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Taiwanese Food Culture: an Introduction to 22 Must Eat Food in Taiwan 

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 become the most delicious food you will ever taste. Sampling all the culinary delights is truly a highlight of a trip to Taiwan.

If you are planning a solo trip to Taiwan, make sure to explore the Taiwanese food culture by trying different types of food in Taiwan. From local restaurants to bustling night markets, there is something for everyone!

In this post, I’ll show you the top 22 Taiwanese food you must try while travelling in Taiwan. And I included some of the best places to eat this Taiwanese traditional food throughout the country.

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Things you need to know about Taiwanese food culture

Before you dive into Taiwan food culture, take a look at my post on everything you need to know before going to Taiwan. I included a lot of travel information, including how to get around Taiwan, getting a Taiwan SIM card, and other travel tips.

Here are a few additional tips for experiencing food culture in Taiwan:

  • Many of the best places are found in small local neighbourhood restaurants and night markets throughout Taiwan.
  • Taiwan traditional food is very affordable, especially at night markets.
  • Make sure to bring cash because 99% of the vendors only take cash as payment.
  • Generally speaking, the food portion is quite small compared to North American standards. But the good news is you can order several and try different food!
  • Look for long queues for any restaurants or food vendors. When there is a long queue, it means the food is excellent and worth the wait!
  • Don’t be afraid of the language barrier! Some places have English menus and photographs where you can point and order food.

Taiwan Food Culture: Overview

Food is such an important part of everyday life. And food culture in Taiwan is all about simple and local ingredients. Best of all, you can find food at any hour of the day and anywhere!

Between sampling food from local restaurants and the endless aisles of night markets, you will find your stomach very happy when travelling in Taiwan. You may even find some of your favourite Taiwanese food at 7-Eleven!

And most of all, Taiwanese food is not expensive. It is quite cheap. Eating locally in Taiwan will not break your budget.

What to eat in Taiwan: 22 food to eat in Taiwan

While each region has its own regional specialties, some Taiwanese food is served nationwide. 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 to eat in Taiwan and where to find these delicious specialties. 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!

Must eat in Taiwan: traditional Taiwanese food

1. Beef Noodle Soup or Niu Rou Mian (牛肉麵)

The classic beef with noodles in a soup broth is a must-try food in Taiwan. The cut of beef varies, but most restaurants like to cook beef shank to pair with bouncy noodles. And the broth has many layers of flavours that complement well with the noodle. 

Beef noodle soup is a big part of Taiwan food culture. It is a staple diet so you should have no problem finding a beef noodle place in a local neighbourhood, night market and almost anywhere!

2. Braised Pork Rice or 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 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.

Lurou fan is a very common dish so you should not have any issues finding this Taiwanese food. They are very common in restaurants and night markets.

3. Braised Taiwanese Food (滷味王)

Braised Taiwanese food is a very popular Taiwanese food and can be found at night markets all over Taiwan.

Basically, it is food cooked in a light soy sauce broth, and the braised food is served in a bowl.

Here’s how you eat at one of these types of braised food restaurants. First, grab a basket and pick all the ingredients for your meal. Then pay at the cashier while the chef cooks your food. You pay exactly what you selected. So if you tend to eat less, your bowl of braised food can be very cheap.

Eat in or have it to go. Either way, this is a must-eat food in Taiwan!

4. 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 this weird must eat in Taiwan.

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!

Almost night markets in Taiwan have at least a stall or two of deep-fried stinky tofu. You don’t need to look for it; your nose will find it for you!

5. Oyster omelet (蚵仔煎)

Taiwanese people really love their pan-fried eggs with oysters. Basically, it is a plate of scrambled eggs with fried small oysters

Try this classic Taiwanese dish with tangy sauce. You can eat it by itself or as a side dish.

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 omelets as well.

6. Scallion pancake (蔥油餅)

Okay, I don’t like scallions, but I love scallion pancakes! But I only eat the ones in Taiwan and not anywhere else.

The typical scallion pancake is really thin, fried with a lot of oil, and has very small pieces of green scallion. Even though the flour pancake is pan-fried in a lot of oil, there is still a crispy and flaky texture. No wonder it is such a popular Taiwanese snack!

The scallion pancakes in Yilan are a bit thicker and have more scallions.

Both types of pancakes are delicious on their own. Some places will have the option to add cheese, egg and different types of toppings and sauces.

