Ba-wan is known as the Taiwanese meatball
The two main kinds of ba-wan are the Northern style and Southern Style
Sauces come in pink and white
Ba-wan, also known as the Taiwanese meatball, is a specialty food found in most night markets. It includes meat and bamboo packed in gelatinous starch made with rice flour and sweet potato. There are two main kinds of ba-wan: the Northern style, which consists of a fried variety, and the Southern style, in which the dumpling is steamed and contains a special ingredient – shrimp.
Like the ba-wan itself, there are two kinds of sauces, which are usually pink and white. The pink sauce is mostly made with soy-sauce and monascus (a type of fungus) and it tastes salty. The white sauce is mostly made with rice and has a sweet taste. Northern style ba-wan uses the pink sauce, whereas Southern style ba-wan uses white sauce.
To figure out all these differences and more, I went to three different ba-wan restaurants. There were two kinds of ba-wan that I was more familiar with, (the Northern style), but I hadn’t eaten a Southern styled ba-wan before, so I was curious about it. I’ve learned a lot about this specialty dish, so let me break it down for you.
Tonghua Ba-Wan was first opened in 1965 by a little old grandma. It started as a simple food cart, and now it has its own store. The ba-wan in this store is the Northern style, specifically from Zhang Hua (彰化). Aside from ba-wan, they still have food like noodles and soup for people that don’t feel full after eating a ba-wan. The starch used to pack the ba-wan together is too thick, which makes eating it very tiring. The ba-wan is also very simple, it does not have a lot of special ingredients in it, making it a bit too plain for my tastes. The sauce for the ba-wan is both salty and sweet, but brings out the flavor of the pork. Overall, the ba-wan tastes fine, but if you accidentally eat all the pork at once, the rest of the ba-wan won’t taste that good.
This restaurant is located around the Songshan (松山) MRT station, making it a convenient spot. Ba-wan and pork balls are the most famous dish in this restaurant. This ba-wan is also a Northern kind, specifically from Beidou(北斗). Different from the Zhang Hua ba-wan, it is not completely fried, and the texture is somewhere between a steamed and a fried meatball. The ingredients are also plain and simple, but the starch isn’t too dense, so the taste is well-balanced. The texture and look of the interior is like a traditional meatball, so it doesn’t really taste especially unique compared to other kinds of ba-wan.
This ba-wan is from Kaohsiung, the Southern part of Taiwan, making it different from both of the ba-wan above. The main difference in the texture of this ba-wan is that the starch is much softer. Even though the starch tastes different, the inside of the ba-wan is mostly the same. The sauce of the ba-wan is also very different, in that it has the taste of soy sauce, so that overall this ba-wan has a lighter taste compared to the others.
After eating all those ba-wans, I found out every ba-wan is unique. Overall, I liked the Tonghua Ba-Wan the most, but the other two are almost as delicious. Whether you have not eaten any ba-wan before, or you are familiar with it, these three places are all recommended for you when you want a warm, tasty snack.