Taiwanese food blew me away with unique flavors and authentic dishes. It was so good that I put Taiwanese in my “Top 5” cuisines in the world!
But what exactly is Taiwanese food?
Very few Taiwanese dishes actually originated on the small island itself. Instead, many dishes were derived from mid-to-southern Chinese Provinces, and also some foods were influenced by the Japanese (because Taiwan was under Japanese rule). Some of the most common ingredients found in the diet are pork, chicken, rice, soy, and seafood. Because of Taiwan’s geographic location as a tiny island, the seafood is fresh seafood and readily available (tuna, squid, cuttlefish and sardines). Despite beef being the least common meat (due to Buddhist tradition), beef noodle soup is actually the signature dish of Taiwan!
Taiwan has an abundance of local spices that are used in many dishes. Common ingredients include soy sauce, sesame oil, peanuts, chili peppers, cilantro and basil. And lastly, the fresh fruit will blow you away! Taiwan’s tropical landscape produces fresh papayas, star fruits, melons, bananas and citrus fruits.
Read on to discover the 8 Best Taiwanese dishes!
1. Beef Noodle Soup
It is served in a large bowl filled with stewed cuts of beef, vegetables and Chinese noodles mixed in a juicy beef broth. It is topped with green onions, tofu and delicious Taiwanese spices. The bowls are so big that there is no need for a side dish, and I would be impressed if you can eat everything in the bowl! I struggled to eat everything even when I was really hungry.
Beef soup is sold at any hole-in-the-wall Taiwanese restaurant, and it is really cheap (usually $2-3USD). It’d be a crime not to eat this in Taiwan!
2. Soup-Filled Dumplings
One of my all-time favorite dishes is soup-filled dumplings, and they are found at the famous Din Tai Fung restaurant. This restaurant is a Michelin star place, and was named the Top 10 Gourmet Restaurants in the World by New York Times, and Forbes said it has the World’s Greatest Dumplings. I can attest to all of the ratings, beacuse these are that damn good! These dumplings are made to perfection, as you can see the highly trained workers through the glass window in the front of the restaurant.
The dumplings literally melt in your mouth. They are steamed to perfection, somehow having soup around a delicious minced beef or piece of crab meat. I don’t know how they do it, but it tastes like heaven on earth. I think I ate about 20 in one sitting. There is always a long line at this restaurant, but it’s worth it! Oh, and it’s also really cheap for the quality. Do yourself a favor and eat these! 😀
3. Hot Star Fried Chicken
I first heard about Hot Star when I was in Hong Kong, but the large chicken in Taipei blows it away! This piece of fried chicken is moist, tender, oversized, and fried to perfection. The bursting flavor will blow you away with every bite.
The original place that sells this is at the Shilin Night Market.. Just look for the long line wrapped around the street and you’ll find it. The line goes quick and it’s worth the wait!
4. Spicy Hotpot
An emerging Taiwanese specialty is the spicy Hot Pot. Restaurants serving hot pots are popping out of nowhere all over the city. Basically, you will sit down and there will be a large bowl in the middle of the table that’s being heated up with fire below it. It’s kind of like Japanese shabu-shabu. Then, you will choose your spicy broth and choose which vegetables that you want to boil inside the delicious hotpot stew. You can choose a variety of meat, mushrooms, onions, eggplant, and other vegetables and spices. Some of these restaurants will serve you unlimited beer with your meal, so look out for that! It’s best to eat this in the winter when it is cold outside, because it will warm up your body!
5. Scallion Pancakes
Also known as green onion pancakes, this cheap street food dish is something that you might fall in love with. It’s basically a greasy piece of flatbread backed with lots of scallions and oil. It’s kind of like a big pancake, or even a variety of a pizza. It was my go-to drunk food in Taipei, because street vendors are out all night selling these for $1-2USD. Make sure to smother the pancake in Taiwanese spices.
Ahh, I am craving one of these right now!
6. Stinky Tofu
Just as the name suggests, this tofu is extra stinky. You will know if you’ve ever come across these, because the odor can be smelled from 20 meters away. Just like durian (a South East asian fruit), stinky tofu is one of the most mind-altering and polarizing dishes of all time. It is made by soaking cubes of tofu in fermented milk, vegetables and meat. People either love or hate this dish. And the people that love it say that the stronger the smell, the better the taste. I tried these at the Shilin Night Market, and I must admit, it wasn’t that bad! I actually enjoyed it 🙂 Try it and see what your taste buds think…
7. Mango Shaved Ice Mountain
The best desert of all time! Especailly when it is hot outside (which is 90% of the days in Taiwan), you must try mango shaved ice! Just look at the picture… and imagine a taste 10 Times as rich and flavorful as it looks. The incredibly fresh cuts of mango isn’t even the best part. The shaved ice texture and taste is mind-blowing! I have never seen this before, and I don’t know how they do it. It’s like creamy, sweet, rich, flavorful and a cotton-candy like texture. Writing this post is almost pointless because it doesn’t do justice for how refreshing this is. See for yourself!
8. Bubble Tea
My last and final thing on the list bubble tea, and it might be the most important to try in Taiwan. As a matter of fact, bubble tea originated in Taiwan in the 1980s. Also known as Boba Milk Tea, this drink combines sweet milk tea with chewy tapioca balls at the bottom. It almost tastes like you are drinking candy, but it cools you down in the hot weather. I seriously drank 2 bubble teas per day when I was in Taiwan! You can’t go a block without seeing a bubble tea vendor on the street. It’s readily available and always fresh. The cups are big, and the straws are massive so you can suck in the tapioca balls. The bubble tea in Taiwan puts all other bubble tea that I’ve had to shame!
Thanks for reading! What are your favorite Taiwanese foods?