When I look back on my most memorable food experiences, there’s one thing beyond the actual food that usually stands out—the people behind it.
Just in the same way a rude waiter can tarnish even the most delicious meal, the feeling of being welcomed in an establishment can elevate your experience to a whole new level.
The latter is exactly how I felt on my recent trip to Tainan to visit some local food spots as part of the city’s English Friendly Stores initiative.
If you’ve been following my blog, you may remember the incredible time I had when I toured of some of Tainan’s English Friendly Stores last year. So you can imagine my excitement (and subsequent stomach rumbling!) when I was invited once again to visit even more English Friendly Stores.
Keep reading to discover the food and faces behind four local, English-Friendly food spots in Tainan.
Good Food Cottage |良食草堂 – 安平本舖
Good Food Cottage (良食草堂 – 安平本舖) is the type of place you hope to stumble upon to escape the hustle and bustle of sightseeing. Homely and welcoming, a coffee break or peruse of the shop’s delicacies is relaxing enough to restore the spirits of even the most withered of travelers.
Opened five years ago two friends, Daisy and Angel, with a shared appreciation for locally-made products, the shop is brimming with goods which showcase the unique flavours of Tainan.
Nicely packaged and affordably priced, items as sesame cakes, peanut rolls, and cranberry candy are ideal if you’re looking to bring a little bit of Tainan home. As a mango fiend, I couldn’t help but pick up some dried mangoes for my family back in Sydney!
If you’re not sure what to get, there are samples of nearly every product for you to nibble on as you walk around. Angel and Daisy kindly prepared some tea and their famous candied nuts for my friend and I at the shop’s communal table as we chatted in English about their store.
They shared how the candied nuts have been a family recipe for more than 30 years, and how they’re still handmade to this day. All three flavours (pumpkin seed, brown sugar & peanut, and sesame & pumpkin seed) were very tasty and went well with the tea, with the brown sugar peanut the favourite of my friend and I.
If you need to take five, my tip is to order a freshly brewed coffee and sit by the window.
I would have loved to while chatting to Angel and Daisy, but I was due to go to the next stop…
Contact information for Good Food Cottage |良食草堂 – 安平本舖
Opening hours: Every day 10:00am – 6:00pm
Address: No. 231, Anbei Road, Anping District, Tainan
Phone number: 06-2235301
Jilihao Mullet Roe| 吉利號烏魚子
“You can call it ‘Taiwanese Caviar’“.
That’s how Justin, the great grandson of Jilihao Mullet Roe’s (吉利號烏魚子) founder, describes the star product of his family’s shop. For those unfamiliar with mullet roe, comparing it to Japanese or French caviar may provide an apt visual.
But after listening to Justin, who explained so clearly about Jilihao Mullet Roe’s heritage and values, any comparison seems to sell short its uniqueness amongst an increasingly competitive industry.
I must admit, however, that when I first entered Jilihao, I didn’t know what to expect.
I didn’t think there would be that much to learn about mullet roe, let alone that it would be so interesting.
So you can imagine my surprise when I found myself completely enthralled by Justin’s explanations—so much so that I went over my allotted time at the shop because I had so many questions to ask!
Justin had an encyclopedic knowledge about mullet roe, which he impressively shared with us in perfect English.
Here’s some of what I learned from him:
Jilihao Mullet Roe was founded all the way back in 1935; amounting to more than 80 years of history. From Justin’s great grandfather apprenticing with a mullet roe specialist in Nagasaki, Japan, until now, Jilihao has continuously developed new techniques while always staying true to authentic means of production.
There are many qualities which set Jilihao’s mullet roe apart from their competition. Perhaps most notably, unlike many companies that farm mullet and use mass equipment production, Jilihao’s mullet are fished from the Taiwanese Coast, and traditional production methods are used.
Another distinction is that Jilihao’s mullet roe is short and thick, and each one is shaped by hand. The dedication Justin’s family has toward producing superior quality mullet roe has seen them win many awards and media features, as you can see above.
Justin let us try a piece of mullet roe, presented in a traditional way with a garnish.
It was my first time trying mullet roe and I was initially a bit wary… but actually, I really enjoyed the taste! It was a little bit salty and chewy, and it had a very fresh taste. I liked that it wasn’t overly fishy, nor had any chemical taste that you sometimes find with preserved goods.
If you’re wondering what the yellow exterior is, it’s bee’s wax. Bee’s wax is used in Italy as a method of preservation, as it allows the roe to last longer without affecting its taste.
Justin was incredibly generous and gave my friend and I each a sample to take home! I’m going to take mine home to my Japanese mother, who is seafood-obsessed. I can’t wait to hear what she thinks… as I’m sure she’ll agree it’s the real deal.
Contact information for Jilihao Mullet Roe | 吉利號烏魚子
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday 10:00am – 8:30pm
Address: No. 12, Lane 500, Anping Road, Anping District, Tainan
Phone number: 06-2289709
YUEBANG Seafood Pot| 岳棒海鮮火鍋
If fresh seafood is on your eating bucket list in Tainan, a trip to YUEBANG Seafood Pot(岳棒海鮮火鍋) should definitely be added to your agenda.
