CHEYENNE – Owners of Cheyenne’s Destination Taiwan believe what we eat growing up becomes part of our lifelong identity, embedding itself as deeply as personal convictions and cultural norms.
When Beijing, China, native Yue Yu met Shiuan, born and raised in Taipei, Taiwan, in Cheyenne years ago, the two hit it off immediately.
Shiuan was working at a KFC as part of a foreign exchange program and, speaking Chinese herself, got to know Yu and other Pacific Rim immigrants in town.
Even when she returned to Taiwan, they remained pen pals until she traveled back to Wyoming for more professional opportunities.
In March, the two opened Destination Taiwan at 2634A Dell Range Blvd., previously home to a coffee hut near Bicycle Station.
The eatery offers traditional Taiwanese bubble tea, steamed buns and other authentic fare hand-prepared by Shiuan on site. Her culinary chops are homegrown – recipes and techniques passed down from previous generations.
“My great grandpa was a professional cook, and my grandma liked to cook, as well,” she said. “I learned to cook from my mom.”
Destination Taiwan specializes in bubble tea because of the drink’s Taiwanese roots; the frothy beverage was invented in Taichung and Tainan in the 1980s. It’s a mixture of red tea, creamer, ice and cooked tapioca pearls.
“In Taiwan, we don’t have fruit-flavored bubble tea,” Shiuan said. “So we just have the one type here.”
The two want to give locals a little diversity in dining, said Yu, who works directly with customers. They’ve even imported a machine straight from Taiwan to seal the top of the cup with plastic cellophane, allowing the tea to be shaken spill-free.
“Bubble tea is more of a Taiwanese national drink,” Yu said. “It’s getting more popular in the world, but not all of them keep it authentic. I’d call this place a cultural showcase, rather than a restaurant, because we make food with a passion, and you can taste the difference.”
They also offer sweet hot flour soup, Taiwanese blue grass herbal tea and an array of buns cooked fresh inside a bamboo steamer. Flavors include pork and leek, sweet red bean and black sesame. For a full menu, customers can visit shiuanskitchen.com.
Yu moved to Cheyenne 13 years ago amid political disagreements with his home country, and said the city continues to pleasantly surprise him.
“I know many Chinese people come here for a better living, but I’m here because I have a completely different ideology than other Chinese people,” he said. “It’s a communist country and, if you have different ideas, you can get in trouble. I love it here.”
The two plan to renovate the small hut in the future, and maybe even expand, if the endeavor is successful.
“We wanted to start here because it’s small, like Taiwan,” he said. “More importantly, though, I didn’t want to take too much of a risk, especially in the winter time. If we’re successful with this, I’d love to open a bigger space.”