Taiwan offers the adventurous gourmet a mouthwatering range of dumplings. They come boiled, fried and steamed. Some are filled with pork, others shrimp paste, vegetables or even soup. The surrounding carbohydrate is often a thin skin or dough — but it may be glutinous rice.
Life of Taiwan clients often ask to try the renowned steamed-broth dumplings (xiaolong tangbao) at Din Tai Fung [top photo]. And for good reason: The company’s commitment to quality and consistency is legendary. At some branches, including the one in Taipei 101, diners are able to see just how much work goes into a single serving of the signature dish. Each dumpling has 18 folds, each made by hand, and weighs 21 grams of which the filling accounts for 16 grams.
Another Taiwanese chain, known to locals and some expats but few tourists, is Bafang Yunji. With around 1,200 outlets across the island, it’s now both Taiwan’s no. 1 seller of dumplings and its most ubiquitous mass-market food brand. The menu, which is the same in every branch, goes beyond pan-fried and steamed dumplings with the traditional pork and leek fillings. There are kimchi- and curry-flavoured potstickers; soups; noodles; and fresh vegetables.
Bafang Yunji doesn’t advertise. Instead, it relies on the media attention it has earned for innovation such as its vegetarian-friendly ‘omni-pork’ dumplings.
Wontons served in soup are sometimes known in Taiwan as bianshi, and two especially popular and long-running bianshi are found in Hualien City, the gateway to Taroko Gorge. Dai Ji Bianshi is the more famous of the two but Yexiang Bianshi is more often open.
There’s no printed menu at Yexiang, and only one option: A bowl of clear soup yet tasty which contains chopped spring onion and ten delightful wontons [second photo]. Yexiang has been in business for over seventy years. Among the tricks of their trade, say local gourmands, are the use ground pig’s leg to make the filling, boiling large bones for stock, and never adding MSG.
There’s only problem: Yexiang often sells out early. But if you book a tour with Life of Taiwan, our expert guides will make sure you can eat your way through your foodie bucket list! Contact us today to discuss your travel plans for later this year or 2021.