Comprised of a main island, Taiwan, and several smaller
islands(Pescadores, Orchid Island, and Green Island), Taiwan lies southeast of China. To its North lies Japan, South lies Philippines and East lies the Pacific Ocean. Including all islands, the total area of Taiwan is 13,892 square miles (35,981 square kilometers).
The Siraya aborigines, who lived in Tainan, Taiwan since the mid sixteenth century, used to call outsiders "Taian" or "Tayan" but was misheard as "Taioan". Han immigrants, who also lived in Taiwan, applied Han characters to this pronunciation. Between the years of 1573 and 1620, Ming government began calling the island "Taiwan".
Taiwan's population can be divided into four ethnic groups. The aborigines, or earliest inhabitants, consist less than 2 percent of the population. The next two groups, Hakka and FuJianese, are early Chinese immigrants. The Hakka came from south China near Hong Kong. The FuJianese came from China's FuJian Province. Together, they are referred as "Taiwanese." They are 85 percent of the population.
Chinese immigrants of other provinces who came after World War II, the "mainlanders", is the fourth group. They comprise fewer than 15 percent of the population.
Due to various cultures of Chinese provinces, Taiwan's cuisine embodied vast variety of Chinese cuisine. Immigrants of various Chinese provinces brought their taste preferences, cooking abilities, and traditions to Taiwan. Many started regional restaurants. Taiwanese cuisine was also influenced slightly by Japanese cuisine due to Japan's
regime of 50 years(1895-1919). Together with its own evolution, Taiwan offers an array of unique tastes that is unmatched by others. Common characteristics of Taiwanese dishes are:
- Soup stocks or "soupy" dishes
- Lighten flavor
- Natural sweetness of foods
- "Small Dishes" or "Hsiao Zhi"
Stands at outdoor markets often serve dishes that are small in proportion. With many different choices, market goers would go from one stand to another. Having the ability to taste five to six dishes for a meal would fulfill any cravings most definitely.
Today in Taiwan, you can still find restaurants cooking ancient Chinese recipes with modern techniques and ingredients to create a unique taste that is hard to match.
For a sample of Taiwanese recipes, see Recipe Archive.
For a glimpse into Taiwanese/Chinese Banquet Cuisine, please see 1998 Taipei Chinese Food Festival, Part I and Part II.