For those in the know, Taiwan is a culinary paradise.
The island is mostly known for its numerous mountains, as a producer of semiconductors and computer parts, and for its tenuous relationship with Mother China. However, after a short stay in Taiwan, you will be hooked on the food!
Locals and visitors who have spent time on the island will have lots to say on the topic of Taiwanese food.
What makes food in Taiwan so good?
Food in Taiwan is cheap and delicious. It is also super convenient as well with restaurants and street vendors (seemingly) outnumbering the population! The glut of food options available is comparable to the dense clusters of convenience stores in Taiwan.
Taiwanese food has been largely influenced by the surrounding regions of Southern China and Japan. Over time it has come to take on its own flavor with culinary treats that are uniquely Taiwanese.
There are many great restaurants in Taiwan that offer flavors from around the world. However, most Taiwanese delicacies can be found at any of the numerous night markets that dominate Taiwan’s nightlife. It’s here that locals and visitors come together to experience the beauty of food in Taiwan.
The Best Taiwanese Food
The food choices listed here are things that most foreigners will enjoy. There are numerous local delicacies that are worth a shot, like stinky tofu, but they will be too exotic for most! Check out this post if you’re interested in seeing Taiwanese food of the more exotic variety.
1 – Beef Noodle Soup (牛肉麵)
It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of Niu Roa Mian (Beef Noodle Soup). A large bowl, with hand sliced noodles and savory beef, should cost around $4-5. Most shops sell the soup in two varieties – beef broth, or tomato broth. Both are equally delicious so why not try both!
2 – Oyster Omelet (蚵仔煎)
This typical Taiwanese dish took a while to grow on me (I’m not big on shellfish). After some time I began to appreciate the distinct taste, and stickiness, of the Oyster Omelet. The best way to enjoy it is to scout around the nearest night market. The omelet isn’t folded over with fillings inside, as it is in the west. Rather, the eggs are mixed with oysters and tapioca, then fried to resemble a pancake. The result is a deliciously hot and chewy snack.
3 – Taiwanese Sausages (大腸包小腸)
Literally translated small sausage in a big sausage. This is a delicious and filling night market treat. You can find vendors at every market selling grilled sausages which are stuffed into a larger sticky rice sausage. The sausage will often be filled with garlic, pickle relish, and a variety of other flavors depending on the vendor.
4 – Braised Pork Rice (/爌肉飯)
Braised pork rice is not something visitors would normally go for – but it’s certainly worth a try! The dish starts off simply, a small bowl of sticky white rice. The bowl is topped with braised pork, typically pork stomach or fatty meat, to create a delicious, savory meal.
5 – Bubble Milk Tea (珍珠奶茶)
No list of ‘Food in Taiwan’ would be complete without Taiwan’s most famous drink! Since its creation in the 1980’s bubble tea has grown in popularity and can now be found in many countries around the world. I have personally ordered bubble tea in over 10 countries throughout Asia, Oceania, and North America! Another great thing about bubble tea in Taiwan is the price. At only $1.50 – $2.00 it’s a real bargain when compared to the $5-6 you will pay overseas! Tea shops in Taiwan can be found on every corner. They offer lots additions such as pudding and grass jelly. Feel free to experiment with different combinations to find the one you like best! (Just never order a hot pudding milk tea, I’ve suffered so you don’t have to!)
6 – Gua Bao (刈包)
Another great snack that can be found around Taiwan is the Gua Bao. It is a steamed bun that is stuffed with peanut powder, pickled veggies, and your choice of braised pork. Shops typically offer 3 varieties – fatty meat, lean meat, and 50% fat/lean. I highly prefer the lean meat variety. Think of it as a Taiwanese hamburger!
7 – Salty Fried Chicken (鹽酥雞)
Xian Su Ji – a must try when you visit the night market! It is basically popcorn chicken that is deep fried and then topped with seasoning, spices, and fresh garlic. What’s not to love? When vendors ask you how spicy you want your popcorn chicken it’s best to ask for a little bit of pepper as even a little bit of seasoning will pack quite a punch! One bag will range in price from $1.50 – $2.50, quite a bargain!
8 – Egg Crepe Roll (蛋餅)
One of the best things to do in the morning is wake up and grab a dan bing from the local breakfast shop. These egg crepes come stuffed with endless combinations of meat, vegetables, and cheese.
- Bacon Egg Crepe Roll
- Cheese and Corn Egg Crepe Roll
Want a taste of Taiwan but live abroad? Check out this post on how to make dan bing at home!
9 – Pineapple Cake (鳳梨酥)
This is one of Taiwan’s most famous desserts. They are small pastries filled with pineapple jam which ranges from sweet to tart. Pineapple cakes are also common gifts for friends and family back home. Tourists leaving Taiwan can often be seen carrying large bags of Chia Te pineapple cakes (arguably the most popular brand) around the Taoyuan Airport. Visit the Chia Te website to see their full flavor listings.
My personal favorite is the Sunny Hills bakery. They are not as sweet as Chia Te’s and provide a more savory experience. They also offer cake tastings at their Taipei location for those who are still undecided.
10 – Snow Ice / Shaved Ice (刨冰)
We have saved the best for last! When you order shaved ice you will be served a large plate of ice chips drenched in your choice of toppings. I prefer to order Snow Ice, which has a consistency closer to ice cream. You will still have the same wide variety of toppings to choose from. My favorites are fresh strawberries and/or mangos with condensed milk. Quite a treat on a hot day!
What do you think?
Have you ever tried this food in Taiwan? We would love to hear what you thought! Was there anything you loved, or anything you couldn’t stand?
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