Visiting Taitung, you don't have to worry about finding good food and the local dishes alone will make you wish you could have 5 meals a day. Taitung locals have skillfully created many delicious foods using locally sourced ingredients, such as stone-grilled meat (shi ban kao rou), wild boar meat (shan zhu rou), bitter melon (shan ku gua), deep-fried frogs (xian su tian ji), fern salad (liang ban guo mao), fried bird's nest fern (chao shan su), Formosan fig tree pork rib soup (yang nai shu tou dun pai gu), and salted fish rice (xian yu ban fan).

    Such unique native cuisine delivers the flavors of Taitung's pristine forests in every tasting. Taitung boasts top-quality agricultural products like orange daylilies (jin zhen hua), which are served as a sweet dish, and the daylily fields attract a considerable number of sightseeing travelers. Taitung's sweet potatos (di gua) are big and fleshy, and the tasty crispy sweet potato chips (di gua su) are a very popular Taitung souvenir. With its rich variety, Taitung food is always eye-catching and promises many pleasant surprises.

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    Stone-grilled meat

    Stone-grilled meat (shi ban kao rou) is a great example of the distinct culture and tradition in food in Taitung that presents bold and uninhibited flavors. The seasoned pork is cooked on a heated stone. The stones used for cooking are not readily available and must be selected by experienced chefs to insure they do not break under the heat.

    The pork must be seasoned first with sauces and a spice loved by the locals known as maqau until the aroma is completely infused into the meat. You'll instantly notice the unmistakable flavors with every bite.

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    photo by 玄史生 (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

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    Bitter melon (shan ku gua)

    Bitter melons are among the special agricultural products of Taitung. With its unmistakably bumpy green skin and uniquely bitter taste, bitter melon is favored by many locals. It is an ingredient that can be found in many local dishes in Taitung – suitable for soups, stews or salads, and many other delicious bitter melon dishes.

    What bitter melon lacks in appearance is more than made up by its abundance of vitamins and minerals. It has been proved by modern medicine for lowering lipid levels and inflammation as well as in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases. It is basically very good for health. There are many products in Taitung that use bitter melon as their star ingredient. Some make it into a very smooth tea, which is a superb choice and very worth trying for tea lovers.

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    3

    Deep-fried frog (xian su tian ji)

    Deep-fried frog (and not just the legs) is a local Taitung delicacy with crispy skin and tender meat. It’s delicious and has a strong flavor, and also goes well with wine. Frog is unlikely to be served as a regular dish, so it's best to take the opportunity to try this new flavor while visiting Taitung.

    Chefs marinate the frog in a blend of garlic, rice wine, soy sauce and spices for a while, then coat it with flour and fry it in hot oil until golden brown. It's ready to be served after the oil is drained, and then chilli powder or pepper powder can be added to taste. When in Taitung, you may also want to try millet wine while chatting with family and friends, over a plate of the deep-fried frog.

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    photo by Gunawan Kartapranata (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    4

    Fried orange daylily (chao jin zhen hua)

    The Taimali township in Taitung has about 460 hectares producing orange daylily. The scenery covered with golden flowers in full bloom is spectacular and regularly attracts a large number of visitors. Orange daylily is not only to be admired for its beauty but it’s also a very delicious food ingredient.

    Fried orange daylily is a home-cooking favorite in Taitung. It tastes fresh and sweet, and its color is also very pleasing. A versatile ingredient, it's delicious with meat and mushrooms, added with a bit of chilli, garlic and ginger slices, or just salt. It's suitable for both highly seasoned and light flavors, and it's great paired with rice or eaten alone. Come to Taimali to admire the splendid orange daylily fields, then immediately taste a plate of freshly fried orange daylily for an unforgettable visual and culinary feast.

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    5

    Wild boar meat (shan zhu rou)

    Wild boar meat is different from pork on the market and has a strong flavor. When you come to Taitung to try local dishes, be sure to try this bold-tasting specialty. Wild boar meat has the natural aroma of the forest, which can be brought out by baking on a stone or roasting in a kiln. the tender, juicy and refreshing delicacy can be served without much seasoning, with perhaps just a little salt and pepper.

