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The Taiwanese food scene is incredibly tasty and during our recent visit we were completely blown away at how delicious Taiwan’s food is. We think it has to be one of our top foodie destinations in Asia and the abundance of incredible night markets offers visitors the opportunity to sample a wide variety of delicious (and cheap!) dishes.
Having eaten our way across many major cities, we’ve created this Taiwan food list as an introduction for first time visitors. Here are 22 examples of the best Taiwanese food that you need to eat on your next Taiwan trip:
Table of Contents
Best Taiwanese food guide
Xiao Long Bao
The Xiao Long Bao is originally from Shanghai, but is one of the most popular dishes sold in Taiwan. They are thin flour dumplings filled with a pork meatball and also a gelatinized meat stock – which melts into a rich soup broth when the dumplings are steamed in a small bamboo basket.
We tried this dish in various places all over Taiwan, but it was at the very famous chain restaurant Din Tai Fung in Taipei where we learned the correct way to eat a soup dumpling (an instruction card is provided with the dumplings).
- Add a small mixture of soy sauce, vinegar and matchsticks of ginger into your deep soup spoon
- Transfer the Xiao Long Bao dumpling onto the top of the mixture using your chopsticks
- Poke a hole into the side of the Xiao Long Bao to let the steam escape and the soup spill out and fill the spoon
- Pop the whole contents of the spoon into your mouth and enjoy! We would actually recommend slurping out the soup first before eating the dumpling to avoid burning your mouth!
Beef Noodle Soup
Beef noodle soup is THE national Taiwanese food and every year Taipei holds the International Beef Noodle Festival which is a landmark event on the city’s culinary calendar! The dish is made from a slow cooked stewed or braised beef in a rich dark broth with vegetables such as cabbage and scallions, and chewy knife cut noodles. This quintessential Taiwanese comfort food is easy to find but the most famous place to try these noodles is at Yong Kang Beef Noodle in Taipei.
This flaky and chewy scallion pancake is one of our most favourite things to eat in Taiwan and a popular Taiwanese street food. They are round savoury flatbreads cooked on a griddle, filled with ingredients such as Taiwanese basil (our favourite), egg, ham or cheese and served with a thick soy or hot sauce. The best version we found was from a street food stall halfway up Yong Kang Street in Taipei (you’ll spot the long queue of hungry locals!)
Taiwan Stinky Tofu
Hate it or love it, you will 100% encounter this Taiwan food on your travels and you will know because the stench is hard to miss. This iconic snack is made from cubes of firm tofu marinated in a brine (that usually includes dried fish, meat and fermented milk) and left for months, then deep fried or steamed to serve.
The flavour is a bit of an acquired taste – slightly sour, and apparently the worse it smells, the better it tastes (there are 13 different grades of stinky tofu). The tofu is best served deep fried so crispy on the outside and soft inside, and presented with a sweet and spicy sauce or kimchi on the side. You can try stinky tofu at one of the few restaurants across Taiwan dedicated to selling this dish, and at pretty much every single night market.
Often referred to as a “Taiwanese hamburger”, the gua bao is a popular snack that has become famous around the world. The dish consists of a soft fluffy steamed bun with hearty fillings such as braised pork belly, pickled mustard greens, peanut powder and coriander. We tried an amazing version of this dish on a Taipei food tour at the famous and award winning Lan Jia Gua Bao restaurant. The bao is served in a plastic bag so that you won’t lose any ingredients that may slip out whilst eating it.
We also tried a great gua bao from a food kiosk called BashiBao in the city of Taichung which uses pork stir fried noodles as a filling!
FURTHER READING – 10 of the best night markets in Taiwan
Pork Pepper Bun
One of the most popular Taiwanese street foods in the night markets are these small crispy pastry pockets filled with juicy minced pork that has been marinated with sugar, soy sauce, white pepper or black pepper, and scallions. Head to Raohe Night Market in Taipei and you’ll find a famous stall called Fuzhou Pepper Buns at the entrance near Songshan Temple with very long queues serving the best version of this snack (the average wait is usually around 30 minutes). Whilst you are waiting you can watch the stall holders make them from scratch and bake them to crispy perfection in a high heat cylindrical clay oven.
These iconic Taiwanese snacks are mini crumbly and buttery shortcrust cakes filled with zingy, thick and chewy pineapple jam. They are very popular with locals to buy as a gift item and are usually sold in nice presentation boxes. If you want to try some of the best pineapple cakes we recommend avoiding the ones in the convenience stores and tourist shops and heading to bakeries such as Chi Te Bakery and SunnyHills.
We visited an amazing award winning pineapple cake shop on our Taipei food tour called Kao Nuxu. The high quality treats in this family run bakery are sold in gorgeous packaging and have featured on a number of Asian food TV programmes.
This is one of the best Taiwanese street foods and can be found in almost every night market across the country. The omelette is prepared slightly differently from western omelettes because they use sweet potato starch as an ingredient, as well as using eggs, fat moist oysters, flour, bean sprouts and lettuce. The dish is usually topped with sweet hot sauce or served with some spicy chilli sauce on the side.
Taiwanese Fried Chicken
Fried chicken is one of Taiwanese people’s favourite late night snacks and can be found at many night markets stalls and fast food restaurants. Hot Star Chicken in Ximending is one of the most iconic chicken shops in Taiwan and has become a cult legend, with branches across the globe. You have to try their juicy ‘large fried chicken’ – a pounded thin piece of chicken breast which is seasoned with salt, star anise and spicy chilli powder then deep fried twice. It’s so big it is almost as the size of your head!
