Food Checklist in Taiwan

It’s not hard to spot an eatery or vendors of street food in Taiwan (ROC), especially with a large number of night markets inside the metropolis city namely Taipei or even smaller cities – Kaohsiung, Taichung, Tainan, and Chiayi. If to seek for tasty food treats is always a pain in the neck, please take an insight of this post. Perhaps, you will find the list of your life for an unforgettable food tour in “Formosa”.

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Beef Noodles 牛肉面

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Spicy Beef Noodles

This should be considered as the most typical dish to expect for first-time visitors to Taiwan. Cooked with fresh flavored beef slices in a  combination of rich broth and Chinese spices, beef noodles give you a strong impression in how wonderful the handmade yellow noodles is once eaten with spicy soup and soft but thick pieces of lean beef.

Price: around 150TWD to 300TWD

Location: any high end to a budget local restaurant in Taipei or Taichung

Bubble Milk Tea 珍珠奶茶

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Bubble Milk Tea is obviously the most popular beverage to be found in every corner of Taiwan. The original milk tea was first created back more than 100 years ago in Taichung, Taiwan by Chun Shui Tang teashop. From then on, this handmade crafted tea attracts a lot of sweet teeth and spreads worldwide to far away locations including USA, UK as well as Asian countries. Made from tapioca flour, the boiled bubble is the chewy signature of the drink that can not be missed. You have plenty of choices for Brown Sugar, Matcha, Traditional Milk Tea.. regarding the flavors. Some famous brands shall be considered as Gong Cha, 50 Lan, Coco, The Alley and the original one Chun Shui Tang.

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Chun Shui Tang Bubble Milk Tea
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Ten Ren’s Tea
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Coco
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50 Lan

Please bear in mind that the one in the famous Chen Shan Ding shop in Taipei is not Milk Tea but Brown Sugar Milk with Bubble – 40 TWD for taking away

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Chen San Ding Brown Sugar Bubble Milk

Price: inexpensive – from 30 TWD to 60 TWD for a Large Size with Tapioca Bubble.

Location: All over Taiwan, particularly Gongcha, 50 Lan, The Alley, and Chun Shui Tang.

Guo Bao 割包

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It can be said that this is a unique “Taiwanese hamburger” according to what I have read on a BBC article. A white soft bun accompanied with braised pork, pickles and a sump of peanut powder is all you may get for just 60 TWD. Small as it seems, this bun is so convenient and cheap that it serves as a fast food snack for workers or students. Amazingly, Guo Bao somehow wins a record of top 5 most yummy street food in Taiwan. So, do not forget to try this.

Price: Cheap, just around 50 to 60TWD for one

Location: Famous especially in Taipei. You should search for Lan Jia Guo Bao with just a short walk from MRT Gong Guan – Green Line with. They have two options: Lean meat and fat meet for your choice.

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Lanjia Guo Bao

Xiao Long Bao (Dumplings) 小笼包

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Dumplings are, without doubt, a special treat created by ancient Chinese people and known to be the most iconic dish at almost anywhere until now. When it comes to Taiwan, Xiao Long Bao, another type of common dumplings  (surprisingly it is originated from Shang Hai) makes it a “phenomenon” that just accompanied by no restaurant but the high-end Din Tai Fung. This Michelin star awarded chained restaurant won people’ heart by their ever debut – Pork Xiao Long Bao. Inside each piece of dumpling is a perfect mixture of minced pork, scallions and the legendary delicious broth that bring you an awesome experience to the classic dumplings. Be aware of the hot soup inside once take a try. Placing it in a spoon unless you may find yourself wet by the hot liquid.

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Din Tai Fung Xiao Long Bao

Price: around 60 TWD for 8 (night market stalls) to 150 for 10 (Din Tai Fung)

Location: any night market. Din Tai Fung is a recommended site but be patient for 1 hour queuing and waiting if having in Taipei 101 branch or any site near main tourist attractions in Taipei

Stinky Tofu 臭豆腐

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臭豆腐 or Stinky Tofu has long time been symbolized as the most “Smelly” food referring Chinese top bizarre dishes. Left in a secret herbal liquid for about a week or more, fermented tofu when deep fried with hot oil gives us an unpleasant feeling as of rotten food. However, suppose that you can ignore such smell, the crispy taste of tofu skin blends with soy sauce and pickles will crush your mind. In Taiwan, this snack is really popular to appear in almost any night market with a huge consumer who mostly accepts the “stinking challenge” for his curiosity.

