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Taiwanese Food Culture: an Introduction to 16 Must Eat Food in Taiwan 

Last Updated on May 8, 2021 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 are planning a solo trip to Taiwan, make sure to explore the Taiwanese food culture by trying different types of food in Taiwan. They are some of the best food I’ve ever tried!

Related Post – The Ultimate 3-week Itinerary for Taiwan

Taiwan Food Culture: Overview

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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Things you need to know about Taiwanese food culture

Before you travel to Taiwan, 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 Taiwan food culture:

  • Many of the best places are found in small local neighbourhood restaurants and night markets throughout Taiwan
  • Traditional Taiwanese 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 portion of food 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.

16 Must Eat Traditional 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!

1. 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. 

Beef noodle is a staple diet in Taiwan so you should have no problem finding a beef noodle place at a local neighbourhood, night market and almost anywhere!

Where to eat Niu Rou Mian

  • Niou Dien Beef Noodles (牛店牛肉麵) in Taipei – 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.
  • Lao Shandong Homemade Noodles (老山東牛肉麵) in Taipei – This Michelin Bib Gourmand 2019 recommendation is so good! The handmade ribbon noodle goes well with the tender beef.
  • Gang Yuan Beef Noodle Restaurant (港園牛肉麵) in Kaohsiung – 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.

2. 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.

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.

Where to eat Lurou Fan

3. 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 Taiwan traditional 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!

4. Oyster omelet (蚵仔煎)

Taiwanese people really love their pan-fried eggs 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 omelets as well.

5. 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 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 crispy 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.

It is a very popular snack which means you will find it in any night market or local neighbourhoods.

Where to eat Scallion Pancake

6. 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! 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

7. 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 

8. 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 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

9. 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!

Where to eat Fried Chicken

  • 繼光香香雞 (J&G Fried Chicken) in Taipei and all over Taiwan – Get their signature popcorn chicken, made with tender and juicy pieces of chicken breast. Get it with original flavour or spicy.
  • 艋舺ㄟ雞排 (Monga Fried Chicken) all over Taipei – They specialize in fried chicken steak flattened to 2cm. Then they add different flavours like seaweed or chilli flavour to your delicious fried chicken steak.
  • 豪大大雞排 (Hot-Star) in Taipei – This is the original deep-fried chicken food vendor who popularizes this food group in Taiwan. The giant chicken filet is huge – it can be up to 30cm big!

10. 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.

Where to eat Xiao Long Bao 

  • Din Tai Fung (鼎泰豐) all over Taiwan – The restaurant is famous for its 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?
  • Gongzheng Baozi (公正包子店) in Hualien – You can order as many dumplings as you want. But these bready dumplings are a little bigger than the traditional dumplings, you might want to pace yourself.
  • 7-11 in Taiwan – I’m not even kidding! The convenience store sells frozen xiao long bao and they will even microwave it for you! And it tastes so good!

11. 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.

Where to eat Pepper Bun

12. 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

  • Shuang Fei Milk Tea (双妃奶茶) in Kaohsiung – If you really love Taiwanese milk tea, go to specialty stores that sells milk tea only. This specialty store sells milk tea with different levels of sweetness. And you can add tapioca for free (pictured above, top row, fourth photo from the left).
  • Taiwanese Milk Tea (樺達奶茶) several locations in Kaohsiung – I found most of them at the lower food level at department stores (pictured above, middle row, fifth photo from the left).

13. 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

  • Ximending area in Taipei – I counted at least six bubble tea shops on the same block in Ximending. That’s how popular it is in Taiwan! Some stores are right next to each other.
  • 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!

14. 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 a 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!

15. 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

  • 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!
  • daOnegong (大碗公冰品) several locations 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!

16. 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 cakes. Most of the retail stores have packaged pineapple cakes all prepared so you can bring them 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 duty-free at the airport in Taipei.

Related Post – Introduction to all the must eat food in Hong Kong

Taiwan food culture: which Taiwanese food will you try?

I hope you enjoyed this post and will inspire you to try some of the best Taiwanese cuisine in Taiwan. I’ll keep adding new recommendations as I come across new places that I love.

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

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About Author

Hi, my name is Queenie, and I've been a solo traveller for 18+ years and currently based in Hong Kong. Follow me on my adventures through Instagram and my blog!

14 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

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