The Ultimate Food Guide to Taiwan

Taiwan is commonly known for 2 things: its friendly people (人情味 or ren qing wei) and its food! Omnomnom.

Born in Taiwan, I revisit my motherland every few years since my parents still live there. Taiwanese food is probably the biggest thing that gets me excited about visiting! These flavours are exclusive to Taiwan (as well as my mom’s cooking, and now my own!) and they signify home. Like many Canadian/ American/ European-born Taiwanese, I reminisce about these dishes everyday because nothing is as good as the real deal in Taiwan.

1. taiwanese beef noodle soup – 牛肉麵 or niu rou mian

The beef is braised for hours until it melts right in your mouth, with broth so good you’ll want to slurp the whole bowl. Topped off with some chopped pickled cabbage and green onion, this bowl is heavenly. You can customize your bowl; from the thickness of the noodles, to the meat to tendon ratio, to the level of spiciness. To complete your meal, order some 小菜 or side dishes to share among your table. My personal favourite is marinated beef tripe and pork intestine.

My family lives in 新竹 or Hsinchu City; their go-to place is called 段純貞 or duan chun zhen. Without fail, there’s always a massive line in front of the restaurant. I love the texture of their hand-cut noodles, the tenderness of their beef, and the flavour of their broth.

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2. 大腸包小腸 or Da Chang Bao Xiao Chang

This literally translates to small intestine in large intestine, but it’s really just char-grilled sausage. It’s usually served like a hot dog, with sticky rice sausage instead of the bun, and a huge piece of Taiwanese sausage instead of the hot dog. You can find this at street-side vendors or night markets.

Our go-to place has been around since I was little! My mom used to be a highschool math teacher and she taught the owner’s daughter. They serve this dish chopped up in a bento box drizzled with their house special sauce, with pickled vegetables on the side.

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3. 嘉義火雞肉飯 or chiayi turkey rice

Yes, it has to be from 嘉義 or Chiayi. My mom’s side of the family is from this city in mid-southern Taiwan and this is the dish they’re famous for. Our go-to place is called 噴水火雞肉飯 or pen shui huo ji rou fan; it’s so good that people living in other parts of Taiwan would make a trip out here just to eat it! Unlike other restaurants where they serve you shredded chicken, these guys are very generous with their portions and the turkey is served in juicy slices. They have other things on the menu too but their signature turkey rice is the best. Don’t forget to order bamboo shoots on the side- they complement the rice so well!

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4. 肉圓 or rou yuan (bawan)

More commonly referred to as Bawan (in the Taiwanese dialect), this is AS’s favourite dish. This is a translucent, gelatinous disc that’s filled with braised pork, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and herbs. They are deep fried to give the exterior a slight crunch and drenched in a delicious sauce. There are 2 kinds of bawan: the ones you find in northern Taiwan are usually red, smaller, and resembles more of a ball (right). The ones in the south (left) are flatter, more transparent, with a different kind of sauce. Both are very yummy!

My favourite bawan stand is in Chiayi, just a few blocks from my grandpa’s old house. This stand has been around for longer than I’ve been alive!

5. 肉羹 or rou geng

You can eat this with or without noodles (image above on the right). Growing up, my brother and I ate rou geng mian for breakfast every weekend. This is a thick soup containing pork and fish paste nuggets, bamboo shoots, and shitake mushrooms. The broth is loaded with black vinegar, white pepper, and lots of cilantro. A hearty meal that warms you right up!

6. traditional taiwanese breakfast

Speaking of breakfast…! The combination of dan bing (egg crepe), you tiao (Chinese donut), and dou jiang (soy milk) brings back sweet childhood memories. Some places wrap dan bing over you tiao, but I prefer to have them separately so that the you tiao stays crisp. Part of the breakfast ritual is dunking you tiao into soy milk before you take a bite. What’s even tastier than soy milk is mi jiang (rice milk), made from peanuts and rice.

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7. 青蛙下蛋 or qing wa xia dan

The direct translation doesn’t sound very appealing (frog lays eggs), but this drink is so damn good when they make it right. They have this on the menu at most bubble tea joints but it ain’t the same as this stand in Hsinchu City. I’m not a big fan of bubble teas but this stand is something else. These guys make their drinks with real lime and lemon, tapioca, and aiyu jelly (made from fig seeds).

