Whether you’re heading to Taiwan for the first time, or a seasoned traveler, you may be looking for the best foods to try during your visit. With so many options, even the most knowledgeable foodie can have trouble deciding what to try first. If you are visiting Taiwan for the first time, be sure to check out our Guide for First-Timers to Taiwan.
There are countless options and regions to discover when visiting Taiwan. Taipei is popular because it’s so easy to get around in the city. The metro system is top-notch here and if you’re planning on being in Taipei for any length of time, it may be most economical to get a transportation discount card. The Easy Card is simple to get, or you can just pay for with cash or credit card. However you decide to proceed, you’re going to want to have an easy way of getting around. Be sure to add Taiwan to your travel bucket list if you haven’t already.
Food in Taiwan is fairly inexpensive and delicious. There are more Western options like pizza and hamburgers of course, but you’ll find they’re quite a bit more expensive so it’s often better to be adventurous and try the Taiwanese options and expand your horizons. Taiwan has no set national dish, rather there are street snacks that have become staples for locals and tourists alike.
These small dishes offer a bounty of flavors, textures, and variety. It’s the contrast of sweet in savory foods or salt in sweet foods that make food in Taiwan one-of-a-kind. The following are over twenty of the best foods to try in Taiwan that offer variety and flavor contrast you’re sure to love.
Best Breakfast Street Foods in Taiwan
Starting your day off right on your Taiwanese food adventure is easy as there are countless breakfast options to be had. The best breakfast foods in Taiwan incorporate the familiar salty-sweet that the region is known for. A classic Taiwanese breakfast is You-Tio with Xian Dou-Jiang, this is a salty deep-fried dough that is served alongside a savory soy milk broth topped with pork shavings and a splash of vinegar. The vinegar splash curdles the soy milk to make a surprisingly pleasing soup texture.
While simple sweetened soy milk is a classic Taiwanese breakfast drink, almond egg tea is also a popular option. It’s creamy and thick nutty taste can be served with or without raw egg yolk, depending upon how adventurous you are.
If you’re looking for a hearty breakfast, Tong Zai Mi Gao is just the ticket. You’ll find stalls everywhere in Taipei and beyond serving this steamed rice cake topped with braised pork and a sweet and tangy red sauce.
Best Night Market Traditional Foods to Try in Taiwan
Night Markets in Taiwan are a popular evening destination for foodies looking for something new to try, families having dinner together, friends catching up after a day at work or just tourists perusing and people watching. You truly can’t go wrong when choosing one, each has its vibe and feel, it’s just a matter of exploring and finding your favorite.
There are several night markets on the island that are worth a visit. The Feng Cha Night Market is popular with college students and is an affordable option in Taichung. The Shilin Night Market most famous and popular in Taipei while Raohe Night Market is one of the oldest in Taiwan. The Miaokou Night Market is another great choice.
Some of the staples of the island include bubble tea. Bubble tea includes a variety of flavors of milk and sugar interspersed with boba pearls or tapioca balls. Often bubble tea or boba tea is served frozen or blended. It includes a wide range of flavors like black pearl milk tea. Another must-try staple is night market fried chicken, which can be found at many stalls within each night market. For the best night market food item in Taiwan for less adventurous eaters, the fried qual eggs are a must-try. They’re a delicious but familiar option if you happen to be traveling with someone a bit picky.
Tawainese Specialty Night Market Foods You Shouldn’t Miss
Candied tomatoes on a stick are similar in preparation to what Westerners know as a candied apple. Cherry tomatoes dipped into a plum syrup and are dried to a hard crispy coating. The savory fresh tomato blends well with the sweet crunch of the candy coating.
For a refreshing beverage between all of the sampling and taste testing, you’ll be doing at the night market, be sure to grab a fresh coconut or two when you see a vendor set up on the sidewalk. They’ll drill into the coconut for you, insert a straw and send you on your way. The coconut water is a thirst-quenching, healthy option and just the thing to satisfy you on a hot day.
While it may not be the best food in Taiwan to some palates, the stinky tofu is a must-try. This fermented snack food is considered an acquired taste as many can’t seem to get past the smell. If you do happen to give it a try, be sure to go in for a second bite, it gets better after that initial bite. Another option for pickier eaters is the beef noodle soup. This will appeal to pretty much everyone that enjoys meat. The noodle soup includes braised beef with broth, vegetables, and noodles and is a comforting and welcomed dish. Finally, Lurou Fan is another one of the best food options in Taiwan for more traditional diners. This savory rice bowl is topped with sweet and salty braised pork slices; a must-try.
The Best Savory Street Foods You Must Try When Visiting Taiwan
For less adventurous eaters, there is one ideal choice, Scallion Bread. The Taiwanese refer to this like a thousand layer bread because of its appearance. Westerners may recognize this as a familiar scallion pancake but kicked up one-thousand notches! This flaky and spongy bread is filled and layered with scallions (green onions) and is quite popular.
Another standard, mild option for less adventurous eaters are Taiwanese cold sesame noodles, known as Liang Miang. This is a refreshing treat on a hot day that packs a flavorful nutty punch. Vendors serve Liang Miang with sesame sauce and sometimes a spicy peanut sauce.
The bold flavors of peanut powder and cilantro come together gloriously on the Taiwanese burger, known as Guan Bao. Street vendors serve braised pork on a bao bun. The meat has a saltiness that blends well with the pungent cilantro. Both flavors work well with the cool, creamy peanut butter. Consider pairing the Guan Bao with a betel nut snack. Betel nut is a bitter tree nut that offers up a similar mild buzz as a can of beer.
Seafood lovers will enjoy Damsui, a lightly battered concoction of deep-fried squid balls. This results in a juicy, crunchy and flavorful, hearty snack. Damsui is a delectable treat and a must-try when you’re out and about at night markets in Taipei. Another delicious savory food option in Taiwan are radish cakes; these are also sold on the street; radish cakes are deep-fried in oil and topped with a fried egg and sweet sauce. While often eaten in the new year for good luck, they can be found everywhere in Taiwan.
Delicious Taiwanese Desserts To Try That Will Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth (and more)
The unique blend of sweet and savory or spicy and salty doesn’t end at lunch or dinner. Desserts in Taiwan will include this hearty mix of tastes, flavors, and textures. When you’re visiting Taiwan, be sure to try Tang-Yuan. This is glutinous rice flour mixed with water to form balls and served with a sweet syrup, often with shaved ice. The sweet dumplings are served with a medley of red beans, aiyu jelly, taro and mochi filled with peanut or sesame paste.
If you’re in Taipai, be sure to stop into Snow King. This ice cream shop has been around for over 70 years and features more than 400 unique flavors like mung bean, date paste, wasabi, curry, sesame oil chicken and even Taiwanese beer-flavored ice cream. For the less adventurous, familiar options like apple custard or pineapple abound.
Try an ice cream burrito at Tonghua Night Market. Flour tortillas are filled with peanut brittle shavings, cilantro sprigs, and ice cream. They are then wrapped burrito-style. It’s the perfect grab and go dessert for walking and exploring at night. Shaved Ice and fruit make another appearance as a must-try Taiwanese dessert. This version is served with chunks of fruit (mango being one of the most popular) sorbet or ice cream, red beans, and taro.
Whether you’re heading out early for a sweet-savory breakfast or off to explore the bustling cities at a popular night market, you’ll find some of the best foods in Taiwan literally at your fingertips. With countless options for every palette, from adventurous to timid, there is surely something for everyone. One thing is for sure, a visit to Taiwan will yield some of the best foods you’ll likely experience throughout your travels.