While you’ll find no shortage of seafood options in Tainan, YUEBANG Seafood Pot is a no brainer for two main reasons.
Not only is the menu translated completely to English to help ensure you get to eat exactly what you’re after (because we all know the horror of misordering food due to language barriers or miscommunication).
The seafood is incredibly fresh.
YUEBANG’s freshness is the pride of the owner, who didn’t shy away from talking up the quality of the seafood even before it had been served. And while it was a bold move to set our expectations so high, she proved to be absolutely right.
Each of the pieces of seafood gleamed with freshness, and were rich with flavour. There was so much seafood included in our hotpot… I was so worried we weren’t going to be able to finish it all! There was a whole fish, prawns, squid, oysters, and clams. Not to mention all the vegetables that came with it…
That wasn’t all the owner brought out. We were also served a platter of grouper sashimi which was honestly divine. I normally stick to tuna and salmon when it comes to sashimi, so it’s saying something that I kept going back for more than my fair share!
Now if you’re starting to wonder how we could possibly fit anymore in us, the owner also brought out a platter of oysters. How beautiful do they look?
I don’t eat oysters, so I’ll have to trust my friend and Lily, the lovely Government official who joined us, that they were addictive. I was impressed how expertly they were able to polish off all twenty-plus oysters between just the two of them!
Now, it would be hard for this feast to be much better given how amazing everything tasted. But it was made even more special by how the owner really opened up to us as the meal went on.
From only chiming in with a little tidbit here and there about her restaurant, to sitting with us at the table by the end of the meal, the way she extended herself to us was really heartwarming. It sounds cliche to say, but by the end, we were all cracking up like old friends!
While we could have no doubt kept chatting for much longer, with one spot to go on our food tour, we were faced once again with the “dilemma” of needing to tear ourselves away to go eat even more good food…
Contact information for YUEBANG Seafood Pot | 岳棒海鮮火鍋
Opening hours: Every day but Monday 5:00pm – 12:00am
Address: No.339, Hai’an Road, Central and Western District, Tainan
Phone number: 06-2206468
As a half Japanese person, Japanese food holds a special place in my heart. It’s what reminds me of my home and family, and my experience living there for a couple of years.
So every time I have the chance to eat Japanese food, I can’t help but judge it by a much higher standard than other cuisines. Does it taste as good as what I had in Japan? Is the way the food made authentic? Could my mum make this better?
But when the owner of WU’S KITCHEN so warmly introduced himself, and explained how he had lived in Kobe, Japan for seven years just to master the art of Japanese cooking, my interest was piqued.
After taking our drink order (plum wine for me!), he explained how he would bring us a selection of WU’S KITCHEN’s top dishes to try. Being an izakaya, the menu is focused on small, but shareable dishes you can have with a drink in hand.
By chance, his selection included two of my favourite foods in the world: karaage chicken and okonomiyaki.
As soon as the karaage came out, I was sold. That golden colour was exactly how it looks like in Japan, and the smell was just as tantalising. The pieces were just the right amount of crunchy on the outside and juicy on the inside. We all agreed it was our favourite dish from WU’s KITCHEN, and that given the chance, we’d order it again.
The okonomiyaki was also fantastic, with a crisp and textured bite that convinced us to eat every last remnant. Yes, even though we were all bursting at the seams!
For those unfamiliar with this most unique of Japanese dishes, it’s a flour and cabbage based savoury pancake cooked on a giant hotplate which typically contains meat and/or seafood, and is topped with special okonomiyaki sauce, mayonaise, seaweed, and fish flakes.
The third dish we tried was “Cooked Seafood in Olive Oil”. While not a traditionally Japanese dish, many Japanese chefs like to put their own take on foreign dishes. With its aromatic smell and lightly coated seafood and vegetables, this dish made me think of a tapas dish I had once in Spain. I really liked the variety to every bite, and that it wasn’t too oily at all despite its oil base.
The final dish we had was refreshing mixed salad with sesame dressing, which complimented the heavier dishes well.
If you’re wondering about the type of atmosphere you can expect, take a look.
Laid back and simple, if you’re after an inexpensive place to hang with your friends while enjoying a drink and some quality Japanese food, you’ll find what you’re looking for at WU’s Kitchen.
Contact information for WU’S KITCHEN|食久堂日式創作料理店
Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday 5:30pm – 2:00am;
Sunday 5:30pm – 11am; Closed Mondays
Address: No. 2, Section 2, Ximen Road, West Central District, Tainan
Phone number: 06-2225768
Want more information about Tainan’s English Friendly Stores?
- EFS’s official website
- The Office of English as the Second Official Language, Tainan City Government website
- EF’s Facebook group.You can read this article by The Liberty Times (in Mandarin) for a detailed coverage about EFS.
Thank you again to the Tainan City Government for inviting me down south for a second year. It was a truly wonderful mixture of wonderful food and people, and the English Friendly Stores initiative speaks volumes about Tainan’s efforts to become an international city. I’m glad I could be a small part of it!
Do you know of any must-eat restaurants or shops to see in Tainan? Share them in the comments below!
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This blog was an advertisement from Bureau of Economic Development, Tainan City Government 臺南市政府經濟發展局廣告. All opinions, however, are my own.