Culinary Ambassadors: Breakfast in Taiwan, Shao Bing You Tiao
Serious Eats' Culinary Ambassadors check in from time to time with reports on food fare in their homeland or countries of residence. Here's the latest! (Find out more about CA or join here!) —The Mgmt.
Perhaps the most iconic breakfast in Taiwan is 燒餅油條 (shao1 bing3 you2 tiao2) combined with soy milk. The first being the brilliant combination of a baked pocket of dough and a fried cruller prepared in ammonia bicarbonate (yum), and the latter being, well, milk from soybeans.
In the case of shao bing and you tiao, what seems stupid simple is actually quite delicious. The fried cruller is crisp and airy, and, if fresh, hot enough to scald your lips. While it's mostly devoid of flavor, there's an ever so subtle saltiness, that, when combined with the outer shao bing, works wonderfully well. The shao bing itself is also no more than a plain baked shell, but the delightfully light and layered texture of this savory pastry is the perfect carrier for the salty "oil stick." Dotted with sesames, the combination sandwich possesses quite a splendid fragrance as well.
Breakfast soy milk is drastically different from what Western tastes think of. Rather than "silk" from a carton, traditional soy milk is devoid of sweetness, and actually has more a nutty aroma. Served both hot or cold, savory (with scallions, fried cruller, pork floss, and egg) or sweet, breakfast isn't really complete without an accompanying bowl of this stuff.
I've eaten this more often than I'd care to admit, but most of the time I went to 7-Eleven and grabbed onigiri and carton milk tea. The above is probably more traditional for the older generation, but convenience-store breakfast is more mainstream for younger folks.