Location: any night market

Price: super reasonable with around 50TWD for a big box of nearly 15 cubes with pickles and sauce.

Aiyu Jelly 文頭雪

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When first saw this kind of drink, I just have thought it assembles the Grass Jelly (very common dessert to be found in Viet Nam), but it turns out to be a completely different jelly. The cute main ingredient was named after a daughter of the man, who discovered the receipt for this drink, succeeds in spreading this beverage to local residents in Taiwan. Made of the special gel obtained from a kind of seeds, this fresh cool snack is often sold with iced honey lemon juice to quench customer’s thirst while still chemical free. The jelly itself is transparently little brown in color. Tasteless as itself but extremely flavourful using with the above juice and ice.

Price: a cup of Jelly should not exceed 40 TWD

Location: some stalls in night markets around Taiwan for this treat.

Oyster Vermicelli 蚵仔麵線

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A Chong Meesua

Oyster with vermicelli seems not to be a perfect couple at first sight, but in case you have no idea about this street food, it does spread the popularity through Taiwanese for a long time, at least more than Gua Bao, as what I know. You may find a wonderful mixture of gel-based soup, thin traditional rice vermicelli (a common ingredient to be found anywhere in Taiwan, even in A Li Moutain!!), cilantro (definitely to tell the staller to opt it out if you are not interested in), dried garlic and the two most iconic toppings – Oyster and Pig’s small intestine (a kind of innards that are daily food of Asian). Some may think it’s scary and disgusting to try pig’s intestine, but it is cleaned carefully before cooking, so there shall be no hesitation if you indeed want to try this snack. Balanced, flavourful and funny is what I would like to say about Oyster Vermicelli.

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Location: mostly in any local restaurant, but the most famous one is A Chong Mee Sua right at the center of Xi Men Shopping District, Taipei (MRT Ximen Bannan Blue Line). Be ready to queue in a short line of no more than 10 minutes. They can speak English, however, no seat offer there. Stand and eat at your own risk on the walking street.

Price: For A Chong Mee Sua, a small cup is 35 TWD while the big one is 50 TWD. Price may be as high as 70 TWD depending on location.

Giant Fried Squid 花枝燒

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Have you ever seen a giant fried squid before?

If not, take a trip to Taiwan and be prepared for it. Though they are all available at any fried snack stall in night markets, people still rumor about the one in Tamshui district as a must try. A giant squid (must be double as large as an adult hand) covered by crispy salty flour, is deep fried in hot oil at your eyes. They are just ready to be served with multiple powders as additional flavors including seaweed, hot chili, plum or even spicy cheese… Please do not make a mistake of any giant squid you see on the stall since all of them are plastic figures for imagery purposes only. The food is made by order so as to keep it fresh and healthy. Besides squids, shrimps, prawns, fish cullets are also available but not in that huge size.

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They are just figures

Location: Tamshui Old Town, Taipei – Get off at Tam Shui MRT station (the last station Tamshui Red Line). There are a lot of stalls set up around.

Price: around 150 TWD, remind the seller to cut into pieces. You can not just eat the whole squid due to its large size.

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Fried Squid cuts

Sticky Rice Roll 粢飯糰

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If there is any typical breakfast in Taiwan, this is the first representative to be taken into account. Usually, you will find this treat in a local eatery of Taiwanese in the morning. Not only this snack but also side dishes, that is to say, Fried Dough, Buns, and hot Soya Drink are comprised in their menu

Wrapped with a fried egg, pork floss and fried dough (or Chinese Youjiao) inside a long roll of Japanese Sticky Rice, this food may be a variant form of Sushi as we all know. The combination of the above components all brings the crunchy yummy taste of the dish with full nutrition and energy for the entire day. The special crispy crack of fried Youjiao while eating explicitly remarks the key feature to make this treat a funny chewing snack.

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Inside a sticky roll

Location: Local Taiwanese breakfast eateries, particularly in Taipei, usually come with a sign of Hot and Cold Soya Bean drink.

