How Taiwan's Pizza Hut Comes Up With Its Controversial Pizza Toppings

It's the restaurant chain responsible for the most unusual and the most bizarre flavors to hit the pizza world so far. Those include a cilantro century egg pig blood pizza; one made with black garlic-flavored curry sauce, tonkatsu, and mashed potato, per Taiwan News, as well as a Fire Spicy Hotpot Pizza topped with "meatballs, brisket, tendon, shank, honeycomb, tripe, and ... cheese," per Hypebeast. Then of course, who can forget the cheese, mango, and durian pizza?

Pizza Hut Taiwan is on fire when it comes to serving pies that make demands of your imagination. And its general manager, Antony Leung, says there's a very specific reason for that. He told Taiwan Business Topics, "Taiwan is a crazy food market, and people are enthusiastic about food here. It's also a digitally savvy market — on average, people in Taiwan spend more than eight hours per day on their phones, which is at least one hour more than the global average. That's why we started looking at the social-digital sphere to understand our consumers via social listening."

And what they discovered inspired them to go down a culinary rabbit hole. 

Pizza Hut Taiwan's team went to night markets for inspiration

As Pizza Hut Taiwan general manager Antony Leung said to Taiwan Business Topics: "We found that local ingredients are the best driver for social buzz here, so we made use of big data to research the most searched-for local ingredients. We then put those ingredients on a table and asked ourselves, 'can we match this with our pizza?'" Still, Leung admitted that not all of its unusual flavor combinations have been successes. "Of course, not all ingredients work, so we work with a 'fail fast, learn fast' mindset. That's how the stinky-tofu and bubble-tea pizzas were born," he told the outlet.

From there, Leung says, it was about looking at ingredients that the local market loved to consume, before the chain sought to push the envelope with potential add-ins such as coriander, which Leung admits would either be accepted or disliked. That method also inspired one of the chain's oddest combinations to date: "... a team member said they went to the night market and saw someone pair Oreos with popcorn chicken, we asked, "can we put it on pizza?" We ended up adding tempura and fried squid rings to the flaming popcorn chicken and Oreo cookies, and the pizza went viral."

If anything, Pizza Hut Taiwan has scored reams of publicity for its creations, which one critic described on Twitter as being "...more offensive to Italians than burning an Italian flag."