One a recent trip to Taiwan I discovered a whole new culinary world. First things first, the food philosophy in Asia and particularly in Taiwan, is only eat food that tastes good and eat it often.
The number of meals I ate on a daily basis in Taiwan actually exceeded my normal consumption. 🙂 So, it definitely is about making the pick from what you eat, and snacking and breakfast are definitely top on the charts. I am not a big foodie but I wanted to share a few interesting and unique food and beverages experiences that I have tried in Taiwan.
Every street in Taiwan and particularly Taipei has many restaurants, so I wouldn’t be dropping names for you. The best way to enjoy your Taiwanese culinary experience when in Taiwan is by scouting for the popular restaurants around town. Figure out what you love seeing and understand that it’s good to experiment with your palette sometimes. Personally it has often surpassed my expectations of the different kinds of food and drinks I tried in Taiwan.
Dining Tips: Wherever you see a long line-up outside a restaurant or café, it definitely is popular among locals and you should eat there. It takes a little waiting time but all worth it.
In no particular order I am sharing a few things I relished in Taiwan, and you should grab them too.
- Lu Rou Fan (Braised pork rice_)
A very popular dish among locals is the Lu Rou Fan. A very simple yet homemade style braised pork in rice. And as you see I was totally relishing it. A simple slow cooked pork belly with soy, five spices and beautifully glazed on some hot rice. It tasted brilliant.
The Lu Rou Fan is synonymous with Taiwanese cuisine it’s something you’d find at every household and every street corner. Some experts have their favourite restaurants whereas for me, I tried it at 3 different places they were amazing and had a little twist of their own culinary style.
- Bubble Tea or Boba Tea
Bubble Tea is not just an ordinary drink. Today it’s a lifestyle and attitude not only in Taiwan, but in the west too. Originated as tapioca balls that were served into sugary or milk drinks today has gained immense popularity all thanks to Taiwan.
I personally love the Taro Milk Tea with real milk as opposed to condensed milk, but that is all because I want my sugar content to be less. Strangely enough in Taiwan if you get milk tea, you can choose from the percentage of ice and sugar to the type of Boba or pearls you like. It is very customizable and something for everyone and a must try when in Taiwan.
Numerous places around Taiwan have Boba tea stores and cafés. The Taipei 101 Café has their fancy version of Bubble Tea and cookies shaped with the Taipei 101 tower. But then on the street there are plenty to choose from such as 50 Lan, Share Tea or any of the popular ones with a long queue should be good.
- Congee for Breakfast
Oh! Yes this is so good. I tried a couple of Congee places in Taipei city and in Tainan as well for breakfast and they were so yum. Ordinarily it’s slow cooked rice and meat in a soup or liquid texture with local seasoning. It’s best when eaten on the street and add some extra spring onions on the top.
It’s great to get in those carbs and protein to get you through a long day around town. For travellers on a budget, congee is definitely worth your money and fills your tummy too.
I would say the congee in Tainan can be sweet, so make your pick.
- Gua Bao ( Steambed Bun)
There are several Bao places in Taiwan. But I particularly loved the Gua Bao or Taiwanese Hamburger in Tainan city. The palette of this region is definitely on the sweeter side.
The southern part of Taiwan and specifically Tainan is well known for its Gua Bao. You can try them on Guo Hwa Street or any of the popular night markets including the Hua Yuan Night Market.
- Stinky Tofu – Oh! So good
The Stinky Tofu is definitely a very popular Taiwanese snack. You can try it too for sure. I would say it’s an acquired taste, but I loved it. And I tried it more than twice.
The fermented tofu gets marinated over 2 days due to which it has a very strong fragrance however, locals believe the stronger the smell the better it tastes. And I’d happily agree to the same.
One can try Cho Dofu or Stinky Tofu anywhere in Taiwan. But like always go for the ones with a long line-up for sure. I enjoyed mine in Tainan city with some garlic sauce, onions and spices. Oh! That was so interestingly delicious.
- Taiwanese Café Culture
Taiwan has a strong influence of Japanese, Chinese and diverse cultures. And often you can see that through various culinary concoctions and innovative café cultures around the country.
Taipei has quite a few interesting art cafes, tea cafes and cultural spots to relive those amazing moments. I’ve tried a few Café’s including the ones of Dihua Street, some by the National Taiwan University and little hidden gems around Taipei and Tainan too.
