Taiwanese Meatballs in Tainan

Did you know that one of the famous ‘snack foods’ (小吃 — xiao chi) in Taiwan is its meatballs?  I’m talking about Taiwan, not Sweden!  Actually, the meat balls here are a bit different to what you would expect.  They are really a type of unformed steamed dumpling filled with pork — referred to as ‘rou yuan’ (肉圓 — literally ‘meat balls’) in Mandarin.

Taiwanese meatballs: rouyuan

In Tainan, Chien-Kuo Taiwanese Meatballs are famous for their prawn meat balls (蝦仁肉圓 –xia ren rou yuan).  They are more meat than prawn, but the addition of seafood gives them a bit of a lift.  I like ‘rou yuan’, but if they are not done well they can be stodgy and gluggy.  But not here: the dumpling ‘skin’ is silky smooth, and the filling is tasty without being too overpowering.  It is also perfectly complemented by the tangy ‘gravy’ on top: not quite thousand-island-dressing, not quite sweet and sour, not quite gravox, it has a taste all of its own.  And it is even nicer augmented by a bit of wasabi. 

Prawn meatballs

Several rouyuan being cooked in the steamer

Chien-Kuo Taiwanese Meatballs is a Tainan institution, which has been serving up rouyuan for over eighty years.  It is located at No 45 Minquan Road (建國蝦仁肉圓, 台南市民權路一段), phone (06) 224 6608.

View of the shopfront at Chien-Kuo Taiwanese Meatballs

If you have trouble finding the restaurant, it is directly opposite a small cinema.  Actually, the Chien-Kuo Cinema is quite famous because at one time it was the only porno cinema in town.  It is just a normal cinema now, albeit a small one.

The Chien Kuo Cinema, opposite Chien-Kuo Taiwanese Meatballs

After eating the Taiwanese meatballs, it is worth stopping to check out the shop next door.  It sells all sorts of traditional cane products, including hats, baskets and furniture.  We bought a small cane bikeseat.  It worked sort of okay.  My favourite, though, is the cane rice sifter which was decorated for use in weddings. 

Chien-Kuo Cane Shop, stocking traditional Taiwanese cane furniture and other items

Ceremonial rice sifter, used in weddings

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About taiwanxifu

‘Taiwanxifu’ (pronounced ‘shee foo’) means ‘Taiwan daughter-in-law’ in Chinese and has been my nickname ever since I married my Taiwanese husband, Sam. I love sampling Taiwanese food, even local specialties such as stinky tofu, pigs blood cake and Taipei beef noodle soup with offal. But there are many other options on the menu. Promise!
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8 Responses to Taiwanese Meatballs in Tainan

  1. another great entry – are you going to do a recipe

    best wishes


    • Taiwanxifu says:

      Oh, I should! I just did a list this morning of possible ideas for posts and came up with 14 (not including a recipe for rouyuan), but I am sure I will get through the important things eventually.

  2. Chi-ping says:


    • Taiwanxifu says:

      [Translation: Tainan snack foods are just too famous, but suprisingly I still haven’t been there.]

      Chi-ping, you should take Jim on an eating tour of Taiwan. I’m sure he would love to try some traditional Tainan snack foods, and check out some of the temples.

  3. Peta says:

    That food looks absolutely amazing, my mouth is watering just looking at the pictures.
    I’m very jealous.

    • Taiwanxifu says:

      Yes, these rouyuan were fantastic! The food in Taiwan is amazing, and quite varied. But I do sometimes miss the multcultural fusion that we have in Australia. I guess you can’t have everything.

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