Weird and Wonderful Things to Eat in Taiwan

Food memories always linger the longest for us and this was particularly true when reminiscing about all the things to eat in Taiwan. From street food at the Taipei night markets eaten on the fly to ten course Chinese banquets, we tried all the best food in Taipei and beyond when we visited Taiwan for a friend's wedding in April. Read on to discover our picks of what to eat in Taiwan.
Shanghai soup dumplings: a Taiwan Snack

Things to Eat in Taiwan (and Drink!)

Soybean Milk and Variations

We found ourselves grazing on convenience store snacks almost immediately upon arrival in Taipei. Soybean milk and dragon fruit cake made for a comforting snack on the bus ride from Taipei Airport into the city. You'll find soybean milk and a wide selection of other plant-based milks at convenience stores and supermarkets in Taiwan.

We picked a few different "milks" to try with breakfast. I was particularly intrigued by peanut rice milk. The verdict? It tastes like liquid peanut butter. I think Taiwanese peanut rice milk would be good foamed in coffee with a little bit of chocolate to make a peanut butter chocolate mocha. The soybean milks and variations in Taiwan are a steal at about 80 US cents per container; a great way to sample some typical Taipei food.

Things to eat in Taiwan: soy milk, dragon fruit cake, minced pork with chives
Left: Taiwanese soybean milk
Middle: Dragon fruit cake
Right: Minced pork with chives.

Chinese Cuisine

The Chinese cuisine in Taiwan is some of the best in the world. You'll find influences from across  China due to the Kuomintang retreat at the end of the Civil War that resulted in the establishment of a communist government on the mainland. The retreat to Taiwan saw a large influx of Chinese chefs from mainland China.

It can be difficult to find your way around in Taipei if you don't speak Chinese. We somehow managed to do alright for dinner on our first night in Taipei. Not a lot of restaurants near our hotel had English or picture menus. We ended up at Flower Restaurant and were able to order by pointing at the picture menu after using Google translate to give us an idea of what we might be ordering. The spicy minced pork with chives and shredded pork with garlic went down well with a bottle of Taiwan Beer. We were loving Taipei food so far!

We also ate Chinese cuisine with multiple dishes served family style in Hualien on the East Coast of Taiwan (link to restaurant on Google Maps which had a name that doesn't translate easily). In this case, we had the benefit of going with our Taiwanese friend and left the ordering to her and her family. Pro-tip: definitely find someone local to go to dinner with. It will force you out of your comfort zone to try things you might not be brave enough to order on your own. We got to try an angry looking whole fish with plenty of sharp teeth plus spicy chicken with peanuts. We also tried a few quintessential Taiwanese dishes including stinky tofu boiled in a sort of soup 👎 and pig intestines in vinegar sauce with ginger 👍. The smell of the stinky tofu was simply overpowering and it was really hard to enjoy because of that. The pig intestines were nicely flavored with a tartness from the vinegar that I really enjoyed.
Things to eat in Taiwan: Shangai soup dumplings from Kao Chi in the Dongmen neighborhood of Taipei
Shanghai soup dumplings

Shanghai Soup Dumplings

Shanghai soup dumplings are another must-try dish on a trip to Taiwan. Din Tai Fung is rated as having some of the best food in Taipei and is extremely popular. However, in our opinion it wasn't worth waiting 80 minutes for a table. Instead, we ate Shanghai soup dumplings at Kao Chi restaurant instead in Taipei's Dongmen neighborhood. We enjoyed the dumplings so much that we went to Kao Chi twice on our one week visit to Taipei City.

Taiwanese Popsicles

Taiwan can be hot and steamy, especially in the Spring. Thank goodness for Taiwanese popsicles! We sampled a delicious passion fruit popsicle sampled at Taipei Confucius Temple. I also learned that there are two kinds of kumquats: road and oval. Round is more tart and was my favorite in ice pop form.

Taiwan Snacks and Street Food

Make sure to seek out street food in Taipei. There is a really cool and well-priced hawker market at Taipei Expo Park and it's a great place to stop for lunch. We enjoyed chicken and rice plus noodle soup with fish cakes. The soup cost less than the equivalent of $2 USD.

