A tour of Taiwanese food in Seattle

The House Special Hot Soup comes with stinky tofu. (Photo by Judy Chia Hui Hsu)
The House Special Hot Soup comes with stinky tofu. (Photo by Judy Chia Hui Hsu)

It’s not a coincidence that some of the most popular Chinese restaurants in the Seattle area are Taiwanese. Taiwan has a reputation as one of the best food destinations in Asia. Chinese-American foodies that I know say that Taiwanese restaurants are where to go to find their Chinese food fix.

Growing up in Taiwan and Los Angeles, I took my mother’s home-cooked Taiwanese meals for granted. These days, I rely on restaurants to feed my constant craving for comfort food like Mom’s.

Here are four Taiwanese restaurants in the Seattle area that satisfy.

Rocking Wok, 4301 Interlake Ave N., Seattle.

My go-to spot is Rocking Wok.

At this small Taiwanese restaurant, hidden in residential Wallingford, it’s all about the food. And it’s hard to go wrong with anything on Rocking Wok’s menu. Try the Thousand-Layer Pancake, Wonton in Chili Sauce and hand-shaved noodles.

Ask about the vegetable options. My recommendation is the water spinach, if it’s available. Otherwise order the Taiwanese lettuce, listed on the menu as “A” vegetable.

During the school year, you’ll find many Asian and Asian American University of Washington students here. Attracted by the quality of the food, they make the drive out to Wallingford even though there are many walking-distance Chinese options much closer to campus. The student-friendly prices don’t hurt.

Facing East, 1075 Bellevue Way N.E. #B2, Bellevue

If you’re on the Eastside, head to Facing East for traditional Taiwanese food.

This restaurant, in the Belgate Plaza strip mall, is known for its Taiwanese Pork Burger. The braised pork belly melts in your mouth as the chopped peanuts, sweet hot sauce, cilantro, sour cabbage and soft white steamed bun combine to create a flavor and texture worth the wait to get in.

Another specialty, the savory Beef Noodle Soup comes with fresh sliced hot red peppers and cilantro.

For dessert, sample the shaved ice, which looks like snow and is drizzled with condensed milk and topped with ingredients such as red bean, green bean or seasonal fresh fruit.

Taiwanese Pork Burger is a specialty at Facing East. (Photo by Judy Chia Hui Hsu)
Taiwanese Pork Burger is a specialty at Facing East. (Photo by Judy Chia Hui Hsu)

Boiling Point, 1075 Bellevue Way N.E. #B4, Bellevue; 16118 N.E. 87th St., Redmond; 610 5th Ave. S., Seattle; 22001 Hwy 99, #100 Edmonds

Occupying the same strip mall as Facing East, Boiling Point specializes in Taiwan-style hot pot, a variety of meat and vegetables in a steaming broth, served in personal units and heated by an alcohol-gel-fueled fire.

Boiling Point is filled with the scent of stinky tofu — a fermented Taiwanese delicacy. The House Special Hot Soup, a spicy (ma la) hot pot dish, comes with traditional ingredients including stinky tofu and tender pork intestines.

Less adventurous diners can choose the Tomato Veggie Hot Soup or the Beef Hot Soup.

Customers cook their own add-ons at their own seats, from raw sliced beef to vermicelli, by immersing them into the simmering pot that’s placed on their tables.

Along with the restaurant in Bellevue, the Southern California-based Boiling Point has locations in Redmond and Seattle and another that is soon to open in Edmonds.

Din Tai Fung, Lincoln Square, 700 Bellevue Way N.E. #280, Bellevue; University Village, 2621 NE 46th St., Seattle

Down the street at Lincoln Square is Taiwan-based Din Tai Fung. The restaurant has a second location at University Village in Seattle.

Din Tai Fung’s signature dish, the Xiao Long Bao (pork soup dumpling), contains a juicy soup that keeps the meat tender and bursts with flavor as you bite into it. The dumpling is meant to be dipped in shredded ginger, soy sauce and vinegar before it’s consumed.

Customers at both Din Tai Fung locations can watch a team of workers in constant motion behind windows, kneading dough and creating each fresh dumpling by hand to exacting standards.

The Sesame Xiao Long Bao, filled with sweet, black sesame paste, is a fitting dessert to end the meal.