Depictions of foodstuffs in Taiwan–a photo gallery.
My parents currently live in Taipei, and I recently got back from visiting them for the holidays. And as anyone who’s been to Taiwan can tell you, one of the main things you do when you’re here is eat. It is the type of place where at lunch, a common topic of conversation is where to eat for dinner.
Walking around the city, you will run into countless street hawkers selling various xiaochi (literally, “little eats”) out of stalls and carts, usually served on a stick or in a small plastic bag. Xiaochi is a broad term that includes Chinese sausages (savory and sweet and five-spiced), congyoubing (flaky scallion flatbreads best griddled in lard), muoji (chewy nuggets of glutinous rice dusted with peanuts, sesame, and sugar) and much, much more. Vendors generally specialize in a specific type of xiaochi, so generally all you need to do to begin to sample this expansive universe of food is to walk around until you find a vendor with a long line and stand in it. So simple. Best of all, this experience costs only $1-3. It’s pretty great.
Anyway, while I was there, I noticed that an interesting thing about Taiwan’s food culture is how food is advertised. It appears that there has been a consensus among Taiwanese dining establishments (from street carts to brick-and-mortar restaurants alike) that the best way to market food is to put up a sign with an anthropomorphized cartoon depiction of that food that illustrates to potential customers just how tasty that food is and just how happy that food is being so tasty.
Here are a few examples, which do a better job of describing this technique than I do. In my opinion, it’d be pretty great if American restaurants took a few pages out of this playbook.
You should visit Taiwan! You will probably gain a few pounds, but it is worth it. I myself have no regrets.