yue, which has also been featured in the Michelin Guide. Du Xiao Yue is also where this signature Tainan dish originated from, so if you wanted to have the most authentic Danzai Noodles, that is probably where you are headed.
There are a few Du Xiao Yue branches in Tainan, but if you wanted to go to the origin shop, head to the one at Tainan Old Branch at Zhongzheng Road. If you asked us though, it doesn't really matter which branch to go too — we've tried a couple of them, and the standards are pretty much consistent.
Bowl-Cake (Wah Kueh)
Bowl Cake, or Wah Kueh, is essentially steamed rice paste. Like all the other dishes that have been included in this list, this too probably doesn't sound very exciting. But also, like all the other dishes, this is a traditional Tainan specialty that you probably should try!
This dish gets its name from how it's cooked — in a bowl. The rice paste is simply added to a bowl and steamed. Depending from store to store, additional ingredients may also be added to the dish. Some of the more common ingredients include dried shrimp, mushrooms, and pork. Wah Kueh has a very soft and chewy texture. By itself, the flavours are not overly strong, but it is often served with a salty sauce (that has a tinge of sweetness) that gives it more flavours.
Our favourite place for Wah Kueh is probably Yi Wei Pin Wah Kueh (一味品碗粿), which has also been featured in the Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand Selection 2023. Another really popular place for Wah Kueh is the Fu Sheng Hao (富盛號), which is actually just opposite Yi Wei Pin - so if you can't decide which one to go for, just go for both!
Special Mention: Dain-Dain Hamburger (丹丹漢堡)
Now, we can't talk about food in Southern Taiwan without giving a shout out to Dain-Dain Hamburger. Dain-Dain Hamburger is a fast food chain that is only available in Southern Taiwan (Tainan and Kaohsiung), and is one of our favourite options for a meal when we head down South.
Aside from its very cheap prices, one of the best things about Dain-Dain Hamburger is the wide variety of options. Of course, you can expect to find burgers, fried chicken, and fries there; but aside from these typical fast-food options, Dain-Dain also has porridge and noodles on their menu! Some of our favourite items on their menu include the Chicken Thick Soup, BBQ Chicken Burger, and the Corn Soup.
Of course, take note that Dain-Dain Hamburger is a fast food chain, so if you are expecting something really fancy, you are not going to find it here. Their burgers are also more tailored for the local audience, so you shouldn't expect something that is very American-like.