Breakfast is said to be the most important meal of the day (not necessarily scientifically accurate). But nonetheless it is an iconic meal in Taiwan. The breakfast can be broken down into three styles:
- Chinese style
- Western style
- Regional style
You’ll find all sorts of Youtube videos talking about Taiwanese breakfast items, and they USUALLY spotlight Shao Bing, You Tiao, and Dou Jiang. These can be categorized as Chinese-style Taiwanese breakfast foods, because these foods were not commonly seen here prior to the retreat of the Republic of China government from the mainland to Taiwan.
Before then, many of the Han people in Taiwan had immigrated from southeastern China. Their carb intake was usually from rice or rice-related foods, such as congee, instead of from flour based foods.
How did flour-based foods such as Shao Bing and You Tiao become an iconic Taiwanese breakfast?
In 1950, the U.S. needed a place to dump its surplus of wheat. At the same time, the Republic of China government needed to make more money. So, they exported the more expensive rice and imported the cheaper wheat. The ROC government proceeded to push more flour-based food. This led to Taiwanese eating habits going from the previously rice-only cuisine to also including noodles and other flour based foods like buns.
In the 1980s, western-style food picked up in popularity due to the rise in feminism. After the end of martial law in Taiwan, women’s rights were better protected by law and society was also more accepting of a married woman having a job. However, the responsibility of preparing meals for the household still lies on the woman. Since Asian style breakfast took longer time and needed bigger equipment, the working woman would start to buy foods.
Western foods are able to be frozen and made edible quickly. This gave rise to Western style breakfast shops where sandwiches, and hamburgers were sold.
These Western style breakfasts are the most commonly seen in Taiwan streets and it would not be uncommon to see over 100 items to choose from.
Each part of Taiwan and each part of Taiwan developed their own breakfast foods to fit their need. This includes vermicelli in Taipei, cold noodles in Chiayi, and stir-fried noodles and blood cakes in Taichung.
Tainan Regional Breakfast: Beef Soup
In the 1980s, Taiwan’s economy was based primarily on manufacturing and agriculture. In general, this meant a lot of manual labor. To sustain the body, a hearty breakfast with a lot of protein was needed.
At the same time, Tainan had Taiwan’s largest cattle exchange as well as the largest slaughterhouse. This meant Tainan folks were always able to eat the freshest beef.
Making this beef soup is fairly easy. Thinly slice fresh beef into a bowl. Pour in some hot light beef soup. Get yourself a bowl of rice and there you have it, a hearty breakfast for a working person. One thing to note is that this beef is never refrigerated.