We also tried some of the best street food to eat in Taipei in the Ximen pedestrian district. We saw a huge line snaking out from Ay Chung Rice-Flour Noodle. Fortunately, they dish out the soup incredibly fast so the line moves fast. I can now say that I (accidentally) ate pig intestines in Taipei. I asked a helpful local who was born in Taiwan but currently lives in California what the little spongy pieces were in the flour-rice noodle soup, clams? He paused and then told me... Intestines. They were actually tasty so it's all good.

Keep an eye out for sweet Taiwan snacks in Ximen too. We tried a waffle filled with pearl cream. I can definitely say that I ordered this one on purpose and got what I expected.
Things to eat in Taiwan: scallion pancake, dragon fruit and passion fruit shaved ice, whole fish
Left: Scallion pancake at Dongdamen Night Market in Hualien
Middle: Dragon fruit and passion fruit shaved ice at Dongdamen Night Market
Right: Angry fish at a restaurant in Hualien Taiwan

Taiwanese Bubble Tea

Taiwanese bubble tea is a "must have" food to eat in Taiwan. I got to sample traditional Taiwanese bubble tea with friends at a more upscale cafe inside the National Concert Hall in Taipei. Warning: portions are huge. The ordering process can be complicated because you need to specify the type of milk tea that you want and how sweet you want it. The sweetness is quoted as a percentage with 100% being the restaurant's normal amount of sugar. I recommend ordering about 30% sweet, otherwise it may be too sweet for the a Western palate.You also need to decide whether you want boba (larger tapioca balls) or pearls (smaller ones). In addition, you need to specify how many balls you want on the same sliding percent scale that you used to specify sweetness. I opted for 100% pearl milk tea 30% sweet. It was delicious but incredibly filling.
Things to eat in Taiwan: Pearl milk tea, craft beer at Zhang Men Brewery in Taipei, red bean paste bagel
Left: Pearl Milk Tea in Taipei
Middle: Pints of craft beer at Zhang Men Brewery in Taipei. 
Right: Mouse Bagels filled with red bean paste in Hualien Taiwan.

Taiwanese Craft Beer

Taipei has a small but respectable craft beer scene. We finished one of our days in Taipei with some creative selections from Zhang Men Brewery. A coconut stout, smokey dunkleweisen, and kumquat fruit beer were highlights. Also, the water tap at the table that spontaneously turned itself on kept things interesting. On another evening, we grabbed a sneaky craft beer from Taiwan Head Brewers at Way Home Beer House. Compared to Zhang Men Taproom, Way Home Beer House was off-the-beaten-path and much more chill. They had a few beers on tap and a much broader selection of Taiwanese craft beers in refrigerated cases along one wall. Sit on comfy couches for a chat or even play a board game.

Coffee Grown in Taiwan

Did you know that they grow coffee in Taiwan? I was moderately surprised but probably shouldn't have been given how hot and steamy Taiwan can be with forested hills. We tried a layer cake and coffee grown in Taiwan at Fong Da near the Ximen district in Taipei.

Taiwanese Bagels in Hualien

Simply out of curiosity, we took a long walk in Hualien in search of Taiwanese bagels. Mouse Bagels in Hualien serves traditional bagels with a Taiwanese twist. We noshed on a red bean paste filled matcha bagel for breakfast.

Fiber Beverages

Getting enough fiber in your diet is challenging in Taiwan so folks tend to get creative. We found fiber water and fiber juice in various vending machines in Taipei and beyond. However, the most surprising source of fiber that we discovered was Coke Zero with added fiber. I can attest that it tastes just like regular Coke Zero. Would drink again.
Things to eat in Taiwan: Coke Zero with fiber, Japanese tonkatsu, scallion bun
Left: Diet Coke with added fiber.
Middle: Japanese tonkatsu in Tamsui.
Right: Scallion bun from Yih Shun Shiuan in Jiaoxi.

