Taiwan, like Hong Kong and Korea (mainly Seoul), is a street snack food heaven. Think of Taipei City 台北市／臺北市 in particular, and the next thing that come in mind would probably be night markets – all the cheap shopping and good food. If you’re not familiar with their culture, you would probably be at a lost of what to eat at one go. In fact, there are tons of food to try. While they’re all Taiwanese, there’s a diverse group of people living there, even consisting of their indigenous people 少數民族. Each of these groups thus have their own representative in terms of food. For example, the Hakka people 客家人 have their own Hakka dishes 客家菜 that they’re proud of.
Before I get too carried away with their history, here’s a general list of the 10 mouth-watering street snacks you ought to give a try when you’re in Taiwan!
It is almost a sin if you don’t eat this when you’re in Taiwan (unless you’re vegetarian or allergic to chicken). It’s huge, it’s crispy, it’s salty, it’s delectable and mouth-watering. Of course, please share to save some stomach space because there’s more, so much more to eat at the night market.
YOUTOPIA recommendation: the Hao Da Da Ji Pa in Shilin Night Market. Yes it’s mainstream, yes it has even opened outlets in Singapore, but no, it’s still the best when you eat there.
I love mee sua, but I hate parsley, and not a big fan of oysters. So I’d end up eating just the mee sua, dump away the parsley to my friends’ bowls and eat two to three oysters. But nevertheless, it’s tasty, it’s easy to swallow and Chinese sometimes eat this instead of normal noodles on their birthdays to hope for longevity.
YOUTOPIA recommendation: Ay-Chung (or A-Zong) Mee Sua. Situated in the busy streets of Xi Men Ding, international and domestic travellers alike go here for their mee sua fix. While people have suggested that their standards aren’t so great anymore, I’d say you go try it for yourself first and decide. After all, there’s a reason why people queue and are willing to stand around (‘cos there are no seats) to eat this.
3. BRAISED PORK RICE / LU ROU FAN 滷肉飯
Another taiwan specialty is the braised pork rice. Sinful as it is, the braised pork is best with those fats.
YOUTOPIA recommendation: 光輝肉羹 Guang Hui Rou Geng at Shi Lin Hua Rong Street, which only starts operating at 5pm.
4. FRIED OYSTER OMELETTE / ORH-AH-JIAN 蚵仔煎
A common dish in many parts of Asia including Singapore, it’s known in Taiwan as the drizzled ketchup version. Not a big fan of oysters (back to #2), but I love the eggs with the starch. You should definitely give it a try!
YOUTOPIA recommendation: Shilin night market.
While it was originally milk tea with pearls that was named as ‘bubble tea’, this term has since evolved to encompass all sorts of concoction – such as the above: Passionfruit Rocket (?). I don’t think I need more introduction, since it has already entered the American and European markets. Nevertheless, it’s the birthplace of bubble tea!
YOUTOPIA recommendation: Ding Tea, Gongcha and many other chain stores, depending on your favourite combination. However, those selling in eateries (usually with milk tea with pearls as the only option) are much affordable and they taste equally awesome!
6. SUN MILK CAKE / TAI YANG BING 太陽餅
This is the souvenir to buy. Forget about those magnets or keychains or toys, food is the most practical and makes people the most happy (especially if they’re foodies). I mean, who doesn’t love food? Tai Yang Bing is a traditional delicacy in Taiwan like Lao Po Bing in Hong Kong.
YOUTOPIA recommendation: they’re everywhere because Taiwanese know tourists are sure to buy them. While I do not have a particular shop to recommend (I’ve bought from quite a few and they were all decent), I’d say opt for those shops that allow you to sample! At least you know how it tastes like before buying boxes of them!
7. SMELLY TOFU / CHOU DOU FU 臭豆腐
Another famous Taiwan delicacy – you either love it or hate it. Just like our king of fruits, the durian, it’s smelly and reeks of sweat odour. However, that’s exactly it’s attractive point. While I personally don’t fancy it that much, it is something to try at least once. So, are you brave enough for it? 😉
YOUTOPIA recommendation: it’s best at the night markets!
A personal favourite dessert even back in Singapore, it contains pearls (those in bubble teas), grass jelly, red beans, various glutinous rice balls (yam, tapioca) etc. It can be eaten with ice, shaved ice and even heated up! An excellent and affordable dessert in all seasons.
YOUTOPIA recommendation: Dong Qu Fen Yuan. Although I have to admit most of the fen yuan I’ve tried all tasted pretty awesome!
A hot summer favourite, this is a dessert so common that you really don’t really have to go anywhere for the best. It’s Taiwan’s version of ice kachang, that comes in all shapes and sizes with different toppings. The one pictured is from the Modern Toilet restaurant and it’s… ginormous.
YOUTOPIA recommendation: Try the one at Modern Toilet for novelty reasons. If not, go ahead and eat it at any of your neighbourhood outlets. Mango flavoured ones are usually the best!
10. DA CHANG BAO XIAO CHANG 大腸包小腸
Originated from Hualien, it was one of those snacks that the Hakka people ate when they went to work. Again, a very famous street food that you can’t miss out in the night markets (or even day markets for that matter). If you don’t like glutinous rice, you can opt for the taiwan sausage itself, which is extremely tasty.
YOUTOPIA recommendation: All street stores, not limited to night markets.
11. TAIWAN BEER / TAI WAN PI JIU 台灣啤酒
Bonus recommendation: the Taiwan beer! It’s affordable and it’s so good – they basically have something for everybody. If you hate beer because it’s bitter, try their fruit beer range. The lychee one’s my favourite. 😀
Over to you! Have you been to Taiwan? Do you like their street snacks? Or do you have any more to add? 🙂