Taiwan, an island 180 km east of China, also known as Isla Formosa, is a travel destination that is still underrated. Like many other travel destinations, Taiwan has a lot to offer the world, starting from its nature to its people. However, let’s not forget something travelers and people in general love the most: food. Local delicacies are not to be excluded when traveling, and when traveling in Taiwan, Taiwanese food is definitely worth trying. So, to help you plan your trip, here are a few ideas of the must-try local delicacies in Taiwan.
1. Braised Snacks (滷味)
There is honestly no easy way to explain what braised snacks (Lu Wei) actually is. The dish itself consists of meat, vegetables and noodles of your choice; these ingredients will then be cooked in a flavorful broth, also, of your choice. When served, all of the ingredients that you have chosen would have been mixed and cooked together. Some travelers describe this dish as “ugly but delicious”, which is quite true. However, we should agree that looks aren’t always everything, shouldn’t we?
The fun part of eating braised snacks is actually choosing the ingredients. A braised snacks stall is usually constructed in way where customers can create their own meal; meaning over 50 different ingredients are organized in front of stall for everyone to choose from, including beef, sausages, meatballs, eggs, vegetables, etc. People usually choose the ingredients they want, and the vendor will count the price based on the items chosen. The price for a bowl differs based on the amount of food chosen, but the average range would be around 60 to 200 NTD (approximately 2 to 6 USD). This dish is very famous among the locals and can be found in any night market in Taiwan.
2. Taiwanese steak (牛排)
Taiwanese steak is, as you guessed: steak. However, the average Taiwanese steak has a little twist in the side dishes. Instead of having vegetables and potatoes on the side, Taiwanese steak is served with noodles on the sides. There are two options for the meat too, beef steak or boneless chicken drumstick; the chicken is usually an option for those don’t eat red meat or just don’t have the mood for beef.
The best place to enjoy a Taiwanese Steak is usually in the night markets. Steak is a very common local delicacy and the locals love it so much, so it wouldn’t be so hard to find it in any night market, such as Shilin Night Market in Taipei or Ruifeng Night Market in Kaohsiung. The price of a Taiwanese steak is usually 100 to 200 NTD (approximately 3 to 6 USD) depending on which city and night market you visit. Usually, there is a special area for free tea and cream soup that you can enjoy during your meal.
3. Red bean cake (紅豆餅)
The red bean cake is a popular delicacy in Taiwan and was brought over by the Japanese. Originally, this cake is made from a mixture similar to a waffle mix and filled with red beans. However, some vendors modify their cakes and fill them with chocolate, vanilla cream, ice cream, etc. Different from other sweets and cakes in general, the red bean cake is best enjoyed when it’s warm. Many vendors sell this delicacy in a place where people would walk by, such as universities, schools, offices, night markets, etc. On average, one cake usually cost 10 to 20 NTD (approximately 0.30 to 0.60 USD), and since it is very delicious and cheap, many have started to consider this as the ‘next bubble milk tea’.
4. Shaved Ice Cream (雪花冰)
Since the weather is always sunny during most days of the year, ice cream is a very popular commodity in Taiwan. However, ice cream that is very famous among Taiwanese is not your typical ice cream; it is shaved ice cream. Shaved ice cream has quite the reputation in Taiwan, especially in southern Taiwan where the temperature is a lot higher. People love it because it’s delicious, has many flavors and topping options and it is affordable compared to other high-end brands ice cream.
There are mainly two types of shaved ice cream: shaved ice cream and snow shaved ice cream. Shaved ice cream is basically shaved ice with toppings and melted brown sugar. Snow shaved ice cream is shaved flavored ice cream; it is called snow shaved ice cream because the color and the texture of the ice cream is very similar to the snow. There are many flavors of the snow shaved ice cream, including vanilla, chocolate, green tea, etc., with numerous toppings available to choose from, such as fresh fruits, tapioca balls/boba, taro, etc. Although it is available all around Taiwan, the best places to get a taste would be in the southern cities such as Kaohsiung, near the Sizihwan port.
5. Stinky tofu (臭豆腐)
Stinky tofu is probably one of the most famous delicacies in Taiwan. It is basically tofu that has been fermented long enough that it produces a certain odor. Usually, this dish is sold in a lunch kiosk or night market stand instead of an actual restaurant, such as Shifen Night Market in Taipei. This delicacy is well known in the culinary world, and is one of those love-it-or-hate-it snack, there is no ‘in between’.
There are many ways to serve stinky tofu including boiled, deep-fried and stewed, and the prices usually vary from 50 to 100 NTD (approximately 1.50 to 3.00 USD). Many travelers prefer deep-fried stinky tofu since it’s the least strong type in terms of the smell. However, locals really love braised stinky tofu served with Sichuan mala soup. So if you would like a taste of the local flavor, then this is a good option; nevertheless, beware of the scent since it can stay in your mouth and clothes for a few days.
6. Beef noodle soup (牛肉麵)
One of the Taiwanese dishes love by many is the beef noodle soup, which consist of beef, noodles and some chopped vegetables. The beef used in the beef noodle soup is usually beef brisket or beef shank, but chopped up beef chuck will do as well. In the dish, the beef is very tender and soft; it usually takes at least 3 hours of cooking to get to the right texture and tenderness. Since this particular Taiwanese dish is quite hard to make and often served in a bigger portion, its price range tends to be higher: 80 to 200 NTD/bowl (approximately 2.50 to 6.00 USD). If you are traveling in Taipei, there many famous places to taste a beef noodle soup, such as Yong Kang Beef Noodles and Lin Dong Fang.
Who doesn’t love food?
Food is a very big part of daily life, and traveling is not complete without a good amount of tasting, especially when you are in a place like Taiwan. These six dishes are just a few of many examples from the Taiwanese culinary world; there are numerous dishes that Taiwanese people can’t live without. So, what better way to travel and learn about the locals than through food?
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