7. Scallion pancake sandwich wrap

Adapting from one of the best traditional Taiwanese food, this must-try food is a sandwich wrap made with the classic pan-fried flakey pancake.

Then choose different ingredients for your sandwich wraps like a fried egg, pork floss, kimchi, cheese, basil, chicken, and beef.

8. Traditional Taiwanese Breakfast

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, including clay oven roll, egg crepe and dumplings. And everything goes 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 a fried bread stick and green scallions.

Definitely try Taiwanese breakfast a few times. It is a huge part of the food culture in Taiwan! Whatever you choose, you will be satisfied with your choices. They are all delicious!

Yong He Soy Milk King (永和豆漿大王) is one of my favourite breakfast places in Taipei, this local restaurant has all types of Taiwanese breakfast items. Try the egg crepe and salty soy milk drink. There are many locations throughout Taiwan.

9. 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.

But in Taiwan, you will also find other steamed bun sandwiches that combine non-traditional ingredients to make a fusion guo bao.

10. Fried Chicken

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, 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!

11. Soup Dumplings or 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 best if you dip it in soy sauce and vinegar. The best way to eat a soup dumpling is to bite it first, drink the soup, dip it in sauce, and eat it in one bite.

There is another kind that is uniquely famous in Hualien (pictured below, top right). The skin of the dumpling is a bit thicker, almost resembling bread more than a dumpling wrap. They are a bit bigger; you still eat them with soy sauce and vinegar.

Din Tai Fung (鼎泰豐) all over Taiwan – The restaurant is famous for its soup dumplings and there are locations worldwide.

And 7-11 in Taiwan sells frozen xiao long bao and they will even microwave it for you! And it tastes so good!

12. 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.

Pepper bun is really popular in Taiwan so you should have no problem finding it at any night market.

Taiwan must eat food: Regional Taiwanese food

13. Ba Wan (肉圓)

Ba wan is a giant dumpling made of starchy dough with pork and vegetable filling. The skin is translucent after it is cooked and served with a thick, tangy sauce. They don’t look like a typical dumpling, but I guarantee you will love the flavour. Also, the texture is sticky and gooey just in case you are wondering.

I found this Taiwan must eat food in the food markets of Hsinchu. They are probably all over the country as well but definitely try them while you are in Hsinchu.

14. Turkey Rice or Ji Rou Fan

Originating from Chiayi City, many restaurants in Chiayi serve small bowls of white rice, with shredded turkey meat on top. Then a bit of homemade oily sauce is added to add an extra layer of flavour.

Even though it is a Chiayi specialty, you can find turkey rice at any Taiwanese restaurant that serves typical Taiwanese dishes.

15. Thick Pork Soup

There might be a better name than “Thick Pork Soup,” but I simply cannot find it in English or Chinese.

But it is exactly what it is: thick pork soup! Each spoonful of soup has thick pork broth with pork and garlic. Some restaurants will serve it with rice or noodles. Or you can eat it as is.

I found many soup restaurants in Yilan. But you can also try this in Taipei as well.

Taiwan must try food: beverages and desserts

16. 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 the drinks in the photo! It looks like a lot, but I was in Taiwan for two months!!

17. 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, you must try it, 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 made specifically for this drink.

People call it bubble, boba or pearl. You can add grass jelly or milk pudding, and tailor the sweetness to your liking. And you can get almost any flavour from all types of fruits and teas.

Chun Shui Tang (春水堂) is the place where bubble tea first originated. The location in Taichung is THE original bubble tea store!

18. Aiyu Jelly (愛玉冰)

I didn’t know what this was initially because the sign at the food stall had 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!

19. Papaya Milkshake

Besides milk tea and bubble tea, papaya milkshake has to be one of the most refreshing drinks in Taiwan. Made with the sweetest papaya, milk and ice, the drink is creamy, sweet, and oh-so tasty!

The drink is made to order. And you can also order other fruit shakes like strawberry, mango, dragonfruit and much more.

20. Shaved Ice Mountain (刨冰)

Taiwanese people love their shaved ice mountains. 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.

21. Tofu Dessert or Douhua (豆花)

Douhua, or tofu dessert, is a Chinese dessert made with very soft and silky tofu or bean curd. And it is eaten with plain sugar syrup or ginger syrup.

This is a very typical Chinese dessert that you can find throughout China and Taiwan. Try one and let me know what you think.

22. 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!

