Taiwan is a country full of innovation and creativity, with a long history of contributing to the global culture in various ways. However, it’s no secret that Taiwan’s international recognition is often overshadowed by its larger and more influential neighbors, such as China and Japan. As a result, many of Taiwan’s incredible achievements and contributions to the world often go unnoticed. In this article, we will shed some light on three food-related inventions that often believed to have originated elsewhere, but are actually Taiwanese inventions.
1 – Mongolian Barbecue
Mongolian Barbecue is a dish that has gained worldwide fame and is loved by many. However, few people know that this dish has no roots in Mongolia, despite its name. In fact, it was invented in Taiwan by a man named Wu Chaonan (吳兆南) in 1951. Originally from Beijing, Chaonan fled to Taiwan when the Communists took control of China and began destroying the country. It was in Taipei that he opened a street food stall and invented the famous Mongolian Barbecue.
Interestingly, Chaonan originally wanted to call the dish “Beijing Barbecue” in remembrance of his hometown. However, the name Beijing had a negative connotation in Taiwan at the time, as it had just been proclaimed as the capital of Communist China. Instead, he decided to name it Mongolian Barbecue. The dish quickly gained popularity in Taiwan and was copied by many restaurants around the country, eventually spreading around the world.
Although Chaonan left the restaurant business to become a Hsiangsheng (相聲) comedian, a type of traditional Chinese stand-up comedy, he became extremely successful and was recognized as a “National Treasure” by the Taiwanese government. Despite the closure of his shop, the legacy of Mongolian Barbecue lived on.
Mongolian Barbecue is now enjoyed in many countries and has become a staple in many households. Its popularity can be attributed to its unique flavor and the experience of grilling the meat and vegetables on a hot plate in front of diners. In addition, the variety of meats and vegetables used in the dish allows for a diverse range of flavor combinations.
2 – Instant Noodles
Instant noodles have become a staple in many households around the world, but did you know that their origin story is intertwined with Taiwan and Japan? While many people believe that instant noodles were solely a Japanese invention, the truth is a bit more complicated.
Momofuku Ando, the man credited with inventing instant noodles, was actually born as Go Peh-hok in the southern Taiwanese city of Chiayi during the Japanese colonial period. After moving to Japan for his studies in 1933, Ando became a Japanese citizen and later invented the first generation of instant noodles, known as Chikin Ramen, in 1958. He created this dish to help combat the food shortages that plagued Japan during the post-World War II era.
However, Ando’s Taiwanese heritage played a significant role in the development of instant noodles. The cuisine of Taiwan, with its emphasis on noodle dishes, likely had an influence on Ando’s invention. Additionally, the Japanese colonial government in Taiwan encouraged the development of new food technologies, which may have also inspired Ando’s creation.
Today, instant noodles are enjoyed around the world in a variety of flavors and styles. From classic chicken and beef to more unique options like kimchi and curry, there is an instant noodle for every taste preference. So, the next time you enjoy a quick and easy bowl of instant noodles, remember the complex and fascinating history behind this beloved dish.
3 – Cat Cafe
The Cat Cafe is a unique and popular concept that has spread all over the world, but did you know that the very first Cat Cafe was actually in Taiwan? The Kitten Coffee Garden (小貓花園咖啡), located in Taipei, opened its doors in 1998, making it the first cafe in the world to offer customers the opportunity to enjoy their coffee while surrounded by adorable feline friends.
The idea quickly caught on and became a hit among locals and tourists alike, particularly among Japanese visitors. Soon after, the concept was brought back to Japan, where the first Japanese Cat Cafe opened in Osaka in 2004. Due to the high population density and limited space in Japanese apartments, Cat Cafes became increasingly popular in Japan, and the trend soon spread to other parts of the world.
Today, you can find Cat Cafes in many cities around the world, where customers can relax and spend time with cats while enjoying a cup of coffee or tea. Some cafes even offer the opportunity to adopt the cats if you fall in love with one during your visit.
While the Cat Cafe trend may have originated in Taiwan, it has become a global phenomenon that has captured the hearts of animal lovers everywhere. If you find yourself in Taipei, be sure to stop by the Kitten Coffee Garden and experience the original Cat Cafe for yourself. Who knows, you might even make a furry new friend!
These three food-related inventions have not only brought pride to Taiwan but have also become an important part of the world’s culinary heritage. They also showcase the Taiwanese people’s resourcefulness, creativity, and entrepreneurial spirit. Next time you enjoy a bowl of instant noodles or visit a cat cafe, remember to thank Taiwan for these amazing creations!