The Food of Taiwan | Cookbook Club


I started my Taiwanese American Cookbook Club this year as a way to celebrate and explore all of the Taiwanese American cookbooks that have come out in the last few years. A cookbook club is a potluck, where all attendees make and bring a dish from the featured cookbook. 

For our third cookbook club, we tried recipes from The Food of Taiwan by Cathy Erway. This was one of the earlier Taiwanese cookbooks, as it was published in 2015.

I chose to make a Brown Sugar Cake, featuring Taiwanese brown sugar, which I’ve learned is made of pure concentrated sugarcane juice without removing the molasses, so it’s different from American brown sugar, which is refined white sugar with molasses added back in. Taiwanese brown sugar has also been made famous by boba places like Tiger Sugar.

Frying up some shallots; starting work on Alex’s dish, Red-Braised Pork Belly.

We also made some Crab Fried Rice.

Cassie made a delicious, Zha Jiang Mian.

We thought there would be more folks attending, but due to some last-minute drop-outs, it was just us and the Valentes, haha. Well, this was just a really elaborate way to have a home-cooked meal with our faves, but luckily we love a good family meal with the Valentes!

The final dishes! Red-Braised Pork Belly; Crab Fried Rice;


Zha Jiang Mian (before and after mixing);


And my steamed Brown Sugar Cake, which was unfortunately uncooked and hollow in the center. The ends were good though!

And of course, we followed it up with a game of mahjong, featuring our new-old set we found in Miami.

Overall, our impressions of Cathy Erway’s The Food of Taiwan were mixed. 

Many recipes lack pictures, which may have helped in my case for instance– perhaps seeing the expected steamer and loaf pan setup could have helped my cake come out cooked instead of half cooked? Or perhaps the time estimate was just very off (I cooked it for about 1.5 the recommended time and it was still slightly under in the end).

The measurements also seemed quite off in some recipes. Cassie’s Zha Jiang Mian called for probably twice as much liquid as needed, and our friend who didn’t end up coming in the end also texted to let us know the Three Cup Chicken was way too salty when she made it.

Still, I love that this cookbook exists, and it covers a lot of familiar Taiwanese dishes. It was also one of the earliest Taiwanese cookbooks in America, so hooray for the pioneering work!

It’s been a joy to get to try so many different cookbooks! And we still have many more to go. Message me directly if you’re interested in joining a future  Taiwanese American Cookbook Club!

Anna Wu is a wedding and portrait photographer based in San Francisco. She compulsively documents and blogs all of her daily adventures. Follow her on instagram and view more of her professional work at