Many retail stores have packaged pineapple cakes prepared so you can bring them home easily. There are plenty of stores selling pineapple cakes all over the country. And if you forget to pick up some in the city, you can also buy them duty-free at the airport in Taipei.

Taiwan food culture: which must eat food will you try?

I hope you enjoyed this post and it will inspire you to try some of the best things to eat in Taiwan. Experiencing Taiwanese food culture is all about trying new food. And eating solo in Taiwan is not intimidating at all. Trying new food is one of the best activities for a solo traveller!

I’ll keep adding other Taiwan must try food as I come across them So bookmark this page.

And if I miss any of your favourite places to eat in Taiwan, let me know by leaving a comment below.

Thank you for reading my Taiwan food culture post

You might also like these other posts you might like:

Food around the world
Introduction to Taiwan

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About Author

Hi, my name is Queenie, and I've been a solo traveller for 20+ years and currently based in Hong Kong. Follow me on my adventures through Instagram and my blog!

16 Comments

  • mo
    January 26, 2019 at 3:44 pm

    As an Asian myself, I was sure I had tried all the Asian food but stinky tofu!? I have never seen this! What a fascinating guide – this makes me want to take a trip to Taiwan just for the street food 😀

    Reply
    • queenie mak
      January 26, 2019 at 9:05 pm

      omg you and me both! I thought I tried everything but not until I travelled to Taiwan. I really love Taiwanese food – its totally worth the trip even if its just for food!

      Reply
  • The Solivagant Soul (@Thesolivsoul)
    January 26, 2019 at 3:56 pm

    What a lovely post! I do have tried a few of the dishes in this list but I suspect they were just a very washed out version of them! I would like to visit Taiwan some time in the future and I will try to try “the real deal”. If you had to choose one alone, what would be?

    Reply
    • queenie mak
      January 26, 2019 at 9:06 pm

      You can’t go wrong with xiao long bao! There are so many restaurants that serve the soup dumplings. But if you go to Din Tai Fung, you will for sure get the real deal 🙂

      Reply
  • lincalinca
    January 26, 2019 at 5:24 pm

    I was reading and thinking “will she mention milk tea and bubble tea? she must!” and of course, you did 🙂 that is my strongest memory from Taiwan food scene! I must admit, I did not dare to try stinky tofu. Smelling it in the market was enough to keep me away from that stall!!

    Reply
    • queenie mak
      January 26, 2019 at 9:07 pm

      Yes – milk tea and bubble tea!! I think I had one per day and I was there for 2 months. lol

      Reply
  • Katie
    January 26, 2019 at 5:24 pm

    Now I am hungry! Love this selection though, food looks delicious! We are hoping to head to Taiwan this year so will definitely check out some of these dishes!

    Reply
    • queenie mak
      January 26, 2019 at 9:08 pm

      I’m actually going back at the end of the year. I’m hoping to discover more food!

      Reply
  • Priyanka Gupta
    January 26, 2019 at 6:04 pm

    Waiting to visit Taiwan now 🙂

    Reply
    • queenie mak
      January 26, 2019 at 9:09 pm

      Hope you get to go very soon! 🙂

      Reply
  • sue
    January 26, 2019 at 9:35 pm

    I love the food in Taiwan. This made me want to back immediately. We didn’t eat the sticky tofu so we have to go back.

    Reply
  • Kashlee
    January 27, 2019 at 9:52 am

    This all looks so good…currently DROOLING! My husband is obsessed with pork belly steamed buns in Veitnam, so I can lure him to Taiwan with promises of that and more! 🙂

    Reply
  • Kate
    April 26, 2021 at 6:27 pm

    Really loved xiaolongbao when i was in shanghai, does anyone know if the xiaolongbao in taiwan differ in any way to the authentic shanghainese one?

    Reply
    • queenie mak
      April 28, 2021 at 1:04 pm

      Hi Kate, I’m not sure either. They both have really delicious soup dumplings and they both use similar condiments. I think its worth researching some more ie eat more dumplings!! 🙂

      Reply
  • Kirtika saha
    May 26, 2021 at 10:54 pm

    It’s really a cool and helpful piece of information. I am glad that you shared useful information with us.

    Reply
    • queenie mak
      May 30, 2021 at 1:52 pm

      Aw thanks so much Kirtika! Food is such a big part of travelling to Taiwan so it was a definitely a fun post to write! 🙂

      Reply

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