Why not enjoy a dessert with a bit more personality? — Photo courtesy of iStock / EnchantedFairy
Much has been written about Japan’s culture of cute – so much in fact that their word for the phenomena, “kawaii,” has become common. But Taiwan, their neighbors to the south, also enjoy adorable like it’s a verb.
This is particularly true when it comes to food, where sugar, fruit and savory items alike are all regularly sculpted into their most picture-perfect forms – an art that started long before Instagram. (Can’t blame everything on the gram.) From enthusiast mascots to uncanny valley edible art, to kilos and kilos of sugar, here’s where you can find Taiwan’s cutest food.
Fact: there’s literally nothing in the world as adorable as your four-legged best friend. Why else would your phone be filled with endless shots of their perfect mug? If this describes you, be sure to stop in to My Cofi in Kaohsiung City, where owner Chang Kuei-fang is happy to sculpt a perfect likeness of your best friend, using foam, chocolate and jam. (She can recreate any photo you hand her – but let’s be honest, this is a stop for doggo lovers.)
叁和院 (SANHOYAN ZhongXiao)
Taipei locals consider SANHOYAN ZhongXiao to be the best option for the cutest versions of traditional Taiwanese buns. Each of the brightly-colored, smiling faces contains a different sweet or savory filling (pork, sesame and egg custard are all popular) and can be ordered separately or as a trio.
J.C.co Art Kitchen
These hyper-realistic ice cream dogs made an internet splash about a year ago, but it’s worth mentioning again that treats from this Kaohsiung-area pastry shop are not for the faint of heart. Pick your breed and flavor: the labrador is earl grey, pugs taste like chocolate and the shar-pei reps for peanut.
Then, try not to think of real dogs as you crack its head open and enjoy. Just be sure to get there early; given how long these detailed dogs take to make, J.C.co Art Kitchen only sells 100 every day.
Need something a little less uncanny valley? Shaved ice with fruit, ice cream and syrup is a much-loved Taiwan dessert – and the perfect way to cool down on a humid summer day. Hanamiwa Sweets in Tainan takes tradition one step further by adding ears and a snout. Cool down with their matcha flavor, shaped like the goodest of all good boys.
1789 Café Pâtisserie, by Cyrille Courant
If you’re looking to celebrate the year of the pig, one of 1789 Café Pâtisserie, by Cyrille Courant’s oink-themed strawberry tarts needs to be on your list. If berry isn’t your bag, they also have a number of eclairs that what they lack in anthropomorphic goodness make up for in photo-worthy flourishes, like fresh fruit and macaroon sidecars.
OIA Oia Art Café
Sometimes it isn’t the food, but rather the company that’s so gosh darn adorable. If you’re over cats, and need something a bit cuddlier than hedgehogs, try dining with alpacas at OIA Oia Art Café in New Taipei City. Lure them to your table with a carrot or two (free with your meal) and enjoy your lunch with a side of head scratches.
Although the donut craze hasn’t hit Taiwan as hard as the U.S., you’ll still find your favorite coffee accompaniment in plenty of places. For the prettiest version, head to Tamed Fox, who transforms their pastries into a series of galaxy-like swirls, made from all-natural ingredients and dyes. (Yes, even that perfect pink glaze is the product of dragon fruit.) Does that mean they actually count as a fruit? Sure, why not.
Alice is Coming
Wait, a themed café? Given their density in the greater Taipei area, it would be wrong not to mention the most down-the-rabbit-hole one of all: Alice is Coming, a restaurant dedicated to Alice in Wonderland. The details are legion. Dine in teacups with playing cards for placemats. Nosh on heart-shaped chicken nuggets and mile-high pancakes. Or just sit back with a cup of tea and count the white rabbits. It’s dizzying, but then again, we’re all a bit mad, right?