Home from home cooking - Taiwan
Home from home cooking - Taiwan

Home from home cooking – Taiwan

Jennifer Claywood aims to help all Norrland newbies find a taste of home. This month we explore Taiwanese food with Eric Hu. Photographs by Donna Richmond.

Home from home cooking - Taiwan
Vicky Chen, Eric Hu and Tracy Lin enjoying bubble tea. They cooked Taiwanese fried chicken and sweet potato balls.

“I can go hiking here and not see a single person the whole time,” says Eric Hu, a Taiwanese expat living in Skellefteå. I had the pleasure of
meeting with Eric, his partner Tracy Lin (a pastry chef), and their friend Vicky Chen recently.

While we were there to talk about food, it didn’t stop us from discussing other topics, most pointedly the population and size differences of the two countries. Sweden is close to thirteen times bigger than Taiwan. With about half as many people. Stockholm alone has about one million residents. Now, imagine twenty-three times that living in a space not much bigger.

With so many jammed into the small island, you don’t have to go far before smelling the tantalizing aromas of street vendors selling their wares. Food culture is a big deal there, with the norm including four meals a day. With all that food, they have to be pretty good at it, right? If these recipes are any indication, I’d say the answer is an emphatic yes!

As always happens when expats to Sweden get together to talk food, an obvious question is, “Have you tried surströmming?” In a chess game of food one-ups, this time I got a return question, “Have you tried stinky tofu?” If you were hoping for a recipe with months-long fermenting tofu here, I’m afraid you’re out of luck. Instead you’ll get some party and street food favorites. You’re welcome!

As fried chicken is such a staple in Taiwan, our interviewees were surprised at its almost complete absence here. After tasting the flavorful, crackling version below, you’ll wonder how you’ve lived so long without it. Pair it with a Taiwanese baseball game and maybe we can start
something in our little town. We could squeeze the baseball in after the hockey season, and hear me out here, eat fried chicken in the stands. Any takers?

The talented pastry chef, Tracy (circle2dessert on Instagram), developed the sweet potato balls recipe, and it is so versatile that I can see a lot of variations in my future. Definitely one involving cardamom. They are light, crispy, chewy, and absolutely amazing!

You’ve heard about it. And if you were an adult in the nineties, you might have even tried it. Bubble (or Boba) milk tea used to be all the rage, viral long before TikTok was a thing. Still a staple in Taiwan, you’ve now got a chance to make your own.

(Ingredients in blue box below)



Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and add to a bowl with spices, soy sauce, sugar, and minced garlic. You can add as much or as little garlic as you’d like. If you’re thinking of putting the whole head in there, go for it! No judgment here. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 20 mins, or ideally overnight.

After removing the chicken from the refrigerator, heat frying oil (deep enough to cover chicken pieces) to 165-170 degrees in a heavy saucepan. Coat each piece of chicken with the flour and set aside until all pieces are prepared. While maintaining the temperature, add each piece of chicken one at a time and fry until golden and well done.

*Taiwanese taste & serving tips:
Fry green beans before cooking the chicken for serving alongside. Add fresh Thai basil to the oil when the chicken is almost done. After plating, sprinkle with additional white pepper and salt to taste. You can also add fresh Thai basil to the prepared dish.

Sweet potato balls

Peel the uncooked sweet potatoes and cut into thin slices to make the steaming process shorter.

Place slices on a plate and steam until soft. Depending on the method you use, this could take 10-20 minutes. (While steaming produces the best texture results, you can bake the potatoes in a 200 degree oven for about an hour unsliced and with the peel still on).

If water has found its way onto the surface of the sweet potatoes, remove with a paper or kitchen towel. Add the steamed potato to a bowl and stir in the sugar until there are no visible granules.

Cool to room temperature.

Add tapioca starch and mix until it forms a dough that no longer sticks to your hands.

Divide the dough into small 10 gram portions and roll in the palm of your hand to form balls.

Heat your frying oil to 120 degrees and add each sweet potato ball into the pot one by one, making sure they don’t stick to the bottom of the saucepan.

Fry until the dough changes color, then raise the oil temperature to 140 degrees.

After the surface of each ball is slightly crusted, carefully press the balls down with a big slotted spoon in order to squeeze out the air. This process will make the balls increase in size and help them stay hollow. You will want to press them down about 15 times.

Fry until the balls are golden and fluffy. You can use a metal spoon to tap the skin of each ball to test for crunchiness. (Though not traditionally used in Taiwan, if you aren’t getting the desired crispness, you can experiment with adding cornstarch to your recipe. As little as 10 grams might help.) Drain the sweet potato balls and enjoy!

*Taiwanese taste & serving tips:

Enjoy it while it’s hot (but be careful). Sprinkle it with your favorite sauce or powder, such as honey, powdered sugar, chocolate sauce, etc. These are often enjoyed sprinkled with plum powder.

Bubble tea

Bring about 1200 ml of water to a boil (the volume of the water needs to be 8 times more than the tapioca) and add the tapioca pearls.

Stir the pearls and wait for them to float to the top, then turn the heat to medium and cook for another 30 minutes, covered.

After 30 minutes, turn off the heat and leave to sit for 15-20 minutes without removing the lid.

Open the lid and check the condition of the pearls. If you can still see the white dot in the middle of the pearls, they need to cook longer, until almost transparent.

Return the lid and turn heat to low. After 15 minutes, turn off the heat again and leave for another 15 minutes without uncovering.

Check the pearls again. If they have become translucent amber, they are ready.

Quickly rinse the pearls with water. Transfer the pearls into a bowl, and mix the pearls with a few tablespoons of muscovado sugar and syrup (to taste).

Assemble the drinks: put the cooked tapioca pearls into large glasses and add 1 1/2 tablespoons of light syrup to each glass.

Half-fill each glass with freshly brewed tea and top up with milk of your choice. Stir and taste the milk tea. (Feel free to add ice or more milk or simple syrup to your taste).


Home from home cooking - Taiwan

Home from home cooking - Taiwan

Home from home cooking - Taiwan
Vicky, Eric and Tracy enjoying their bubble teas.


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