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Last updated : Nov 2009
Taiwan Social Profile
Taiwan Culture and Social Profile - TravelPuppy.com
Food & Drink

The Chinese, by no means at a loss for clear description, describe their cuisine as an 'ancient art of ultimate harmony: pleasing to the eye; mouth-watering; and a delight to the palate'. Cooking styles are mixed from all over China which include Canton, Hunan, Mongolia, Peking, Shanghai, Szechuan and Taiwan.

Cantonese food is richer and sweeter than that of other regions. Dishes consist of fried shrimp with cashews, beef with oyster sauce, onion-marinated chicken and sweet-and-sour pork. Pastries include buns, sweet paste or preserves, steamed dumplings stuffed with meat, deep-fried spring rolls and tarts.

Pekinese cuisine is more mild, combining roast or barbecued meat (often cooked at the table), flat pancake wrappers and vegetables. Dishes include Peking duck, carp cooked 3 ways, chicken-in-paper, eels with pepper sauce, steamed prawns, diced chicken in heavy sauce and ham marrow sauce.

Szechuan cuisine which is hot and spicy, is based on red chilli pepper and garlic. Dishes include Gungbao chicken, Mother Ma's bean curd, aubergine with garlic sauce, minced chicken with Gingko nuts, and fried prawns with pepper sauce. Fried breads make a nice change from rice.

Shanghai cuisine contains mainly seafood with rich salty sauces. Dishes include ningpo (fried eel), shark's fin in chicken, mushroom with crab meat, West Lake fish and shark's fin soup.

Hunan has equally spicy and steamed dishes including diced chicken with peanuts, steamed ham and honey sauce, steamed silver thread rolls and smoked duck.

Mongolian cooking consists of 2 basic dishes of Huoguo ('firepot' - meat dipped in a sauce based on sesame paste, shrimp oil, ginger juice and bean paste) and barbecue (numerous slices of meat and vegetables cooked on an iron grill and eaten in a sesame bun).

Taiwanese cuisine is mostly seafood with rich and thick sauces. It is based on garlic in the north and soy sauce in the south. Dishes include spring rolls with peanut butter, bean curd in red sauce, sweet-and-sour spare ribs, oyster omelette and a number of great seafoods.

For additional information on Chinese cuisine, consult the corresponding sub-sections in the sections for Hong Kong (SAR) and China (PR).

Though some hotels provide buffet/barbecue lunches, most restaurants regularly provide table service. Hotels almost feature restaurants providing both Western and Chinese food, and some of the major hotels provide numerous styles of Chinese cooking (the Chinese word for hotel, fan-dien, means 'eating place'). The majority of bars have counter service.

There are no set licensing hours and alcohol is extensively available.

Nightlife

Taiwan provides plenty of nightlife activities, and Taipei in particular is sparkling at night. Hotels as well as many discos, clubs, restaurants and cinemas in Taipei offer western-style entertainment. Popular amongst the locals are KTVs, a type of sing-along club modelled on Japanese karaoke bars; and beer houses, which sell draught beer and snacks.

The northern area of Tienmu has a street of outdoor beer houses. Tourists can also sample both traditional and modern tea houses; open all day and in the evening.

In the tea-growing countryside around Mucha, it is practicable to visit the all-night tea houses and sip locally made teas such as 'iron Buddha' tiehkuanyin tea. High-quality food and refreshments are also offered. They are popular with native people, mostly on special occasions.

Back in Taipei, there are night markets that sell a wide range of both modern and traditional products. These are full of life with browsers and bargainers, whose persistence can be amazingly rewarded. It has been suggested that buyers should take a pen and paper to help in the bargaining procedure, because most sellers can speak only Chinese.

Taipei's biggest night market is likely Shihlin Night Market, well-known for its great value clothing and food. Snacks such as papaya milkshakes, pork liver soup and oyster omelettes are available. A number of shops open at night.

Shopping

One of the best ways to shop is to go to the night markets (see above).

Famous purchases are hand painted palace lanterns made from silk, Formosan sea-grass mats, bamboo items, handbags and slippers, hats, Chinese musical instruments, various dolls in costume, lacquerware, teak furniture, ceramics, coral, brassware, veinstone and jade items, ramie fibre rugs, handmade shoes, fabrics and chopsticks (decorated, personalised sticks of wood or marble).

Shopping hours: Monday to Saturday: 9.00 am to 10.00 pm.

Social Conventions

Handshaking is a common way of greeting. Casual wear is generally welcome. Ancient festivals and traditions are celebrated passionately and traditional holidays are important. Entertainment is always presented in restaurants, not at home. Guests are not expected to entertain. Chinese culture in the form of drama, opera and art is very strong. In spite of fast industrialisation and development, the way of life is very much Chinese, steeped in custom and old ideals.

Tipping

Tipping is not a recognized custom, though it is increasing. Hotels and restaurants in Taipei normally add a 10% service charge into the bills and additional tipping is not expected. It is uncommon to tip taxi drivers. The average tip for porters is NT$50 per piece of luggage.