Last Updated on August 26, 2020 by queenie mak
Food is such a big part of Taiwanese culture. Foodies from all over the world will find Taiwan to be an exciting culinary destination. The simplest and basic ingredients can transform into the most delicious food you will ever taste. Sampling all the culinary delights are truly a highlight of a trip to Taiwan.
If you love to explore new cultures including sampling the best of the best of the local cuisine, then you will have to visit Taiwan!
Taiwan Food Culture
Food is such an important part of everyday life. And Taiwanese cuisine is all about simple and local ingredients. And you can find food at any hour of the day and anywhere!
Between sampling food from local restaurants and to the endless aisles of night markets, you will find your stomach very happy when you are travelling in Taiwan. Plus you may even find some of your favourite Taiwanese food at 7-Eleven!
And most of all, Taiwanese food is not expensive. In fact, it is quite cheap. Eating locally in Taiwan will not break your budget.
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Must Eat Taiwanese Food
While each region has its own regional specialties, some Taiwanese food is served across the country. The best way to introduce yourself to the food culture in Taiwan is to try everything!
And if this is your first time experiencing the Taiwan food culture, I’ll show you exactly what you need to try and exactly where to find them. You can easily create your own Taiwanese food tour around a specific city or even the whole country. So use this Taiwan food guide however you wish!
Niu Rou Mian (牛肉麵)
The classic beef with noodles in a soup broth is a must-try in Taiwan. The cut of beef varies but most restaurants like to cook beef shank to pair with the bouncy noodles. And the broth has many layers of flavours that complement well with the noodle.
Where to eat Niu Rou Mian
Beef noodle is a staple diet in Taiwan so you should have no problem finding a beef noodle place.
Niou Dien Beef Noodles (牛店牛肉麵) in Taipei has a fantastic beef noodle. The restaurant specializes in beef noodle and you can tailor the spiciness level to your liking. They have an English menu and the staff speaks a bit of English as well.
And if you are in Kaohsiung, try Gang Yuan Beef Noodle Restaurant (港園牛肉麵). Order your noodle at the counter, pay and wait at a table for your delicious bowl of beef noodles. The place is always busy so there might be a queue. Don’t worry if you don’t speak Mandarin, the menu has photos so you can point to the item you want to order.
Lurou Fan (魯肉飯)
Perhaps one of my favourite classic Taiwanese food of all time! It is a braised pork in a soy sauce cooked with five spices and served over white rice. The pork is served as a whole piece of pork belly or diced up pork belly. Either way, it goes really well with the radish and white rice. Savour the flavourful sauce and the tenderness of the pork.
Where to eat Lurou Fan
It is a very common dish so you should not have any issues finding lurou fan. They are very common in restaurants and night markets.
I really liked the lurou fan and other small dishes at Traditional Taiwanese Food (西門金鋒魯肉飯) in Taipei. Portions are small so that means you can order different dishes and try them all. I tried their turkey rice, braised pork, vegetables and homemade soup.
And I accidentally stumbled onto an excellent lurou fan in Xingzhong Night Market (興中夜市) in Kaohsiung. The portion is quite good especially when they serve such a big piece of delicious pork belly (pictured above). You can either eat in or take away.
Stinky Tofu (臭豆腐)
One of Taiwan’s famous street food is deep-fried tofu also known as stinky tofu. Small pieces of fermented tofu are deep-fried in oil and are eaten with a sweet and spicy sauce. You will either love it or hate it this weird Taiwanese food.
The tofu gives off a strong odour. I’m not sure how to describe it except it smells like something is rotting. But a lot of people love eating stinky tofu! Don’t diss it until you try it!
Where to eat Stinky Tofu
Almost all night markets will have a stall or two of deep-fried stinky tofu. You don’t need to look for it, your nose will find it for you!
Oyster omelet (蚵仔煎)
Taiwanese people really love their pan-fried egg with oysters. Basically, it is fried scrambled eggs with small oysters. Try this classic dish along with the tangy sauce. You can eat it by itself or as a side dish.
Where to eat Oyster Omelet
You can find oyster omelet at any night market in individual stalls that only serves oyster omelet (pictured above). You know the oyster omelet is good when the food stall only has oyster omelet on their menu and nothing else.
Taiwanese restaurants will also serve oyster omelet as well.
Scallion pancake (蔥油餅)
Okay, I don’t like scallions but I love scallion pancake! But I only eat the ones in Taiwan and not anywhere else.
The pancake is really thin, fried with a lot of oil, and the green scallion pieces are super small. Even though the flour pancake is pan-fried in a lot of oil, there is still a crispiness and flakiness texture in the pancake. No wonder it is such a popular Taiwanese snack!
The pancake is delicious on its own. Some places will have the option to add cheese, egg and different types of toppings and sauces.
Where to eat Scallion Pancake
It is a very popular snack which means you will find it in any night market or local neighbourhoods.
I especially really like the scallion pancake with egg and basil at Tian Jin Flaky Scallion Pancake (天津蔥抓餅) in Taipei. You know the pancake is good when there is a long queue. Even though it sounds weird to add egg and basil in the scallion pancake, the combination of ingredients is mind-blowing!
