Rice Bowl Cake

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  • Address:No. 179-8, Zhongshan Road, Madou District, Tainan City, 721 View on Map
Rice Bowl Cake
Rice bowl cakes, or wǎn gāo (碗糕) are an underrated Taiwanese light meal or snack that really should make their way onto everyone’s radars! It may not be as well known internationally or as popular compared with titans such as beef noodle soup, but this pudding-like delicacy is a savory treat in its own right.

碗糕  Rice Bowl Cake  (wǎn gāo)
Without any flavorings and toppings added, wǎn gāo at its simplest is just a lump of steamed rice paste formed from a mixture of rice flour and water. The wǎn, or bowl, part of its name comes from the fact that the rice paste is in the shape of an upside down bowl. It’s seemingly plain and flavorless at first, and is thick and custardy in substance like jell-o, but with a few additions, this delicacy bursts to life, in a flurry of sauces and colors. As salted chicken egg yolk slowly drips down the sides, it dyes and seeps into the once-white paste, dying it a deep brown color and allowing it to gain a rich and salty flavor. Shiitake mushrooms and slices of meaty duck or pork are then arranged neatly on top, with a fresh leaf of cilantro on the side. There’s a large range of vegetables and other toppings and seasonings that you may add to your own choosing, but aside from the staples of salt, sesame oil, soy sauce paste (it’s better to use soy sauce paste rather than normal soy sauce as the paste is thicker and has a sweeter taste) and pepper, there’s also chopped preserved radishes, garlic, diced carrots, and chili paste, to name a few. Chili paste will be guaranteed to add a good blend of spicy and sweet to the otherwise bland rice base, and its strong flavor will make it stand out from the rest. The added ingredients are then steamed so that they set into the cake better. After steaming, they are flipped upside down from their bowls so they come out rounded and perfectly shaped: just like their names!
After it’s all garnished and dressed up, let the cake cool off for a bit, and it’s time to dig in! The rice paste is usually soft and easy to sink your spoon into, however if you’re making wǎn gāo for yourself you can also choose to make the paste firmer by using less water. You can taste the plainness of the rice cake mixed with all the toppings you’ve added: the firm and meaty duck or chicken in contrast to the soft, pudding-like rice base, with a dash of salt or spiciness. But according to some, wǎn gāo also tastes a little like fried turnip cake (蘿蔔糕), just steamed instead of fried. So it’s up to you to eat some and judge for yourself!

Despite a traditional Taiwanese food item, wǎn gāo is usually not found at night markets. You’ll have to visit some specialty vendors or shops in order to try it. However, since it is not as well known outside of Taiwan, you may have difficulty finding it offered at Taiwanese restaurants abroad, which is a shame because how can anyone pass up the opportunity some something as tasty as this? While it may not be a satisfying meal alone, it’s still great for a quick eat or light snack.

Rice Bowl Cake Recipe:


Flipped from a bowl
Where can find Rice Bowl Cake

A-liang Steamed Rice Cake:
No. 326, Zhongzhan Rd, Xigang District, Tainan City, 723
A-liang’s is said to make the best rice bowl cakes in Tainan, and their cakes are hand-made as well.
Xiao Nanzheng Tainan Rice Bowl Cake (小南鄭記台南碗粿):
No. 216, Xiyuan Road, Section 1, Wanhua District, Taipei City, 108
Wu Family Rice Bowl Cake (吳碗粿之家):
No. 1, Chang’an West Road, Lane 177, Datong District, Taipei City, 103 


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