We’ve all tried, tasted, and fawned over Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Thai cuisine. But the oft-forgotten Taiwanese cuisine deserves its own place among the giants of delectable Asian delicacies. You’ve not really tried Asian food until you’ve sampled delicious beef noodles, or sunk your teeth into soft gua bao (steamed buns) or sipped some yummy bubble tea! Taiwanese cuisine is heavily influenced by Chinese, Japanese and even Portuguese cuisines. The heaviest influence is from the Fujian (Hokkien) province of China. But the traditional native Taiwanese dishes are not to be discounted, especially, the pork, seafood, chicken and rice dishes. The tropical location of Taiwan also lends a distinct personality to its food, in the form of an abundant use of fresh fruit in the preparation of drinks and fruit teas. Taiwanese food is truly a melting pot of Asian cuisines. So, come along and let’s take a look at the food that you must try while you are in Taiwan!
1. Beef noodles
Arguably, Taiwan’s most popular dish (some even call it the national dish), beef noodles is a favorite among locals as well as tourists. The dish is referred to as beef noodles or beef noodle soup in Taiwan. It consists of noodles and beef (stewed or braised), as well as vegetables such as cabbage, simmered in a fragrant broth and garnished with that most-Asian of all ingredients - scallions. Most restaurants and street vendors have their own unique version of beef noodles. Be sure to try out this comforting dish eaten all over Taiwan.
Lin Dong Fang
Address: No. 4-3, Andong Street, Zhongshan District, Taipei City, Taiwan 10491
Opening hours: 11am to 2am
Price: approximately USD 7.30
2. Yummy fried chicken chops
These butterflied, pounded and crispy-fried chicken breasts are Taiwan’s answer to KFC, possibly even tastier. This oddly-titled ‘fried chicken chop’ recipe involves butterflying chicken breasts, then pounding them till they are evenly flat and marinating them in a sweet-and-savory sauce overnight. What makes them crispy is the sweet potato starch used to coat the marinated chicken breasts. Some call them chicken steaks while others refer to them as chicken chops. Chops or steaks, whatever you prefer to call them, make sure you try them out!
Hot-Star Large Fried Chicken
Address: 1/F, No. 14-16, Emei Street, Wanhua District, Taipei City, Taiwan 108
Opening hours: 12pm to 10pm
Price: approximately USD 2.37
3. A night market favorite - Oyster omelette
Found in night markets across the country, this dish seems to be a favorite of the tourists; the portion sizes are generous and it is quite light on the wallet. The oyster omelet has two obvious main ingredients – oysters and eggs. But each street food vendor adds their own unique touch to it by adding some sort of a vegetable - cabbage, onions, or bean sprouts to it. Generally, served with a runny red sauce, most often spicy, this omelet will surely fire up your taste buds!
Yuan Huan Bian Oyster Omelet
Address: No. 46, Ningxia Rd., Datong Dist, Taipei, Taiwan
Opening hours: 12pm to 2:30pm; 4:30pm to 1am
Price: approximately USD 3.00
4. Hearty and tasty braised pork rice
The Taiwanese have a way of turning the most simple ingredients like pork and rice into a mouth-watering dish. Braised pork rice is one of the most-loved local Taiwanese dishes. Braised pork meat (cubed or minced) is served on top of rice, in the strictest and most traditional versions of the recipe. But in most restaurants, street stalls or households, this dish is served with an assortment of side dishes like soups or vegetables.
Jin Feng Braised Pork Rice
Address: No. 10, Section 1, Roosevelt Rd, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City, Taiwan 100
Opening hours: 8am to 1am
Price: from USD 1.5
5. Gua bao, the Taiwanese hamburger
Meet the Taiwanese hamburger – gua bao or steamed buns! These steamed buns are traditionally filled with braised pork belly, pickled mustard or cabbage, coriander, and powdered peanuts. The gua bao is a very versatile dish, served both at street food carts and restaurants. You may even find a fancier version of gua bao in upscale restaurants in Taipei. Wherever you choose to have your gua bao, it is guaranteed to be lip-smackingly good!
Lan Jia Gua Bao
Address: No. 3, Alley 8, Lane 316, Section 3, Roosevelt Rd, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City, Taiwan 100
Opening hours: 11am to 2am
Price: approximately USD 1.62
6. Refreshing and cool bubble tea (boba)
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re sure to have heard of bubble tea or ‘boba milk tea.’ What most people don’t know is that this is a Taiwanese invention of the ‘80s. A sweet blend of traditional milk tea and tapioca balls, this drink is a hit among children and adults alike. Although traditionally, the base of the bubble tea has been milk and tea, many newer versions now come with a base of fresh tropical fruit juices and a variety of herbal teas.
Chun Shui Tang
Address: 1B1, No. 9, Songshou Rd., Xinyi Dist, Shinkong Mitsukoshi A9, Taipei
Opening hours: 11am to 9:30pm
Price: approximately USD 2.75
7. Melt in your mouth flame-torched beef
To an outsider, it is unimaginable that these succulent flame-torched beef cubes came from an unappetizing piece of raw beef. But locals know very well that the beef melts in your mouth because it was blow-torched and cooked to perfection! This flame-torched beef has become another staple in nearly every Taiwanese night market. Armed with weapons like a blow torch and tongs, the cook first grills the beef cubes on high heat over a grill, then torches them and lastly sprinkles them with delicious seasoning.
Shilin Night Market
Address: No. 101, Jihe Road, Shilin District, Taipei City, Taiwan 111
Opening hours: 4pm to 12am
Price: approximately USD 2.50
8. Warm and comforting mee sua
Once considered peasant food, the humble mee sua is comfort food to many modern Taiwanese. On a cold and rainy day, when you need something to warm you up, a bowl of mee sua will be just the thing you need. Mee sua is simply rice vermicelli cooked in a thick starchy broth. The most popular street food version of mee sua has oysters added in for extra flavor.
Ay Chung Rice Noodles
Address: No. 8-1 Emei Street, Taipei Wanhua District, Taipei City
Opening hours: 9am to 11pm
Price: from USD 2.00
9. Taiwanese tempura - Tian bu la
Also known as Taiwanese tempura, this dish is basically fish paste molded and deep-fried tempura-style in tapioca or potato flour. The tempura is then served with a brown sauce. This dish is another night-market favorite.
Simon Tian Bu La
Address: 95 Xining South Road, Wanhua District, Taipei City
Price: approximately USD 2.00
10. Chewy and flavorful iron eggs
These dark, chewy and flavorful eggs were an accidental invention of a restaurateur who served snacks to dock hands in a seaside town in Taiwan. They get their curious name from a continuous process of boiling and drying eggs again-and-again in a broth of soy sauce, rock sugar and spices. The result is deep chocolate-colored eggs that are chewy, sweet and tangy.
Grandma's Iron Eggs
Address: 135-1 Zhongzheng Road, Tamsui District, New Taipei City
Opening hours: 9am to 9:30pm
Price: approximately USD 1.00
Affordable, plentiful and tasty Taiwanese food
Trying out local Taiwanese food is a must-do activity for any visitor. Most of the dishes mentioned above are easily available at the many night markets that come alive after sundown all over Taiwan. The food is affordable and served in generous portions. Some dishes like braised pork rice, oyster, omelet and Tian bu la are even suitable for sharing with friends and family. Go on then, come for the attractions and stay for the food in flavorful Taiwan.
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