I enjoyed my time at the Café. Apron which is a totally instagramable café and has a fresh confectionery outlet and some amazing Iced Lattes too. A few of the other café’s to check out in Taipei city include Café De Riz, Love Boat (LGBT) themed café. The other ones are One fifteen and Fika Fika Café all in Taipei.
In Tainan I had brunch and coffee at Film, 321 Action in the art village in Tainan. A great spot to enjoy the patio weather or appreciate the art installations around Tainan city. There’s also George House Fine Coffee, Café Flaneur etc. Also the Gu Hua Street Section 3 has some cool coffee shops and art installations including the Zheng Xing Café.
- Mango Shaved Ice
It was my first time to try the popular Taiwanese dessert, Mango Shaved Ice. It tasted so good right away. You gotta keep the calorie count out of your mind on this particular instance.
Due to the humid climate in Taiwan, it’s always a good time to have shaved ice. Spread over condensed milk, toppings, fresh mangoes, ice bed and beans.
I tried the shaved ice at Ice Monster in Taipei city and it was totally packed. You would be super lucky to get a table on the weekends. The shaved ice has many different versions of the same in Tainan city too. Obviously, the southern parts of the country are meant to be having a sweeter palette so let the vendors know if you want to cut the sugar down.
Go try it!
- Cactus Drinks & Ice-Creams in Penghu
The southern west islands of Taiwan in Penghu have a very unique culinary experience as well. From super spicy to very sweet they have it all. Popular for its seafood dining culture, Penghu has quite a few interesting desserts too.
The Cactus drinks and ice creams are very popular around the island. And it is made of the fruit that grows out of the Cactus plants and it tastes great.
A local favourite is the red Cactus drink and Cactus milk ice creams in Penghu. The temperatures in the islands are way hotter than the rest of the country, so it’s a great opportunity to enjoy your popsicles.
- Spicy HotPot in Taiwan
Hotpots are my favourite all year round. And Taiwan has tons of chic hotpot places. Whatever your budget is, there’s a cool Hotpot place for you. I tried some at the Tainan local streets, Taipei 101 Mall, some at ZhongShan and some Ximenting as well.
Since Taiwanese food has influences of Japan and China, you’d always notice local Hotpot eateries having an assortment of spices and meats to choose from while you enjoy your hotpot.
My tip would be to add some cheese on your hot pot, and go for the all meat selection.
- Taiwanese Night Markets
One of the first things I loved about the nightlife and shopping scene in Taiwan are the night markets. Most definitely Taipei city has the biggest night markets, however Tainan has night markets everyday of the week.
Taipei’s popular night market is the Shilin Night Market. A great place to walk around, grab some snacks and talk to local vendors. They sell everything from food to local art, fashion, stationery and little cute stuff. The other market to check out would be the Ximenting neighbourhood that has some amazing food and designer brands on offer till late. The largest fried chicken is available at Ximenting as well. I had to try it.
In Tainan city I loved the Hua Yuan Night Market however there’s one everyday. So, you won’t be missing out. Stinky Tofu, Tepanyaki, Fried Noodles, Noodles in Fish, Taro Balls, Takoyaki you name it, they have it all. It’s actually so much fun walking around the little shops one by one, everyone is selling something delicious and you’re in for a great time.
A visit to Taiwan is incomplete without these culinary experiences. That said, it is the spirit of eating out and dining with friends that is essential to the Taiwanese spirit. People really have a good time. It is also because of these culinary experiences, Taiwan has tons of foodies, and tourist alike visiting the country.
I personally had a foodgasm everytime I tried something new in Taiwan. It’s about being open to trying new things and #LiveLikeALocalInTaiwan
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Sponsored Travel credits:
Thank you Taiwan Tourism Bureau North America for organizing this amazing trip for me.
Airline Partner: EVA AIR and UNI AIR
Travel Partner: Local MRT & Taipei Buses and Taxi all sponsored by Taiwan Tourism
All meals were paid for by Taiwan Tourism.
Lonely Planet – Travel around Taiwan & Taipei Guide from Chapters Indigo
Fujifilm Instax Camera – Chapters Indigo
I collaborated with photographers on different shoots in this post.
Cafe Apron shots and lifestyle shots by Richard Yeh.
Night Market, Street Shots by Jian Hui Ye.
The images belong to WaichingsWall.com
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