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8. 臭豆腐 or stinky tofu

Found in night markets and street side vendors, a lot of foreigners are afraid of this dish because of the strong odor from the fermented brine that’s used to make these tofus. I don’t think it stinks at all- it smells great! Just a whiff of it makes me salivate! These tofus are deep fried and served with lots of garlic paste, chili, and a side of pickled cabbage. I like to shove everything into the center of the tofu with my chopsticks and eat it in one big bite.

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9. 大腸麵線 or da chang mian xian

Mian xian (or mi sua in the Taiwanese dialect), is a tan-brown vermicelli made from wheat. The thick soup is made from pork bone stock, containing either pork intestines or oysters. A Taiwanese soup noodle dish wouldn’t be complete without loading it with garlic paste, black vinegar, and lots of cilantro!

10. 雞排 or ji pai

This baby right here is so simple, but so good. It’s just a piece of chicken hammered down to make a patty, marinated for a few hours, and dipped in batter before deep frying. There’s a lot of hype about this place in Shilin that sells ji pai as big as your face. I think it’s a tourist trap as the flavors aren’t great and it can sometimes be quite dry. Quality over quantity, people! I like the place my mom always gets it from. The meat is ridiculously tender, juicy, and flavorful! The cherry on top is the plum seasoning they sprinkle over the deep fried patty. YUM.

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11. 豆花 or douhua

Douhua, or dao hui (in Taiwanese) is my all-time favourite dessert. I eat this all day, every day when I’m in Taiwan. There are 2 kinds. There’s douhua that has a pudding-like texture (left). These usually come in original, egg, and chocolate flavors. There’s also the traditional douhua that’s made from real soybean, topped off with mung beans, barley, and soft peanuts. When it’s cold out, you can also have it hot with ginger sugar syrup. It’ll warm you right up!

12. 鼎泰豐 or din tai fung

Din tai fung is a restaurant that was founded in Taiwan in 1958. Today, it has chains worldwide but nothing can compare to the real deal in Taiwan. This restaurant is famous for their xiao long bao (steamed pork buns), but what I like the most is their hong you chao shou (spicy chili wontons). Everything on the menu is to die for, and you really can’t go wrong with any dish!

These are just a few of many delicious dishes waiting for you in Taiwan. Have you been? Comment below with your favourite pick!

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16 thoughts on “The Ultimate Food Guide to Taiwan

  1. They certainly have some unusual foods to try in Taiwan. I’m veggie so I guess I’d go for the stinky tofu (although the stinky bit is a little off putting lol) and the douhua. I’m guessing from this list that vegetarians aren’t very well catered for there?

    • It’s hard to find vegetarian street food but they’re out there! There’s lots of tofu/soy dishes in Taiwan so that’d be your best bet 🙂

  2. Dude! Totally agree with you about the culinary genius that is Taiwan. I love going to the night market and pigging out at the local stalls. We also got the traditional breakfast there (had to wait in a really long line but it was worth it). Your pictures are bringing back so many good memories…

  3. Wow this is making me super hungry. Love the variety of food – looks similar to Indonesia (noodle soup, wantons etc – though not local delicacies there are served everywhere). I love how Douhua looks. Even though I don’t have a sweet tooth, your pics make me crave everything on the list lol

  4. OMG that all looks amazing!!! I definitely want to try all of those, I love how food shows you so much about the local culture, for me its so important to try local dishes when I travel.

  5. I’ll have a number 1 and 6 please…maybe not at the same time though 😛 I love this so much. I love that you visit your “home” frequently and you have the flavors of your family as comfort food. That is seriously so special. Some of these sound delish…but honestly some are out of my comfort zone. But I would like to try them if I’m in the area 🙂

  6. I’ve never been to Taiwan or had Taiwanese food, but I have to say that it all looks delicious! I’m glad that you cleared up the translation of the Taiwanese “hot dog” because as someone who is weird about their meat (unfortunately) I would’ve been totally turned off by the name small intestine inside large intestine. Haha! Thanks for sharing! Cheers!

    • Haha yea the names of some dishes are so bizarre! Everything’s good though, promise 🙂 With the exception of a few things that I’m not fond of like durian and pig blood… never acquired the taste for those :S

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