The Taiwanese Kitchen Appliance Icon That Made Its Way Stateside

The do-it-all Tatung Electric Cooker has been a kitchen staple since the 1960s, but only this year has it made its way to the U.S. through a sole distributor of the original colors in Brooklyn.

Price and stock could change after publish date, and we may make money off these affiliate links. Learn more.
November 11, 2022
By: Patty Lee

Photo by: Alistair Matthews/Photo courtesy of Yun Hai Taiwanese Pantry

Alistair Matthews/Photo courtesy of Yun Hai Taiwanese Pantry

It’s as versatile as the Instant Pot and as treasured as a cast-iron pan, with a cult following that rivals that of the air fryer. But until recently, American home cooks would have had quite a hard time finding Taiwan’s famed Tatung Electric Cooker, even at their local Asian supermarket or on Amazon. That changed earlier this year when Yun Hai, an online Taiwanese pantry shop with a brick-and-mortar in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, became the sole U.S. distributor of the appliance. To the surprise of co-founders Lisa Cheng Smith and Lillian Lin, the appliance sold out in less than a week when it launched this summer.

“We thought it would last us through Chinese New Year and it basically lasted four days in August,” says Smith.

But luckily, for a limited time only, the cooker is now back in stock. Whether it’s been on your wishlist for a while, or you’re curious to try it out for yourself, here’s all you need to know before making a special spot for it in your kitchen.

Photo by: Robert Bredvad/Photo courtesy of Yun Hai Taiwanese Pantry

Robert Bredvad/Photo courtesy of Yun Hai Taiwanese Pantry

So, What Exactly Is the Tatung Electric Cooker?

A ubiquitous sight in Taiwanese kitchens, the Tatung Electric Cooker was introduced in the 1960s by its namesake manufacturer and marketed to home cooks as an all-in-one appliance that was simple to use. The dian guo, which translates to electric pot, is more than just a rice cooker — it can steam, reheat, braise and even make popcorn. This versatility made it a beloved addition to not just homes, but dorm rooms. College students would often bring one with them to university not just in Taiwan, but around the world. As Taiwanese immigrants made their way to other countries, so too did their dian guo.

“I’d say most Taiwanese people have had a Tatung Dian Guo at some point or seen it at some point in their lives,” says Lin, a New Yorker who grew up in Taiwan. “Our grandma uses it, your mom uses it, you go to restaurants around the country and you see it everywhere. And I think it’s something that has accompanied the journey of a Taiwanese person’s life and been a tool that has fed them growing up.”

Despite its popularity in Taiwan, the Tatung Electric Cooker wasn’t readily available stateside and most content related to it was in Chinese, making it difficult for those who didn’t understand the language to learn the pot’s ins and outs.

“We’re trying to reach new audiences or reintroduce it to people who know a little about it, but could learn more,” says Smith. “We really wanted to recontextualize the appliance for the American audience.”

What Can You Make in a Tatung Electric Cooker?

As part of Yun Hai’s mission to make the Tatung pot more accessible to American cooks, Smith developed 10 recipes that were bundled together with an FAQ and tips and tricks as part of the Tatung Yun Hai Family Cookbook. Her goal was to showcase the dian guo’s versatility. While many may use it simply as a rice cooker, there’s far more that can be done, ranging from savory dishes like steamed fish, classic Taiwanese lu rou fan (braised pork over rice) and congee to sweets, such as a black sugar cake that Smith is particularly proud of.

“It was really exciting to do a yeasted cake that was quite technical in the steamer and it was cool to be able to develop something that was specifically for the cooker, too,” she says. “​​Any kind of steamed baked good, you can do in the Tatung steamer, which you cannot do in an Instant Pot or a normal rice cooker.”

How Does a Tatung Electric Cooker Work?

Made of two pieces — an aluminum outer pot and stainless-steel inner pot — the Tatung cooker functions quite simply: Add water to the larger pot and nestle in the smaller one filled with whatever you’re planning to cook. The cooker maintains a relatively low and steady temperature and the resulting indirect steam will cook the food. Once water runs out, the dian guo automatically stops so there’s no worry of the pot scorching. Unlike many of the multi-cookers on the market with numerous buttons, settings and dials, the Tatung Electric Cooker comes with a single on-off switch and unlike rice cookers, you can open the dian guo mid-way to add water if needed.

“The simplicity of how to use it and the versatility is what makes it so iconic and nostalgic and essential,” says Lin.

Related Content:

Next Up

The Best Microwaves on Amazon, According to Shoppers

Microwaves are one of the most useful appliances you can use in the kitchen, and these Amazon shoppers agree.

8 Best Espresso Machines of 2024, Tested and Reviewed

We put 15 top-rated machines to the test to determine which espresso machines pull the perfect shot.

6 Best Ice Cream Makers of 2024, Tested and Reviewed

We churned out dozens of pints to find the best at-home ice cream makers.

20 Small Kitchen Appliances on Amazon That Shoppers Swear By

Discover the best small appliances, from air fryers to coffeemakers, that customers and Food Network Shopping Experts rave about.

Your Favorite Whipped Coffee Is Also a Delicious Ice Cream Flavor

It’s dalgona coffee’s more luscious cousin.

7 Things Food Network Editors Were Obsessed With in February

These are the products we couldn’t get enough of.

Where to Buy the Pioneer Woman's Instant Pot Online

Though many designs are sold out at Walmart, you can find refurbished models and other products online.

All About the Blackstone Griddle That Everyone on TikTok Is Obsessed With

It can make Philly cheesesteaks, a breakfast feast and much, much more.

Perdue Launches Wings Made Specifically for Air Fryers

What makes them different from other frozen wings?

What's New