Taiwanese Beer Houses

If you're visiting Taiwan on business and your local business partners take you out for dinner, it's very likely they'll take you to some famous, expensive restaurant, in a prestigious location like Taipei 101. Even if you are here visiting friends, it's still likely they'll take you to some clean, well-staffed restaurants for dinner. Possibly your host will even take you to a western-style restaurant, even though you're in Asia.

The strange thing is: for many local people, these are not restaurants they usually go to every day, they're not the places they feel most relaxed, they're not where people go for fun. People take guests to these restaurants for one main reason: face. They want to show respect for their visitor (giving their visitor face), and avoid losing face themselves. So they do this by spending a lot of money and taking them to a place that looks good. They may also be afraid that foreign visitors will not feel comfortable in a more 'local' restaurant. To them, it's a way of showing the visitor that they value the relationship, and of avoiding any unforeseen problems.

This is a sad truth about being a foreign visitor in Taiwan: the more respected you are, the less fun you will have. If you are too important, then your fate will be an endless series of stiff and formal round table dinners, eating rare and strange animals with people in suits who cannot relax.

For many local people, a place they can go to relax and really have fun (when they're not entertaining foreign visitors), is a Taiwanese beer house, beer garden or cheap stir fry restaurant. Unfortunately, many of them would never dream of bringing their important foreign guests along, because they would feel embarrassed to let their guests see such a 'low quality' restaurant, and they would think they are losing face.

What is a Taiwanese beer house?

In Western culture, at the end of the working day office workers will often unwind with a drink in a local bar. In Japan, people might spend their evening in the Izakaya, eating some food and drinking after work.

In Taiwan, in the end of a day of work, people like to enjoy themselves in the stir-fried restaurants. The function is very similar to a beer house in western culture. In mandarin Chinese, they are called 熱炒 (pronounced Rer Chow) which means literally 'hot stir-fried', or sometimes 快炒 (quick fried, pronounced Kw-eye Chow).

Stir-fried food and beer drinking used to be part of blue collar working culture, when most Taiwanese were still doing hard physical work in farms and factories. But now Taiwan has more of a service-oriented high tech economy, office workers in their white shirts or high heels have continued the tradition, and often relax after work in these sort of restaurants.

What do people eat in a Taiwanese beer house?

Food in the stir-fried restaurants usually has a very strong taste, for example: three cup chicken or stir-fried garlic and basil clams. People like to drink beer to balance this type of strong tasting food, and it also seems to be a good way of balancing out the hard work of the day. Imagine, when many people worked in factories in Taiwan, the best drink to relax after getting out of that hot and dusty place would be a bottle of cool beer.

These restaurants usually open from 5pm to 2am. Some have a menu, and some do not, but in any case, there will be many dishes they can make which are not shown on the menu due to lack of space.

Food in the stir-fried restaurants is always served very fast, usually it takes no more than 10 minutes for the dishes to start appearing on the table (as fast as 2 or 3 minutes sometimes). By using very high heat and very fast cooking, the food is not overcooked, fish and meat are still tender, vegetables are still crunchy and green.

Basic ingredients are seafood, pork, chicken, beef, and all kind of vegetables. The meat is stir-fried with different sauces, vegetables are very commonly simply cooking with garlic. Sometimes fish is steamed.

How much does it cost to eat in a Taiwanese beer house?

Food in these stir-fry restaurants is always affordable. Most vegetable dishes cost under NT$150, most of seafood dishes are under NT$300, the fish is usually priced mainly by weight. Usually a table of four people, with four to five dishes and beer will cost about NT$1,200 to NT$1,500.


What can you order in Taiwanese beer houses?

Click here to open a menu of many popular dishes that you can print out to take with you, so you can point to what you want. It's in English and Chinese.

And here's a shorter list of some popular dishes with Chinese translation next to the name

Three cups chicken 三杯雞 - Other three cups style dishes: squid 三杯花枝, tofu 三杯豆腐, oyster mushroom 三杯杏包菇, and eggplant 三杯茄子

Steamed fish, with black beans 黑豆蒸魚, or with picked tree seeds 破布子蒸魚

Stir-fried clam with basil 炒海瓜子與九層塔

Stir-fried noodles 炒麵

Stir-fried rice 炒飯

Blanched oysters with black bean and garlic sauce 拌黑豆蒜泥牡蠣

Deep fried oyster with salt and pepper 鹽酥牡蠣

Stir-fried vegetables 炒青菜, such as: cabbage 高麗菜, sweet potato leaves 地瓜葉, hollow leaves 空心菜, bitter melon 苦瓜, sponge melon 絲瓜

Hot pan beef 鐵板牛肉, oyster 鐵板牡蠣, squid 鐵板花枝, or tofu鐵板豆腐.

Sweet and sour fish 糖醋魚, ribs糖醋排骨, and tofu糖醋豆腐.

Stir-fried beef with Barbecue sauce 沙茶牛肉

How to find those Taiwanese beer houses?

Taiwanese beer houses are actually in most of the night markets, and on most of the main roads -- apart from the biggest main roads of center Taipei, where the rent is too high to run this sort of business. You will see the food is displayed in a glass-fronted fridge, or on ice cubes. If you are not sure how to order, just point at the food: seafood, meat, vegetables, the shop will simply stir-fry them for you.

Usually when you walk past the Taiwanese beer house, you will see people sitting on the outdoor tables with many hot dishes and bottles of beer on the table. The guests very often talk freely and can be loud, the atmosphere is very lively and exciting.

If you look out for the restaurant sign, they are called 熱炒 (pronounced Rer Chow) which means literally 'hot stir-fried', or sometimes 快炒 (quick fried, pronounced Kw-eye Chow). Anyway, if you just learn to recognize the character, 'Chow', which means fried, you can find them quite easily. You will often see a number on the sign, such as '100' which indicates that many basic dishes are NT$100.

Ordering something delicious to eat in a beer house is not really difficult, even if you don't speak Chinese or Taiwanese. But if you think that ordering in these sort of restaurants is still too difficult, then this restaurant has staff who speak English, so it might be a good start.

Name: Alex Stir-fried
Tel: 0983-366-452

And, the restaurant chain Chingye 青葉台式料理 has a good reputation for serving authentic Taiwanese stir-fried dishes, many of them are in the shopping malls. They have an English menu. So you could use them as an introduction to Taiwanese beer house culture. This is their website: http://www.aoba.com.tw/chingye/menu.html

and another similar restaurant is Shinyeh 欣葉 - http://www.shinyeh.com.tw/index.php

So, now you know the secret of relaxing in Taiwan. Have fun!

Photos by Joyce Tay, Yuzuki, and Jodie's Kitchen


My fave food now. This for me

My fave food now. This for me is proper weekend fodder. Walking back after work stopping at the nearest stir fry and some nice Kung Pao chicken and clams...all with a cold Japanese or Taiwan beer.

I always suffer from those

I always suffer from those formal meals as I travel around China for business.
I also live in Taipei, love the 're chao' places...most fun and best food to be had of an evening!

Make a comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options