Taiwan's latest culinary fad has actually been around for a long time. It is, however, being rediscovered this year with a few twists and with a little help from the recently opened doughnut shop Mister Donut.
Just arrived from Japan, the doughnut shop created a stir in Taiwan when it first opened for business, attracting both the uninitiated and long-time doughnut lovers seeking to satiate a craving. People waited for hours, despite the rain and cold weather, to get a taste of the fried confection, and came out carrying large paper shopping bags filled with doughnuts.
Just three months after Mister Donut opened its doors in Tianmu, it established another location in the East District. According to Mister Donut Taiwan public relations manager Anita Lai (賴文琦), more than 10,000 doughnuts are sold daily on average at each location. Mister Donut has even had to limit the number of doughnuts that each customer can purchase per visit and employ interns to help regulate lines and maintain order.
"After all the hype, I expected the doughnut to be incredible, like manna from heaven," one consumer joked, describing the buzz the doughnut shop was creating.
Months after it first opened its doors in Taipei, long lines have persisted outside the doughnut shop. Thomas Fu (傅恩弘), a self-professed doughnut lover, told the Taipei Times that he had stood in line for over three hours last month, almost four months after Mister Donut's grand opening in October. Fu hails from the southern city of Tainan but traveled to Taipei just to visit the doughnut shop.
Another Taipei city dweller surnamed Su (蘇) said that while he had been interested in trying Mister Donut, the incredible lines he invariably saw while passing the store always kept him away.
Its popularity seems to indicate that Mister Donut has managed to bring renewed novelty to an old favorite. Other popular chain outlets, such as Dante Coffee Shop (丹提), have already begun to jump on the trend by adding doughnuts to their menus.
But given Taiwan's history of gastronomic fickleness, is Mister Donut just the fashionable trend of the moment or if it is likely to become a more permanent fixture in Taiwan? Portuguese-style egg tarts (葡式蛋塔), bagels, cream puffs, and Hong Kong-based shaved ice chain Hui Lau Shan (許留山) all had their turn in the limelight before all but disappearing from the market.
It is perhaps useful to note that US doughnut giant Dunkin Donuts had an unsuccessful stint in Japan in the 1970s before pulling out. Despite a global presence spanning at least 30 different countries, South Korea is the only nation in East Asia that continues to boast Dunkin Donuts shops. The viability of the business in the region is questionable.
Lai said that she was confident that Mister Donut would catch on in Taiwan. She stressed that unlike other doughnut shops, Mister Donut offered breakfast pastries that were tailored to the preferences of its Asian consumers.
Perhaps confectionery offerings such as seaweed-flavored doughnuts would be written off as appealing only to the gastronomically daring, but for Mister Donut, it is perhaps the secret of its success in Taiwan. Other flavors you wouldn't find at Dunkin Donuts include red bean and peanut.
Lai explained that Mister Donut had conducted surveys to ascertain what kind of doughnuts would be most popular with consumers in Japan and Taiwan.