    Visitors to Taitung are bound to see the grilled meat stands on the roadside. Simple stands are set up by local vendors, where they are busy broiling the meat on big stones, filling the air with the tempting aroma. One of the most memorable Taitung dining experiences is to enjoy the freshly grilled and tender meat on walks through the town streets.

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    photo by bryan... (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

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    Fern salad (liang ban guo mao)

    Fern salad features a kind of green fern as its main ingredient that's very common in the mountains of Taitung. The dish is favored by Taitung locals. There are many cooking methods, and it's delicious whether stir-fried with shredded ginger or garlic or boiled in soups. Preparing it into a salad helps retain its nutrients and umami flavor.

    Fern is abundant in the summer. Its long stems and small leaves set it apart from ordinary leafy vegetables, and it has a certain pastiness that makes it unique. The older stems and stalks should be removed before cooking. After steeping the rest in brine, it’s blanched briefly in boiling water, added with seasonings after cooling, then slightly mixed. It’s a refreshing and healthy summer treat that is also very digestible.

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    photo by Mk2010 (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    7

    Salted fish rice (xian yu ban fan)

    Salted fish combined with rice prepared by the locals has become a coveted Taitung delicacy. Taitung is close to the mountains and the sea and boasts an abundance of agricultural products and seafood. It's particularly rich in sweet rice, fish and shrimp. Salted fish is a kind of processed fish, and it tastes too salty and strong to eat by itself. Instead, it is cooked in a wooden barrel together with the rice produced in Taitung, so that the rice can fully absorb the fresh taste of salted fish.

    You stir the rice and salted fish fully before serving. As soon as the barrel is opened, you'll instantly be hit by the appetizing aroma of the salted fish. The salted fish and rice go in harmony and does not taste salty at all.

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    photo by Ceeseven (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

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    Crispy sweet potato chips (di gua su)

    Crispy sweet potato chips in Taitung are very popular with visitors. They are crispy and sweet and are loved by both young and old. The key to the tasty crispy sweet potato chips is the quality of the sweet potato. Chips in Taitung are made from locally produced sweet potatos, which grow very fleshy in the sunshine and keep their natural sweetness.

    The potato slices are cooked together with sugar, becoming crispy sweet potato chips, which are very suitable as snacks on any journey. Crispy sweet potato chips have a pleasing appearance and are naturally golden yellow. They're quite morish. Shared with a few friends, a bag of crispy sweet potato chips won't be enough. It's best to buy some extra bags for the trip and when you get back home.

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    9

    Fried bird's nest fern (chao shan su)

    Bird's nest fern is one of the most popular gifts of nature among the green wild vegetables in the pristine mountains of Taitung. When dining in Taitung, order a plate of green fried bird's nest fern, and you'll get the pure taste of the Taitung mountains in every bite.

    Bird's nest fern belongs to the genus Asplenium. With appealing green leaves, bird's nest fern is rich in nutrients, such as calcium and iron, in addition to valuable dietary fiber. Bird's nest fern only needs to be fried quickly with oil to keep their fresh green appearance. This crispy and tasty food is a common dish among Taitung locals. Some local sellers add dried fish to fried bird's nest fern – the salty fish is a perfect match and is ideally enjoyed with rice.

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    10

    Formosan fig tree pork rib soup (yang nai shu tou dun pai gu)

    Formosan fig tree pork rib soup is actually "Goat's milk tree" pork rib soup in Chinese, which may lead to many assuming the dish is made with goat's milk. Far from it, the star ingredient is Formosan fig tree whose root produces a milky sap when cut. Taitung locals use this very special ingredient from the mountains to make wine as well as the stew with pork ribs.

    Formosan fig tree pork rib soup is known as a nourishing supplement. Stems of Formosan fig tree and selected Chinese herbal medicines are put into a stew pot then simmered slowly together with pork ribs. The "milk" and Chinese herbal medicines become infused in the soup, and the pork ribs tender and delicious. The fig flavors in the soup are very subtle. If you visit Taitung in the cold winter months, a cup of Formosan fig tree pork rib soup will help warm you up.

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