Contributed by Follow Your Road
Going to Taiwan night markets and food bazaars soon? Here’s a guide on which Taiwanese food to try and taste — everything delicious and budget-friendly!
Taiwan’s night market is the birthplace of some of the most innovative food combinations. Here, many food vendors are able to release new flavours and dishes for the young or more adventurous taste buds to try and judge. Many of such food experiments are launched to success around the country and even worldwide.
The most famous Taiwan night market food places are located in Shilin, Raohe, Huaxi, and even Jiufen Old Street. Stalls upon stalls of new Taiwanese dishes are served almost every night, propelling some into success, while others remain in obscurity or get totally phased out.
As we took a trip to Taiwan for 10 days, we sampled as much food as possible (not to mention, many convenience store meals because we’re backpackers). Here are just some of our favourites and recommendations for Taiwanese food to try!
Taiwanese food to try on your next visit
1. Tea egg
This is basically eggs hard-boiled in tea, soy sauce, and other spices like the Chinese five-spice mixture of anise, cassia, cloves, Sichuan peppercorn, and star anise. The eggs mostly have cracked surfaces, allowing the tea to seep in and giving it a marble-like texture. You can find tea eggs right at convenient stores and night markets, but the more popular one is found in Taichung’s Sun Moon Lake.
2. Peanut ice cream
Wanna taste our favourite among Taiwanese desserts? The peanut ice cream is your Taiwanese food to try. These are ice cream burritos or rolls made with scoops of vanilla ice cream, peanut brittle, and crepe. Other flavours of this that are worth trying are pineapple and taro, recommended to be served with coriander.
3. Long fries
If you’re a fan of the classic French fry, then you’ll enjoy Taiwan’s long fries! I’ve seen this technology before in a franchise expo — basically, it’s mashed potato powder formed into long strips and seasoned with various flavours. It’s extra long and extra delicious, like French fries on steroids that actually taste like — surprise — potatoes.
4. Pineapple tart
These bite-sized fruity pastries are Taiwan’s most popular traditional snacks. Filled with chewy pineapple fillings, the pineapple tarts are covered with soft crusts and are popularly eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival. If you’re Filipino, though, I’m pretty sure you won’t be as impressed since you’ve probably tried this before. But if you’re looking for pasalubong, then here’s a suggestion.
Also read: 25 Taiwan Souvenirs & Where You Can Buy Them
The Taiwanese love their sausages and unlike most countries, you can actually taste the difference! We’ve tried squid, fish egg, and herb sausages. There are more exotic choices like wild boar, tofu skin-wrapped, or rice bun-covered. Then, when we were in Sun Moon Lake in Taichung, we tried the mountain pork, which is made with mountain boar meat. Trust me, everything is delicious, so you can make daring choices.
6. Stinky tofu
I am guilty of NOT trying this one. As we were passing by Feng Chia Night Market in Taichung, I smelled something like the sewers or a canal. I started doubting the hygiene practices of the place. Turns out, it was the stinky tofu! I was eyeing trying this one throughout our trip, but I just could not stand the awful stench!
Stinky tofu is a mixture of fermented milk, veggies, and meat brined together for several months. It can be served cold, steam, stewed, or deep fried with veggies. Try it if you can, but I’ll pass.
7. Taro balls or sweet potato balls
One of the newest night market crazes is the taro balls — mashed sweet potato formed into balls and then deep fried. The outside is hard and crunchy, while the inside is soft and yummy! Great to keep them handy as snacks.
8. Taiwanese breakfast
If you want to experience Taiwan off-the-beaten-path, go to any public market to try the traditional Taiwanese breakfast. It usually is composed of sticky rice, eggs, sausages, leek pie, turnip cake, and steamed buns and served with hot soy milk. If you’re in Taichung, better try this at Second Market. I wouldn’t say it’s delicious because it was bland rice-flavour overload, but it still deserves a spot on this list ofTaiwanese food to try.
This saucy steamed dumpling is served in small steaming bamboo steaming baskets. Once you bite into them, you can savor the minced meat simmered with a piping hot soup. The most famous Taiwanese restaurant to serve Xiaolongbao is Din Tai Fung.
10. Miyahara ice cream
If you’re planning to go to Taichung, be sure to visit the iconic and Harry Potter-esque dessert store called Miyahara. Even if the desserts are on the pricey side, you’ll enjoy just walking into its magical halls of desserts like Uganda 80% Smoked Chocolate, Sri Lankan Black Tea, almond crisps, cheesecakes, and more.
11. Gua bao and pepper buns
Also called the Taiwanese hamburger, gua bao, cua pao, or simply pork buns are braised pork belly dressed with coriander, cilantro, ground peanuts, or pickled mustard greens enclosed in a white bun. Other fillings are chicken, fish eggs, or stewed beef.
Similarly, you can also try the pepper bun, which is marinated pork with scallions, sesame seeds, chives, and burger buns grilled at the sides of the oven.
12. King trumpet mushroom
The most curious thing I’ve seen in Taiwan night markets are the grilled king trumpet mushroom that’s battered, diced, deep fried, and sprinkled with your choice of seasoning. King trumpet mushrooms are the largest type of oyster mushrooms, and a lot of Taiwanese people line up just to have a cup. I love how juicy and healthy it is!
13. Grilled seafood
A common sight at Taiwanese night markets are grilled scallops, lobsters, oysters, sea snails, shrimp, and more.
14. Fried scallion pancake
At first, it looked like a flaky pita bread being seasoned by various seasonings such as berry, curry, and sour cream powders. But scallion pancakes are among the most popular and versatile Taiwanese food to try in the night markets. Bite into the flaky, chewy, and steaming pancakes, preferably with cheese and egg fillings and seasoned with daring flavors. My favourite one is simply nori.
15. Bubble tea
Perhaps the most iconic Taiwanese food to try is boba, also called pearl milk tea or bubble tea. Commonly, this is made of black tea, milk, fruit juice (such as wintermelon), and tapioca pearls. Other common add-ons are pudding and fruit jellies. You can choose the level of sweetness and the number of ice it contains.
The original boba was said to be made in Taiwanese tea house Chun Shui Tang in Taichung. We tried and loved it! The Chin Shui Tang boba tastes more like tea than just milk.
Tips for your Taiwan food trip
Before you taste all the Taiwanese food there is to try, here are some important things to keep in mind when planning your trip:
- Taiwan weather. Taiwan has a monsoon season from April to September, which is characterised by unpredictable drizzles and downpour. The best time to travel to Taiwan is from October to March, but it can still rain during those months.
- What to wear. It’s advisable to wear comfortable walking shoes, since there’s a lot of walking and commuting involved. Locals usually wear loose and lightweight clothing.
- What to bring. Don’t forget to bring your EasyCard, a refillable water bottle, umbrellas or raincoats (for when you’re biking), and skin protection!
- Unlimited Fun Pass for three days. I highly recommend getting a Taipei Unlimited Fun Pass for three days. It will save you lots and will help you maximise your Taipei city tour. You get an all-access pass to the Taipei Metro, Taipei Buses, and most of the Taipei attractions listed here!