Voted as one of the best food destination in the world, Taiwan’s culinary philosophy here is to have “small eats, but eat a lot”. The words ‘a lot’ could mean several things on this island nation – eat a lot at one time or eat small a lot of times. The latter seems fitting as Taiwan’s food market is open day and night.
In Taipei, Taiwan’s capital city, there are around 20 streets dedicated specifically to food. The island’s food is a mash-up of the cuisine of the Min Nan, Teochew and Hokkien Chinese communities, along with Japanese cooking techniques. So if you’re thinking of visiting Taiwan, we say go.
As the food experts of Asia, we have compiled a list of salivating street foods (in no particular order, because they’re all so good) to add more reasons for you to experience the food industry of Taiwan.
REMINDER: DO NOT LICK YOUR SCREEN
1. Oyster Omelet
A dish that truly showcases the offerings of Taiwan. A harmonious relationship between something from land and something from the sea. The eggs acts as the perfect home for the little oysters, which are easily found around the island. While prepping the egg, sweet potato starch is added to give the whole thing a gooey chewiness. Pair the omelet with the vendor’s homemade chili sauce, which is more sweet than spicy.
2. Taiwanese Fried Chicken
This is not the average KFC. Taiwanese fried chickens are normally flattened breast pieces, has more crunch and are served piping hot. Seasoned with special salt and pepper powder, with a choice of adding spice with chilli powder. Nowadays, vendors has a bigger range of seasoning flavors like Seaweed, Sesame seed and even Sweet & Sour.
No matter winter or summer, these are however a popular snack throughout the year.
3. Stinky Tofu
The locals call it “Chodofu” which literally mean Stinky Tofu. Fermented in a mix of fermented milk and a vegetable sometimes meat and fish based brine, you can smell it from a far. Some say it smells like hot garbage or drain water but don’t let the smell fool you into not trying it. Draped with sweet and spicy sauce, it has a crisp casing with a soft pudding-like center.
Have a taste and you’ll see why the Taiwanese, Hong Kongese & Chinese love this treat.
4. Small Sausage in Big Sausage
Yes. That is really the name of this street snack. The name is a literal translation of the Chinese name 大腸包小腸 (Da Chang Bao Xiao Chang) which literally means ‘small sausage in large sausage’. Imagine a New York Hotdog, but with glutinous rice as the buns instead. The sausage in the middle are almost always grilled sweet pork sausage, though some vendors have a chicken option too.
Some stalls provide soy sauce or wasabi for an explosion of flavour that lasts. We recommend trying this snack after you have tried everything else as it is quite filling.
5. Pig Blood Cake
It is not chocolate cake drenched in pigs blood. It is actually less of a ‘cake’ and more of pig’s blood. Somewhat similar to the British breakfast food Black Pudding, but with Taiwanese seasonings and mixed with sticky rice.
It certainly isn’t for everyone as it requires an acquired taste, but if you call yourself a foodie, you should give a go at least once!
Can be categorized as a burger or sandwich, Taiwanese of all ages love this snack. The original version contains pieces of pork belly, cilantro, and a few pickled greens between a white wheat bun. There might even be a few crushed peanuts thrown in for good measure making it a party of textures & flavours.
7. Iron Egg
There’s a reason why it’s called “iron egg”. And you’re right, because it’s so tough. These chewy little eggs, dyed black from long braising in soy sauce, are a highly addictive Taiwanese food.
Often made from quails’ eggs, the protein balls are cooked for hours in soy sauce then air-dried. The process is repeated over several days until the snacks become tough and acquire the desired chewiness.
8. Ice Cream RunBing
End your Taiwanese street food exploration with an ice-cream burrito – Taiwan style! RunBing is a type of burrito/spring roll made out of flour. It acts as a wrapper, usually in sweet form wrapped around vanilla ice cream and topped with crushed peanuts.
For those who prefer a savoury snack, this Runbing can also be found stuffed with bean sprouts and pork, or other meat variations.
9. Aiyu Jelly Drink
While you are on your taste fest around Taiwan’s street market, we recommend you wash it all down with this thirst quenching drink. Made from figs seeds and served in water filled with lemons and sugar syrup, this drink is as refreshing as it sounds. It’s jokingly referred to as frog’s eggs but fear not, there are no eggs in this tasty drink.
10. Bubble Tea
And finally, a drink originated from Taiwan but has taken the world by storm – the infamous Bubble/Boba tea. Bubble tea represents the chewy food texture that Taiwanese love, hence the tapioca balls that form the “bubbles” in bubble tea.
There are many flavours to a bubble tea like taro-flavored tea, jasmine tea and coffee, but it is notoriously well known for the Milk tea variants.
So there you have it, foodies. A list of Taiwan’s top street food, compiled exclusively by the food experts of Asia at Ricebowl Asia. Bookmark this list on your browser for a quick reference, when you’re spoilt with choices at Taiwan’s food market.