Japanese Tonkatsu

Taiwan was also a Japanese colony from the late 19th to mid-20th century. Because of this, Japanese cuisine should also be on your list of what to eat in Taiwan. We had Japanese tonkatsu (breaded pork) for lunch in Tamsui just outside of Taipei.

SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: Speaking of Japanese food, read up on all the weird and wonderful things to eat in Japan.

Scallion Buns

Scallion buns also make a great Taiwanese snack. We ate a scallion bun from Yih Shun Shiuan in Jiaoxi as a no fuss dinner after a multi-course Chinese banquet for lunch.

Taiwanese Foodie Experiences

Taiwanese Night Markets

Night markets are an integral part of the culture and offer up some of best things to eat in Taiwan. We visited two night markets on our trip to Taiwan: Dongdamen Night Market in Hualien and the largest Taipei night market: Shilin. Shilin Night Market is located 5 stops away from Taipei Main Station on public transportation.

I tried a freshly fried scallion pancake with a fried egg at Dongdamen Night Market. We also enjoyed deep-fried king oyster mushrooms, a Taiwanese burger, a "coffin" (hollowed out French toast filled with beef and scallions), and fried chicken. Fun fact: in Taiwan, the chicken leg is more expensive than the breast (the exact opposite of in the U.S.) because the dark meat is more juicy. We finished our adventure at the Dongdamen Night Market in Hualien Taiwan with some dragon fruit and pineapple shaved ice cream.

There are so many Taiwan snacks to try at Shilin Night Market. We didn't have a local to accompany us to Shilin Night Market so I was feeling less adventurous about trying "weird" food like duck's blood. We tried a charcoal baked pork bun and sweet potato rolled in chocolate. I did try deep-fried stinky tofu. The deep fried version is definitely more palatable than the one in broth that we tried in Hualien.

Shilin Night Market even has a couple craft beer places. We tried a Yuzu (pomelo) wheat ale and a fruity IPA. We also picked up a bottle of lychee sour to take back to the hotel.

Things to eat in Taiwan: scallion pancake in the fryer, stinky tofu, charcoal baked pork bun
Left: Scallion pancake at Dongdamen Night Market in Hualien.

Middle: Deep-fried stinky tofu.

Right: Charcoal baked pork bun.

SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: Cambodia is another destination in Asia where night markets are popular. I recommend taking a Siem Reap food tour for a great overview of Cambodian street food.

Fuhang Soy Milk

Fuhang Soy Milk is another quintessential Taipei food experience. Located upstairs in an unassuming food hall, expect to see a line snaking down the stairs, out the door and around the corner. We went to Fuhang Soy Milk for breakfast. It was worth the 20 minute wait. Watch the staff make freshly baked bread in a round oven while you wait. Try a bowl of soy milk and an egg sandwich. The breakfast we had at Fuhang Soy Milk was one the best food experiences we had in Taiwan. It was so good that we even came back twice. We were actually thwarted on our second attempt to eat at Fuhang Soy Milk at first. The line was just enormous and we simply didn't have time to wait (we arrived around 10 am). However, we came back again after visiting Huashan 1914 Creative Park and the line was much shorter (it took about 15 minutes to get our food).

Best Food in Taipei: Fuhang Soy Milk
Fuhang Soy milk in Taipei:
Left: Bowl of soy milk
Middle: Egg sandwich on fresh baked bread
Right: Baking the bread 

Eat Dihua Street in Taipei

Dihua Street dates back the 1850s and is the oldest street in Taipei. Some sections of Dihua Street are even older and can be linked to a time when the Dutch ruled Taiwan (then Formosa) in the 15th century. Dihua Street is great for exploring the historic shopfronts. Dihua Street also features some of the most delicious food in Taipei.

Highlights of the Taiwan snacks we tried on Dihua Street include:
  1. Steamed rice cakes filled with sesame or peanut
  2. Noodles at JMM Canteen
  3. A kumquat popsicle (of course!)