Peanut Ice Cream Roll
This ice cream roll is a fun and quirky Taiwanese dessert and consists of peanut candy shavings and two creamy scoops of taro ice cream wrapped in a handmade thin rice flour tortilla (like a burrito!). The stall holders usually shave a huge brick of peanut and caramel brittle right in front of you so watching this dessert being prepared is great fun.
The tastes are sweet, nutty and salty, whilst the texture is creamy and crunchy – coriander is also a strange and optional ingredient to add to the mix but is highly recommended! You can find this dessert at many of Taiwan’s night markets and it is pretty addictive – we ate this about 10 times during our 3 week trip.
Taiwanese Cold Noodles
Taiwanese style cold noodles are a popular street food dish that is widely eaten during the brutal hot summers. The dish uses thin wheat sesame noodles served with a homemade peanut sauce, sesame sauce or a combination of both, sometimes with bean sprouts, cucumber and carrot shavings on top. The dish is so popular in Taiwan that you will be able to find it at the 7-Eleven stores. We tried a nice version of cold noodles with peanut sauce at the Taiwanese chain restaurant Ba Fang Yun Ji Dumplings (they also do great dumplings).
Braised Pork Rice
Braised Pork Rice is a simple but popular Taiwanese dish that can be found everywhere from street vendors to posh restaurants. A bowl of this dish will usually consist of finely chopped small cubes of pork belly which has been slow cooked with soy sauce, Szechuan peppercorns, star anise and cinnamon, served over rice with toppings of coriander, pickled vegetables and a hard boiled egg. The dish bursts with aroma and the tastes are sweet and salty.
The oyster vermicelli dish comprises of thin rice noodles in a thick and flavoursome broth, mixed with fleshy chunks of oysters and pieces of tender braised pork intestine! Add some chilli sauce, black vinegar, minced garlic and coriander to the bowl to elevate the flavour! Head to the popular and iconic food stall Ay Chung Flour Rice Noodle in Taipei to try this – you’ll see a long queue of hungry locals waiting to purchase a cheap take away tub of this silky smooth dish.
Popular since the 1940s, the coffin bread is the Taiwanese version of a western bread soup bowl and one of the signature dishes from the city of Tainan. It is made from a very thick piece of white bread that’s been hollowed out and deep fried to make a crunchy box shaped ‘coffin’. This is then filled with a seafood chowder or a sweet creamy stew using chicken or vegetables. We tried coffin bread at the Tainan night markets and also in a restaurant called Chih-kan Peddler’s Noodle in Tainan.
Ba-wan Meatball Dumplings
The Ba-wan is a Taiwanese street food also known as meatball dumplings. The disk-shaped chewy dumpling casing is made from a glutinous rice flour which when steamed become slightly transparent. The juicy meatball filling is made from tender pork meat that’s been soaked in red yeast, mixed with bamboo shoots, and shiitake mushrooms. When served the dumpling is cut into bite sized pieces and topped with a thick gravy or a sweet and sticky sauce.
The most famous of these dumplings are found in Jiufen at a restaurant called Jin Zhi Red Yeast Meatball Dumpling which also has a separate vegan stall a few doors down with dumplings made with mock meat instead of pork.
Meat and Fish Ball Soup
Meat and fish balls are found everywhere in Taiwan, are inexpensive to purchase and can be found in soup or on skewers in street markets. The meat and fish ball soup is a popular Taiwanese snack and is a rich bone broth filled with pork, codfish and squid balls and topped with fresh coriander.
The beloved Taiwanese pork sausage is very popular with locals as a quick snack and are a lot sweeter than western sausages. At the night markets, the plump and juicy sausages are usually served grilled on a stick and brushed with a sweetened garlic soy sauce.
Wheel cakes are a pancake like dessert and are made from two halves of dough cooked in a cup-shaped waffle pan, which are then sealed together by a creamy filling that comes in a variety of flavours such as adzuki bean, red bean paste, chocolate, matcha and vanilla custard. You can also purchase savoury versions too with fillings such as corn, egg, tuna, curry, meat and vegetables. You can find this dessert at most of Taiwan’s night markets.
This popular and simple dish originates from the city of Tainan and consists of a a bowl of Chinese wheat noodles in a shallow light broth that is made from simmered pork bones, prawns, onion, spices and vegetables. The soup and noodles are served with coriander, black vinegar and garlic, and then topped with minced pork and prawns, and is usually sold in small portions to eat as a snack rather than a main dish.
This mild white fish is a Southern Taiwanese specialty and a dish you must try when visiting Tainan or Kaohsiung. Cheap to purchase and flaky in texture, milkfish can be prepared in numerous ways – in a congee porridge, in a soup, stir fried, steamed or braised. The dish is loved by locals so much that there is a museum in the city of Tainan dedicated to the fish and even a milkfish cultural festival in Kaohsiung!
Shrimps rolls are another specialty of the city of Tainan and are made from shrimps and scallions which are rolled in batter and deep fried, then served with ginger or yellow mustard. Head to the famous Chou’s Shrimp Rolls where the contents of the rolls are a mix of shrimps, minced pork and fish paste, enclosed in the intestines of pigs – we’ve tried it and it does taste good!
Tea eggs are a very popular Taiwanese snack and you’ll definitely see them at the night markets and in every 7-Eleven convenience store across the country (the chain sells an average of 40 million tea eggs per year!). They are basically boiled eggs that have been slightly cracked and then boiled again in tea with sauce or spices – simple as that!
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