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Soya bean extracts

Price: with just 35 TWD to 50 TWD for a roll

Braised Pork Rice 滷肉饭

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One of the cheapest dish to be mentioned during a trip to Taiwan is definitely Braised Pork Rice. Despite a simple recipe, it does taste good with a variety of choices for additional topping above and beyond plain Taiwanese rice. A bowl of pork rice may be composed of minced/fat/lean braised pork with a certainty of braised eggs, tofu, and fermented cabbage pickles as associates (now I’m curious about the reason why Taiwanese love pickles so much). The whole dish may seem less attractive at first but it provides a delightful pleasure of having one of the traditional top treats in Taiwan. The mildly fragrant tender piece of pork is a perfect key for its success thanks to Taiwanese secret sauce. However, this food may be greasy with a lot of cholesterol for anyone suffered from diabetes or on diet. But, don’t be obsessed by the idea of getting everything worse, since the portion is considerably small.

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Location and Price: both locals and luxurious restaurants within Taiwan offer this food with a friendly budget cost of mostly 30 TWD to 50 TWD for small size bowl.

Sweet Taro Balls 芋圓

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Mrs. Lai Taro Balls

Looking for a treat that’s good for your health? Sweet Taro Balls should be considered as the representative. The only stall that brought fame to this dish is located inside Jiu Fen Old Town  – the most visited sight in Taiwan. When walking through hundreds of souvenir and food stalls at the village, you will come across an average lady preparing colorful taro balls for tourists to try. She is not anyone but Mrs. Lai, who has around 50 years experiences in making such sweet. With or without ice, small glutinous taro balls, green beans and pure naturally sweet liquid all combine together to give you a pleasant treat.

Location: you may find this dessert in some shops around Taipei, but the must try one is Mrs. Lai Taro Ball inside Jiu Fen old town, New Taipei.

Price: not exceed 50 TWD for a big cup. They do have tables available to dine in.

Fried Sweet Potato Balls 地瓜球

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This is a special snack not to be ignored at famous night markets in Taiwan. The crispy-coated flour outside plus with the sweet soft inside part of the ball is undoubtedly a weird explosion in my sense. It can be said that I have never tried such an impressive simple street food. Though fried in hot oil, you will not be able to find a single drop when taking a bite, all is perfect as it’s nature itself.

Location: they can just be found in night markets around Taiwan.

Price: with just 30 TWD for 6 or 8 balls.

Eyes Cream Shop (or Miyahara Ice Cream) 宮原眼科

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Firstly, the ice cream shop’s name is often mistakenly known as Miyahara Ice Cream meanwhile inside the Miyahara store, you just find a luxurious restaurant with some high-end souvenir stalls for cookies, cakes, and candies. The real shop is honestly attached to a side of The Miyahara but completely outside the building. Just walk outside the door and turn right for 10 steps, then the Eyes Cream Shop is right at your eyes. Someone may ask why do they have to eat ice cream in an Eyes Cream Shop? This is a wordplay with the same pronunciation between the two words, as a creative method of brand marketing and to attract more customers.

This is the most famous ice cream treat in Taichung, Taiwan. You may have a certainty of queuing for not more than 30 minutes. It’s free to try whichever flavor you want with the assistance of the employee. Every Scope is 90 TWD, a special promotion is there for you if purchasing for a combo of 3 scopes with a free scope, a large cone and 3 types of sweet side snacks. They come in a perfectly beautiful box with pretty decorations of your own choices of side snacks. I had chocolate, Ali mountain green tea and honey vanilla with a free mango one. All is too not sweet, but cool and tasty, the additional pineapple cake is awesome. Shall you visit Taichung, do not forget to pass by this shop.

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A combo of three copes

Location: Miyahara Eyes Cream Shop, Taichung (walk along the street opposite Taichung Train Station for 5 minutes)

Price: 90 TWD for a single scope, purchase of 3 get a single scope for free with additional 3 sorts of edible sweet snacks as decorations.

Grilled Taiwanese Sausage 香腸

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Wandering around a night market, it’s easy to discover that Taiwanese does have a big passion for grilled food, from grilled beef cubes, shrimps pork and even mushroom. Among those, grilled sausage may win tourist’s heart for its unique treat. Made from a mixture of minced pork, spices, garlic and pork fat, this snack when grilled on coal smells really attractive, especially that of the garlic and spices. If you want to fill your stomach for just a dish, try the Sticky Rice Roll of Sausage – another form of this street food. Composed of a grilled roll of fragrant sticky rice roll, some scallions, chili sauce, and a medium-sized grilled Taiwanese Sausage, this version is suitable for anyone who wishes to have a change of traditional sausage.

