Slideshow: 25 Things You Must Eat in Tainan, the Culinary Center of Taiwan

Cheap and Diverse
Cheap and Diverse
Tainan is the city of small eats and everything comes in miniature portions with a very affordable price tag. This entire meal cost the equivalent of five dollars.
Danzai Mian
Danzai Mian
Chih Kan Peddler's Noodles is a famous dan zai noodle joint that opened with just two tables in 2003. They're famous for minced meat noodles, which are yellow oil noodles with a light shrimp broth and topped with stewed minced pork, boiled shrimp, coriander, black vinegar, and garlic. It sounds and looks simple, but what makes this particular version so amazing is the complexity of flavors in each bite. Even the boiled shrimp is perfectly cooked.

Chih Kan Peddler's Noodles: 180 Mingzhu Rd., Block 2, Tainan

Danzai Rice Vermicelli
Danzai Rice Vermicelli
For those who love the flavor of danzai mian but want to go easy on the carbs, Chih Kan has a vermicelli version that's just as good.

Chih Kan Peddler's Noodles: 180 Mingzhu Rd., Block 2, Tainan

Guancai Ban (Coffin Bread)
Guancai Ban (Coffin Bread)
Coffin bread is a Tainan specialty that's awfully similar to chicken pot pie. It's a fried piece of toast stuffed with a savory seafood and vegetable chowder.
Yam Leaves with Pork
Yam Leaves with Pork
This is a hot sauteed yam leaf dish with a saucy minced pork on top. It's rather oily but that's what makes it so good.
Shimu Yu (Milkfish Soup)
Shimu Yu (Milkfish Soup)
Milkfish soup is a southern Taiwanese specialty. This particular version was garnished with slices of ginger and brewed in a miso paste. The fish is flaky, slightly sweet, and has a texture similar to cooked salmon.
Oyster Pancake
Oyster Pancake
The oyster pancakes in Tainan are especially sweet and ridiculously large heaps of egg, vegetables, sweet potato powder, and a sweet red chili sauce. Even the oysters are oversized.
Oyster Soup
Oyster Soup
Oysters are an extremely common ingredient in Taiwanese cooking. Unlike in Fujian, where they are very small, Taiwanese oysters are massive. This is a soup version with a heap of ginger and scallions.
Cold plate
Cold plate
This is a typical cold plate where you can choose what you want from a counter at the front of the store. We got bean curd, intestines, calamari, and seaweed.
Pudding Dou Hua
Pudding Dou Hua
The sweet tofu dessert is drenched in syrup and topped with a massive piece of flan.
Fish Chin Soup
Fish Chin Soup
That's right, fish chin soup. Mixed with a medley of vegetables, the chin meat has a texture similar to cartilage and the broth is a bit glutinous because of the starch. We found this bowl from a street vendor called Xian Lao Hai Chan.

Xian Lao Hai Chan: Ximen Lu, Block 3, Tainan

Luffa with Clam
Luffa with Clam
Luffa with seafood is a common Chinese dish. The luffa and clams are great complements. When cooked together, the vegetable absorbs the salty juice released by the clams, while the clams are mixed with the luffa’s hint of sweetness.
Shachang Fish
Shachang Fish
The direct translation for shachang is "sand barracuda." It's served raw as a sashimi dish.
Fried Rice
Fried Rice
Sometimes, you need just a little bit of fried rice. The rice is a lot more moist than versions in the States. This particular version was sautéed with pork, egg, and scallions.
Fish Head Soup
Fish Head Soup
Again, fish and seafood is an integral part of Tainan cuisine. This is a fish head soup with tofu in a miso-based broth. It makes for a great appetizer and can comfortably feed a party of five.
Crab
Crab
The seafood selections are cooked simply. The emphasis is on freshness. These crabs were steamed; no seasoning or extra condiments.
Bamboo Shoots with Mayonnaise
Bamboo Shoots with Mayonnaise
It's a fresh and simple dish that can actually be found in various Chinese restaurants around the States. However, the bamboo from Taiwan is extra tender and traditionally dipped in mayonnaise.
Mua Gui
Mua Gui
Mua gui (the Taiwanese name of this dish) is completely exclusive to southern Taiwan. It's a gelatinized rice cake embedded with pickled vegetables and pork in the middle. Drizzle a generous heaping of sweet chili sauce and thick soy sauce on top.
Boiled E-Fu Noodles
Boiled E-Fu Noodles
This is my favorite late-night snack: e-fu noodles in a seafood-based soup with a decorative fish cake, shrimp, and various vegetables. Unlike regular wheat noodles, e-fu noodles are especially chewy and come in a bright yellow color.
Gongwan (Pork Ball Soup)
Gongwan (Pork Ball Soup)
The ball is made from finely grounded pork. It's served in a starchy soup with ginger shavings and coriander. Unlike in America, where the balls are processed and perfectly round, these pork balls are made by hand and have a rough texture to them.