Another good place is the one I found in Hualien. Scallion Pancake (炸彈蔥油餅黃車) is famous for their scallion pancake and there is always a long queue. I went back a couple of times and always see massive line-ups. But it is worth the wait!
Taiwanese breakfast might be my favourite type of breakfast! And I love all kinds of breakfast food, but the Taiwanese really know how to make a solid meal in the morning.
And there is so much to choose from! Typically, you can choose a sesame flatbread with a fried egg in the middle, egg crepe and minced pork bun (pictured above) as the main dish. Whatever you choose, it goes really well with a soy milk drink. The soy milk drink can be a cold or hot beverage on its own or you can have a hot bowl of soy milk with fried dough fritter and green scallions (pictured above).
Whatever you choose, you will be satisfied with your choices. They are all delicious!
Where to eat Taiwanese Breakfast
You can find delicious Taiwanese breakfast food almost anywhere in the country.
If you are in Taipei, try Yong He Soy Milk King (永和豆漿大王). Everything on the menu looks really good. Try the sticky rice and soy milk drink. There are several locations in Taipei.
And if you are in Kaohsiung, you must go to Xing Long Ju (興隆居). Locals love this place! You can tell because there is always a ton of people early morning. The sesame bun with egg and dough fritter sandwich is to die for! Also, the steam meat bun and ice black tea with soy milk ain’t bad either.
And in Hualien, try either Miao Kou Black Tea (廟口紅茶) or Liming Black Tea (黎明紅茶). They both have a great breakfast selection and milk tea. Order the egg crepe or breakfast sandwich. And of course, order a milk tea to go with your food!
Gua Bao (刈包)
A typical gua bao has braised pork belly, pickled Chinese cabbage stuffed in a steamed bun. The flavourful pork and tanginess of the pickled vegetable really complement each other.
Where to eat Gua Bao
You can find traditional gua bao almost everywhere in Taiwan.
But the one I like the most is in Tainan, and it is called A Song Steamed Sandwich Shop (阿松割包). Their version of gua bao has sliced pork and pickled vegetable in a steamed bun. And they also serve a pork broth with your tasty sandwich.
Or if you want to try a fusion type of gua bao, go to Bashi Bao (盛橋刈包) in Taichung. They have a breakfast gua bao and other types too. The menu keeps changing so you have to go back a few times.
Ba Wan (肉圓)
Ba wan is a giant dumpling made of a starchy dough with pork and vegetable filling. The skin is translucent after it is cooked and it is served with a thick, tangy sauce. I know they don’t look like a typical dumpling but I guarantee you will love the flavour. Also, the texture is quite sticky and gooey just in case you are wondering.
Where to eat Ba Wan
There are many places in Taipei to try ba wan, especially at the night markets.
But the best ones I found are in Cheng Huang Temple Night Market (城隍廟夜市) in Hsinchu (新竹). There are many food stalls serving ba wan in the market, but essentially they serve the same type. So pick one that you like.
Who doesn’t like fried chicken? And in Taiwan, it is no exception that fried chicken is a great snack or meal.
And it comes in so many different forms: deep-fried popcorn chicken, boneless nuggets (picture above), chicken wing, chicken leg, or chicken breast. But the most interesting one is where the chicken breast is flattened into a giant sheet of chicken steak and deep-fried. The resulting fried chicken is quite big!
Where to eat Fried Chicken
Where can’t you find fried chicken? Every night market will have a stall or two. And you can also find it almost anywhere in the city especially around local neighbourhoods and touristy areas.
Xiao Long Bao (小籠包)
If there is one thing you need to try in Taiwan, it is xiao long bao.
But wait, there are different types of xiao long bao.
The one that we are most familiar with is the tiny dumplings with soup inside. These dumplings are steamed to perfection! And it tastes the best if you dip it in soy sauce and vinegar. The best way to eat a soup dumpling is to bit it first, drink the soup, dip the dumpling into the sauce and eat the whole dumpling in one bite.
There is another kind that is uniquely famous in Hualien (pictured above, middle and right photo). The skin of the dumpling is a bit thicker, almost resembling bread more than a dumpling wrap. They are a bit bigger, and you still eat them with soy sauce and vinegar.
And if you are craving the little delicious soup dumplings, you can get xiao long bao at 7-11 in Taiwan.
Where to eat Xiao Long Bao
Din Tai Fung (鼎泰豐) in Taipei is famous for their soup dumplings. Even though they have locations worldwide, it is still worth trying in Taipei because they also have chocolate dumplings as a dessert (pictured above, left). I believe Taiwan is the only place you can order this. So how can you say no to chocolate in a dumpling?
When you are in Hualien, go to Gongzheng Baozi (公正包子店) and order as many dumplings as you want. Because they are a little bigger than the traditional dumplings, you might want to pace yourself.
Pepper Bun (胡椒餅)
A delicious savoury treat that is good for any time of the day. The pepper bun is made has minced pork, green scallions and pepper in the middle of a flakey bun. The bun is rolled together and baked on the wall of a clay oven.
