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What to eat

Dublin's Global Beats: Taiwanese Food

The first of a two-part feature on Taiwanese food in the capital from food writer Mei Chin.

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Food writer Mei Chin is exploring some Taiwanese delicacies in Dublin for this week's column, with one of Taiwan's must-try street foods and the best place in Dublin to eat Chi Pai, spicy fried chicken.

Taiwanese-Irish Black and White Pudding

I marvel at how the Taiwanese stay thin. In eating habits, Taiwanese are not unlike hobbits, with first and second breakfasts giving way to dinner, suppers, and late-night nosh. 

In Taiwan, the street food market begins from before dawn to several hours after midnight. At any time, there are slender lovelies spitting out crab shells and licking chicken grease from their lips. 

Night food markets are perhaps the best of all. A popular night market snack is dachang bao xiaochang or big sausage wrapped around a small sausage. A sausage of glutinous rice is split and stuffed with a Taiwanese meat sausage tingly with star anise. 

Aesthetically, it looks a bit like an Irish black and white pudding roulade. I call it a Taiwan hotdog.

Here in Dublin, Patty Lin, who has been resident for three years, started making her sausages according to the recipe passed onto her from her Taipei grandmother for the Dragon Boat Festival last year.

Since then, Patty has been catering to a lucky few. I was passed along her contact by my Taiwanese-American friend, and the next day, I met Patty at the spire doing sausage deliveries, and that evening, was putting Patty’s black and white’s underneath the grill.

They are succulent with a hint of liquorice. I eat mine sprinkled with chopped peanuts, cilantro, cucumber pickled with sesame oil and sugar, and a dash of hot sauce. 

You can contact Patty Lin on (083) 819 5114. It's €17 for four pork and four rice links. You won't regret it.

Boba & Chi Pai

Taiwanese snacks with which Dubliners may be familiar include gua bao, here known as bao or steamed bun sandwiches. Also bubble tea, or boba, tapioca pearls suspended in milk tea, black tea, or juice. 

Snacking is fundamental to Taiwan. It is also a young person activity, pert, cute, and cool. Only Oriental Bakery and Tea on Dublin’s Abbey Street captures some of this Taiwanese adorable, youthful vibe. 

The tasty brown sugar milk boba, with its caramel swirls, is ready for its iPhone close-up. There’s a feedback board, where people leave pink and yellow post-its.  Its clientele is pretty Asian students with thick-framed artsy glasses and tinted hair. 

Taiwan food vendors limit themselves in what they do, so they can be extraordinary. Only Oriental serves bubble tea, homemade egg tarts, and Taiwanese fried chicken. 

Order Boba non-sweet, half-sweet, and full sweet. If you are a newbie, I recommend half, which you'll find is still quite sweet! But it is the Taiwanese fried chicken, or chi-pai, that has homesick Taiwanese flocking. Only Oriental is the only place in Ireland that makes it properly.

Chi-pai is a chicken cutlet pounded thin, breaded with panko. In Taiwan, chi-pai is worked to a diameter that rivals that of your head. Like schnitzel, which it resembles, it is one of those foods whose magic only becomes evident when you taste it. The meat is butter soft and full of spices. The crust has a dust of chilli that leaves a faint burn.

At Only Oriental, you can get your chi-pai in a squishy, slightly sweet bun, with mayo and iceberg lettuce. It can be sprinkled with wasabi and plum powder. After many trips, I’ve decided I like it the way that heaven intended, simply cut with scissors into strips. 

Only Oriental Bakery & Tea, 66 Middle Abbey Street. Phone: (01) 558 1633 

Author: Mei Chin

Mei is from New York and Connecticut. She has written for Saveur, Lucky Peach,
New York Times, Irish Times, the Sunday Times, Gourmet, Fiction, Bomb, and is the
recipient of the James Beard MFK Fisher and two IACP Bert Greene awards. She is
currently collaborating with editor and writer Georgia Freedman on a new
magazine, Ampersand: Eating at the Cultural Crossroads. Now based in Dublin, Mei
spends much of her time obsessing about Caesar salads, tacos, and martinis.