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Sticky Rice Roll of Sausage

Location: any night market in Taiwan

Price: around 30 TWD for a single stick of sausage and 60 TWD with the sticky roll.

Grilled King Mushroom 天下第一菇

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Continue with grilled food series, another typical “ambassador” for the naturally healthy food is the grilled mushroom. The selective main ingredient for this snack is Oyster Mushroom with a huge size, thus the name King of fungi. Grilled on the hot coals, the scent of fresh smoky mushroom can be spotted from far away distance. Though it may seem to be tasteless at first, the natural sweetness comes after the second bite. What makes this snack funny is the feeling of eating a piece of gelatine.

Location: some stalls in night markets around Taiwan does offer this food

Price: mostly 80 to 100 TWD basing on the size

Bubble Milk tea Ice Cream 奶茶冰淇淋

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Yes, the love for Bubble Milk Tea has never disappeared in me. This kind of ice cream is really hard to find, even that there are a lot of 7-11 convenience stores available in Taiwan. I used all my free time there searching for this special one and one day when wandering around a 7-11 in Taichung (definitely for a coffee), I finally found it. It does offer the exact taste of mildly sweet milk tea with the real bubble inside the bar! Not really big in size but it’s still enough to fit your sweet tooth as a snack.

Location: mostly it can only be found in 7-11 stores around famous tourist spots or in major cities like Taichung or Taipei. Not available or hard to find in Chiayi, Tainan, and Kaohsiung.

Price: 40 TWD for a bar

Crispy Fried Chicken 大雞排

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Fried Chicken is clearly not a unique or an iconic dish to be only found in Taiwan since it’s too common to find almost anywhere in this world (as long as fast food chains have their stores operated there). However, with the following “ultimate” fried chicken, you may have your thoughts changed once taken a look at the food. An extremely huge piece of chicken as that of an A4 sized paper is what you may expect with this snack in Taiwan. Breasts are the most favorite part to be found. The whole piece within bones is flattened before coated completely with a thick cornstarch (or flour, whatever it is). It is then fried with hot oil for approximately 15 minutes. The most recognizable difference of this chicken with that in a fast food store is the sweetness, tenderness without a dry solid feeling inside the mouth. An additional advantage is that it is so big to feed enough 2 persons with just a reasonable price. Chili powder is a plus to mark the bonus for this delicacy.

Location: the most famous site to eat this snack is Hot Star Fried Chicken chain that covers almost anywhere in Taipei, expects to queue for around 45 minutes or so if you want to try at the Xi Men and Shilin branch. They all can speak English. A popcorn version of this treat is also available but not so popular.

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Hot Star Fried Chicken
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Popcorn Fried Chicken

Price: around 70 to 80 TWD for a huge piece that can feed 2 persons.

Peanut Ice Cream Roll 花生冰淇淋春捲

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Are you crazy about ice cream? Take your mind to another level with this kind of ice cream that can just be found in Taipei, Taiwan – the Peanut Ice Cream Roll. I have to admit that Taiwanese are so imaginative and talented to create such a strange combination of ingredients inside this street food. Peanut powder is shaved from a huge solid cube of peanuts then wrapped into a soft roll together with cilantro and ice cream. Uncommon as it seems, this treat, however, gives me a joyful feeling of the salty-sweet and silky combination of the above components. The wrapping paper keeps the ice cream from melting while still add a strange taste to the whole dish.

Location: you may find them in a specific location like Jiu Fen, Shi Fen old town or in Raohe Night Market.

Price: 50 TWD for a roll

Oyster Omelette 蚵仔煎

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My friends always insisted on trying this serving at least once during my trip to Taiwan. To be honest, such dish is not my favorite one though most bloggers do recommend this one in tourists ‘ itinerary. Oysters are fried with eggs and flour on a plated pan. Accompanied with soya sauce and chili sauce makes this treat not tasteless. However, I really do not consider this combination perfect, it’ s your own choice to try this one since everyone has their own reflection and opinion.

