When I was growing up, an excursion to "The Chinese Restaurant" was a rare and wonderful treat. My taste buds were piqued by exotic and interesting flavors, and with mysterious ingredients. My father, a confirmed meat and potatoes guy, would always order General Tso's Chicken -- something about the deep fried element of the dish appealed to him so strongly that the waiter took to skipping him entirely when it came time to order, writing the dish with confidence on his order pad. My mother, my sister and I, however, were keen to experiment, and, as a result, often had dishes we'd never even dreamed of, mostly with great success.
Nowadays, ethnic restaurants are all around us, and we have learned to discriminate between Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese cuisine. We have even learned that there are vast differences in the regional cuisines of China, such as knowing that the province of Szechuan is generally known for spicy dishes.
Taiwan has a cuisine all its own, and while the Chinese government does not like to think of it as a different world from the mainland, the food says differently. Here in Boulder, we have a wonderful little spot called Zo Ma Ma which specializes in the food of Taiwan, and does it beautifully. Small, with only a few tables inside with signs on them encouraging people to share, and a few more seats at the sidewalk bar outside, the kitchen cranks out food with the speed of a flying tiger. The line leading up to the cash register steadily builds at both lunch and dinner, and the expeditor calls out names with an increase in tempo to keep up.
They don't have an extensive menu. They clearly believe in doing a few things right. And right they are. All 5 items on their 'Dim Sum' menu are first rate. For main courses, there are 6 rice/noodle dishes to choose from, and then the daily specials with decidedly exotic sounding names and flavor profiles to match. I've been there so many times I've lost count, and, in looking over the menu, realize that I've tried about 3/4 of the food they have to offer. I love picking up my steaming bowl of Za Jing Mian (noodles with pork and veggies) and doctoring it up with a few of the sauces available for the adventurous. If I'm not as hungry, a Zong Zi (rice and pork steamed in a banana leaf) does the trick, especially if paired with a few of their dumplings. They even have a chicken salad which, for less adventurous palates, bridges the gap between American sedate and 'ethnic' very successfully.
Whatever your hunger level, know that you'll be treated to wonderful soups and rice or noodle bowls teeming with deep, satisfying flavors. A warning, though: while there are only a few vegetarian options on the menu, the rest of the fare is heavily meat-centric, so if you're inclined to stick with more of a plant-based diet, be prepared for a limited, although delicious, selection.