Taiwanese food has made its glorious return to Function Junction.
Taiwan Bento opened last month after a previous iteration, Taiwanese Kitchen, had to close when a partner in the business had to back out for personal reasons. With a new partner onboard, co-owner Chia-Ling Wu is back in the Chirp Kitchen co-op space cooking the comfort foods of her native Taiwan.
“We still want to share the food and Taiwan culture,” Wu said.
The rebranding isn’t the only new element of the pick-up and delivery service. Rather than having a rotating weekly menu with one or two main dishes, Wu is sticking to a fixed menu that will change seasonally and offer a wider sampling of dishes in the bento style.
“With bento, you don’t just get rice and then one dish. With bento you have rice, two side dishes, and a main course. It’s only for $15 but you get lots of variety,” she said.
Honing in on popular Taiwanese comfort and street foods, this summer’s menu features succulent deep-fried pork cutlet, with rice and two daily side dishes.
“This you will definitely see in Taiwan, in every bento shop,” Wu said.
Another street-food favourite on offer this summer is Wu’s popcorn chicken, which, let’s just say, ain’t the Colonel’s popcorn chicken.
“When people think about popcorn chicken, they probably think about KFC. It’s really, really different,” Wu said, noting that she uses potato starch instead of cornstarch and bread crumbs, giving the chicken a light, crispy exterior. “I don’t know which part of the chicken KFC uses, but for us, we use the chicken thigh. Chicken thigh and chicken breast are a little bit different because chicken thighs have a little bit of fat on it. So we marinate it in a lot of spices overnight, and then when we deep-fry it the next day, we don’t need to put a lot of spices on it because everything is already inside the chicken.”
Then there’s the perfect dish to beat the heat: refreshing cold noodles in sesame sauce, a beloved summer dish across East Asia.
Taiwan Bento also offers a number of a-la-carte dishes, partly to keep regulars happy while they may be missing some of their favourite menu items. One such is the Taiwanese fish cake, which is quite different than the breaded fish cake you might find in the West, and in Taiwan at least—a land that loves the deep fryer—they are typically deep-fried as opposed to thrown in soups, as they would commonly be in Japan.
The time at Taiwanese Kitchen also afforded Wu the opportunity to not only hone her menu, but her business model, too. She credited Japanese sandwich maker and fellow Chirp Kitchen resident Kumo for helping her streamline her operations both in the kitchen and out.
“They are using the same kitchen and they taught me a lot of new ways to market the kitchen and also gave me some suggestions on how to make the kitchen and business operate a bit better,” Wu said.
It speaks to the camaraderie among small businesses in Function, where operators far from the bustle of the village are quick to help each other out when needed.
“Everyone is very supportive, especially in the Function Junction area,” Wu said, adding that she has struck a deal with Coast Mountain to have her food delivered and consumed at the brewery. “Function Junction is so far away but most of the local businesses are very supportive of us.”
Taiwan Bento is open for pickup and delivery on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 5 to 8 p.m. You can pre-order in advance and on the same day by calling 604-935-9035 or messaging them on their Facebook page. Deliveries over $40 are free to anywhere in Whistler.