Location: spot them in any night market you see, even in Kaohsiung or Chiayi county.

Price: 50 TWD or above.

Pig’s Blood Rice 豬血糕

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Until now, I’m still confused about the “pig’s blood” part of this street food delicacy. An extremely unique snack that perhaps only Taiwanese has this recipe. What you are offered from the stalls is a stick of rectangular sticky rice coated with peanut flours and some cilantro. These snacks are always served hot for take-away. Most say that the sticky rice is cooked with liquid of pig’s blood or so, how crazy it is!! In contrary to what I am aware of this food, it does not contain any sign of a single blood drop but a hot sweet balanced flavor.

Location: I only found 2 stalls that have this food, one is in Taichung Fengjia Night Market, the other is Raohe Night Market. But you should take time finding them around all the night markets

Price: just 40 TWD for a stick

Scallion Pancake 蔥油餅

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Some contrast reflection about my friends’ experiences for this savory delicacy has an impact on my decision for this. Most of them though this cheap treat worth trying while a few suggested not having even once due to its crazy smell of scallions??? No sooner did I realize perhaps the rest of my friend is allergic to scallions than I myself tried it. There were not so many scallions in a cake, just some to enhance the taste. The crispy flaky feeling is a plus to this street food. Accompanies are bacon, eggs, sausages, and cheese as your choice. Without these, it may taste a little bit salty with a mild scallions smell for a plain cake.

Location: find them in any night market or street stalls around Taiwan.

Price: a plain cake should not exceed 30 TWD and a stuffed one may be priced up to 60 TWD depending on your wish.

A Gei 淡水阿給

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A Gei

This is a feature dish to symbolize cuisine of Tamsui District, New Taipei. Jogging along the river bank of Tamshui harbor, you may find many local eateries offer this at a reasonable price. Such the name “A Gei” is derived from a Japanese term of the tofu for which A Gei is made of. A huge A Gei stuffed with white jelly noodles, minced pork and finally sealed with surimi will blow your mind by its strange but good taste. The sweet spicy sauce is also an essential key to boost this dish. Eating this in a cool autumn morning as of my experience is actually very enjoyable.

Location: definitely to be seen mostly in Tamsui, near the last train station of Red Line (Tamsui Station) and the old town of Tamsui.

Price: only 50 TWD for a big portion

Long Ice Cream 巨無霸冰淇淋

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Green tea and Taro Ice Cream

To say that this is a must try is not exactly what I mean, but since you have a chance to visit Tamsui, this shall not be missed. Though it does not have a superb quality like that of Mc Donald or Baskin Robin, it’s cheap and fun to have one. The amount of ice cream is great with a choice of chocolate, vanilla, green tea, taro or a combination of each two of them.

Location: around the fisherman’s wharf in Tamsui

Price: only 25 TWD for a small sized one and 35 TWD for the largest

Smashed Potato 王子起司馬鈴薯

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An averagely rated street snack that I was recommended by a Taiwanese host of our hotel is Smashed Potato. They have varieties of topping from sausage, seafood…to make the dish more delicious potato are smashed and baked with cheese, however, I did not see much cheese in the box of potato. It can be said that this snack is able to fulfill your stomach with just one box for its generous amount of potatoes.

Location: I tried this one in Taichung Fengjia Night Market, there should be some other stalls in Taipei to sell this, but not in Kaohsiung, Tainan or Chiayi as I have searched.

Price: be prepared to pay from 100 TWD onward for the choice of your own.

7-11

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Why do I list this as a must try in Taiwan? Definitely, you will find hundreds of snacks in each 7-11 convenient store in Taiwan. They have a wide range of goods including food, snack, sweets and candies which are really good. In case you do not have time to search for food or too lazy to travel so far for food, 7-11 will be the wisest one then. Beef noodles, rice roll, cake, hamburgers, sandwiches, rice boxes… from just 10 TWD to 100 TWD, all you can find in a store for an energetic breakfast or a full dinner. Regards that you do not know what to buy as souvenirs for friends and relatives at home, take a short tour at a 7-11 and choose some of their snacks. Awesome!

Location: all around Taiwan. I guess at least 100 stores in a district in Taipei.

Price: from 10 TWD for a boiled egg to 100 TWD for a box of Xiao Long Bao, all can be found there.

Saimon Tobi

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