Eating in Chiayi (嘉義), Taiwan.

To get to Alishan Mountain (阿里山), one has to take a 3 hour train ride from Taipei to Chiayi (嘉義) to board the Alishan Forest Railway.

The trains in Taiwan are quite convenient and comfortable. There’s always a food cart and in some coaches, drinking water is readily available. Pre-packed lunchboxes, or known as “Bian Dang” (便當) are quite common along train stations and we decided to get one from the train attendant’s cart to share. At NT80 each, it’s quite a good deal with two stir-fried vegetables, one whole braised egg, a pork chop and some fried goodies.

So Chiayi was our transit stop and we had about 2 hours to spare before having to board the next train. Definitely had to go explore the food!

Walking down the street, this fresh mochi shop caught our eye. Now, Taiwanese fresh mochi looks like ice-cream, and comes in various flavours. We were not too sure what to expect so we decided to get a few flavours to share. We had the yam/taro, green tea, red bean and mango. The skin was wonderfully thin and soft whereas the inside was more like cream cake, spongy and sweet. Most of them like the mango one best but my heart lies with the green tea. Heh.

Further down the street, we were passing by this small, nondescript restaurant when two Taiwanese locals came out and recommended us the place. So in we went to try some local dishes. Ordered the quintessential pork stew rice (鹵肉饭), which uses shredded meat with three different parts–skin, fat and lean meat–evenly proportioned and served with a small bowl of rice. Bittergourd soup, stir-fried squid with greens and an oyster omelette (蚵仔煎) completed the meal. Simple fare maybe, but warms us up with the homecooked factor. the owner and chef was this friendly old man who was rather chatty and keen to know our Alishan itinerary.

Guide books will not fail to mention that the specialty of Chiayi – Turkey Rice (火雞肉飯). Basically it’s something like our economy rice, rice served with meat and vegetables. The turkey meat strips are drizzled with their special gravy (made of chicken oil!) to enhance the flavour of the meal. It seems that the pickled daikon radish slice is also a permanent ingredient in a plate of Turkey Rice.

While on the way back to the train station we passed by this man selling these small round cakes with filling in them – red bean, milk, peanut or vegetable. We chose the former 3 as we wanted something sweet as dessert. Costs NT20 for 3 pieces. I personally think that it would have tasted better if we had it as soon as we bought it as it would have remained hot and soft. But by the time we tried any, it was already an hour since we bought them and was on the cold side.

It was only after arriving at the train station to leave for Alishan that we spotted a food guide with map at the tourist centre for Chiayi. However we wouldn’t have much of an opportunity to try the recommended restaurants as our time in Chiayi was quite limited. I’d have like to have more time to explore Chiayi a bit more as it looked quite interesting and busy. Another time… maybe.



  1. mei said

    gosh.. i hv yet to make it to that part of the world.. and your shots are so fine, they are making me regret it .. lol! gr8 blog.. hv2go soon!

  2. i think this can be made into a mini taiwan eating guide! many delights!

  3. yeah i do agree with joe..willl definitely print out ur blog post if im going to taiwan

  4. @ mei : you’ll have your chance! there’re many places i have yet to visit too but slowly ler…

    @ lotsofcravings: haha, thanks.

    @kampungboycitygal: am sure you’ll get to discover more eating places than i did, and probably better ones too!

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