Where to eat Pepper Bun
Pepper bun is really popular in Taiwan so you should have no problem finding it at any night market.
You can find one of the best pepper buns in Taipei called Pepper Bun (福州世祖胡椒餅). They make the pepper bun fresh and on the spot. Sometimes there is a long queue.
Milk Tea (奶茶)
Taiwan has a strong tea culture. Tea is definitely more popular than coffee. But no matter where you are in Taiwan, you can always find milk tea at restaurants, convenience stores like 7-11, and stores that only sell milk tea.
It is one of my favourite drinks (I probably said this probably a few times now, but I have too many favourites in Taiwan). The black tea with whole milk is a classic! You can’t go wrong!
And FYI, yes I had all of the drinks in the photo! It looks like a lot but I was in Taiwan for two months!! Ha!
Where to drink Milk Tea
As I said, you can find milk tea almost anywhere in Taiwan.
But if you really love Taiwanese milk tea, go to Shuang Fei Milk Tea (双妃奶茶) (pictured above, top row, fourth photo from the left) in Kaohsiung. Their milk tea has different levels of sweetness. And you can add tapioca for free. Locals love this place!
Another favourite is Taiwanese Milk Tea (樺達奶茶) (pictured above, middle row, fifth photo from the left) and you can find that in major cities in Taiwan. I found most of them at the lower food level at department stores.
Bubble Tea (珍珠奶茶)
Bubble tea is everywhere and not just in Taiwan! I’m sure by now you have at least heard of the name. But if you haven’t, it is something you must try, especially in Taiwan!
Typically, it is a milk tea with chewy tapioca “bubbles” at the bottom of your drink. You sip the tea and tapioca through a thick straw that is made specifically for this drink. I guess you can say it is a drink or dessert depending on your mood.
People call it bubbles, boba or pearl. You can add grass jelly or milk pudding, and tailor the sweetness to your liking. And you can get almost any kind of flavour from all types of fruits, and different kinds of teas.
Where to drink Bubble Tea
There are countless stores all over the country! No joke! Sometimes you will find a bubble tea shop next to each other. In the Ximending area in Taipei, I counted at least six bubble tea shops on the same block. That’s how popular it is in Taiwan!
But if you can only try one, try the brown sugar tapioca with fresh milk at Chen San Ding (陳三鼎黑糖青蛙撞奶) in Taipei. The locals love this place! You can tell because there is always a long queue, but it moves relatively quickly.
Or try a bubble tea from Chun Shui Tang (春水堂) in Taichung or anywhere in Taiwan. This is the place where bubble tea first originated. The location in Taichung is THE original bubble tea store!
Aiyu Jelly (愛玉冰)
I didn’t know what this was initially because the sign at the food stall has a photo of a frog on it. And it says “frog eggs”!
But it is not anything like that at all! Aiyu jelly is a sweet summery drink with citrus jelly made from aiyu seeds. It can be served as a drink or dessert.
It is quite refreshing. And it is not too sweet – just perfect! And no frogs were harmed in the process!
Where to drink Aiyu Jelly
Most night markets will have at least a stall selling aiyu jelly. The drink is very affordable and totally worth trying!
Shaved Ice Mountain (刨冰)
Taiwanese people love their shaved ice mountain. It is literally what it is – a shaved ice mountain. You can get different flavours in a giant bowl of fluffy shaved ice and with various toppings like ice-cream, tapioca, cake, etc.
Where to eat Shaved Ice Mountain
While it is a summer favourite among locals and tourists, you can find shaved ice mountains almost anywhere and at any time.
daOnegong (大碗公冰品) is a restaurant chain where you can find almost anywhere in Taiwan. I had the mango shaved ice mountain (pictured above, right) in Kaohsiung just before hopping on a ferry to Cijin Island. It is quite big but somehow I managed to finish it. Ha!
But my favourite has to be the strawberry shaved ice mountain at Snowflake Shaved Ice Dessert (花藏雪) in Taipei. The strawberry shaved ice sits on top of a bed of cut strawberries while the tiramisu cake sits above the mountain of ice. It was worth the wait!
Pineapple Cake (鳳梨酥)
If there is one Taiwanese snack to bring home as a souvenir, this is it! Pineapple cake is a favourite amongst the Taiwanese. I can see why – it is quite unique and tasty. It is a small pastry filled with dried pineapple. Not super fancy but it is super tasty!
Where to find Pineapple Cake
There are many companies that make pineapple cake. Most of the retail stores have packaged pineapple cakes all prepared so you can bring home easily. There are plenty of stores selling pineapple cakes all over the country. You can’t miss them. And if you forget to pick up some in the city, you can also buy them at duty-free at the airport in Taipei.
Also, the Sunny Hill Kaohsiung Store (微熱山丘 高雄駁二特區門市) by Pier 2 Art Centre in Kaohsiung, sells pineapple cake and you can sample the honey cake or pineapple with tea for free (if you are a tourist). The same goes for the store location in Taipei.