Taiwan snacks on Dihua Street: kumquat popsicle, steamed rice cakes, noodles at JMM canteen
The dishes of Dihua Street in Taipei:
Left: Kumquat popsicle
Middle: Steamed rice cakes
Noodles at JMM Canteen

Hot Pot Dinner

We stayed at the Sunworld Dynasty Hotel near Taipei Arena. Sunworld Hotel is close to the Breeze Shopping Mall which features an extensive food court with both fast food and sit down options. We ate dinner at Delectable Hot Pot Lab in the Breeze Mall. I loved that they served drinks and sauces in Erlenmeyer flasks. Worth checking out if you want to sample an array of Taiwan food.

Aboriginal Taiwanese Feast

We took a road trip down the East Cost of Taiwan during our trip. As part of the 3 day small group custom itinerary, we visited the Amis Aboriginal people at Cidal Hunting School near Hualien Taiwan. We ate a communal feast including whole fish, vegetables, and rice dishes prepared in traditional ways before being treated to some cultural demonstrations. We visited a second village: Leader Aboriginal Village, for lunch during our day trip to Taroko Gorge. There are about half a million indigenous people living in Taiwan with a history that dates back 5000 years. Their Polynesian culture developed in isolation until the Han Chinese arrived in the 17th century.  
Things to eat in Taiwan: aboriginal feast at Cidal Hunting School near Hualien
Aboriginal feast with the Amis people at Cidal Hunting School near Hualien.

Luodong Kitsch

We traveled to Luodong as a pitstop on our return to Taipei at the end of our East Coast Taiwan road trip. We ate at a restaurant whose name translates to: Yilan Luodongjun Nostalgic Restaurant. Serving up filling Chinese dishes, the cheapest option was approximately 10 courses. I was so full at the end of that meal. A few highlights included: marinated kumquats, thousand year old egg, and pineapple pork. The restaurant in Luodong was full of kitschy antiques and had a dress-up station outside with a fun variety of hats.

Things to eat in Taiwan: Yilan Luodongjun Nostalgic Restaurant
Yilan Luodongjun Nostalgic Restaurant:
Left: display of classic telephones
Middle: pineapple pork
Right: marinated kumquats

Taiwanese Wedding Banquet

Our friends' wedding was the catalyst for our trip to Taiwan and we got to experience a proper Taiwanese wedding feast. The wedding banquet was held at Taipei Arena. What's involved in a Taiwanese wedding? A little bit of music, a few speeches from the family, some fabulous outfit changes (the bride appears in four different gowns), and eating...lots and lots of eating!
Things to eat in Taiwan: Taiwanese wedding banquet
Dishes from the Taiwanese Wedding Feast
Here's what was on the menu for our Taiwanese wedding banquet:
  • Steamed lobster and fish roe platter.
  • Glutinous rice dumplings dusted in peanuts wishing double happiness.
  • Steamed king prawns with garlic sauce.
  • Double boiled eight treasure with fish maw. This one smelled a little pungent but the broth was rich and tasty. Not exactly sure what was in it and I was slightly afraid to ask.
  • Steamed fish in sweet soya sauce.
  • Steamed glutinous rice with crab.
  • Radish and squash with broccoli.
  • Roasted lamb chop with golden garlic.
  • Double boiled black boned chicken with Chinese herbs 
  • Homemade barbecue pork pastry. It was savory and sweet... The perfect segue to dessert. 
  • Fruit skewers with chocolate fondue where 'fruit' was taken in the broadest sense to include tomatoes! 
All the wedding guests received a heavy beautifully decorated gift box filled with Taiwanese snacks to take home with us.
Things to eat in Taiwan: Taiwanese wedding gift box
Taiwanese Wedding gift box
As you can see, there are some amazing things to eat in Taiwan especially if you have a local friend to guide and order for you.

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Things to eat in Taiwan: Stinky TofuThings to eat in Taiwan: Pearl Milk Tea

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Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog: Weird and Wonderful Things to Eat in Taiwan
Weird and Wonderful Things to Eat in Taiwan
Read about things to eat in Taiwan. Explore Taiwan snacks and what to eat in Taiwan at a Taipei night market or Hualien night market. Discover Taipei food including some of the best food in Taipei.
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