Ask any Taiwanese person what you should buy in Taichung and sun cakes will top the list every time. It’s a flaky pastry with a maltose center that is slightly sweet and chewy. They are perfect as a snack with tea or coffee; the dry, flaky pastry perfectly complementing a nice hot drink. And where to find them? Everywhere. There are dozens of bakeries throughout the city where tourists can sample a variety of flavors, but, in all honesty, the original flavor is best.
Invented in Taichung in the early ’80s, Pearl Milk Tea has become something of a Taiwanese institution, and there are now many vendors throughout the country claiming to have discovered the perfect recipe. There are also a few different stories about where it originated, but most accept that Chun Shui Tang Teahouse in Taichung as the original. Served hot or with ice, it’s the perfect year-round drink, and with all those tapioca balls, it’s quite filling too.
Now, these are no ordinary meatballs. Taichung meatballs are small balls of spiced and seasoned meat with fresh bamboo and green onions held together by a glutinous rice pastry-like casing. They have been served in the city since the Japanese colonial period, and they are without a doubt one of the most significant culinary treats in the city’s history. Unlike pearl milk tea which has become widely available throughout the nation, Taichung meatballs have remained a local treat.
In English, it’s called glutinous rice with braised meat, but no one calls it that. Tong zai mi gao is this deliciously sticky rice served with braised pork on top. It hails from the Qingshui district in Taichung, but it’s readily available throughout the city. Some places also serve it with oysters in place of pork which, combined with sticky rice, is an interesting combination.
Okay, so fried chicken may not be from Taichung or even Taiwan, but one of Taiwan’s most famous local brands is Ji Guang Chicken which opened its doors here in Taichung back in 1973. There are several branches located throughout the city and indeed across the island. In fact, there are even stores in Hong Kong and Malaysia. Yes, that’s how popular it is. So if fried chicken is on your mind, then a trip to any of Ji Guang’s locations in the city is a must.
It’s hard to go to any city in Taiwan without someone telling you that the local pineapple cakes there are the best. And while many opt for the traditional brands such as SunnyHills and Chia Te, there’s a local producer of pineapple cakes here in Taichung that offers the big brands a run for their money. Dawn Cake has found the perfect balance of not too dry and not too moist in their pineapple cakes, and they make the ideal Taichung souvenir that tourists can actually take home.
Taiwan has a blossoming wine industry, and while many of the winemakers on the island have yet to perfect their craft, one farmer in Taichung has already done so. Shu Sheng winery has won international acclaim for their wines, which they have been producing since 2000. In the last year or so they’ve seen demand for their products hit an all-time high. 100% locally produced, this is a pretty nice souvenir to go along with those pineapple cakes.