Taiwanese cuisine is difficult to define, and best thought of as an umbrella term for a huge variety of dishes and styles, many of which could be summarized as xiaochi, or “little eats.” Though these are primarily served in simple canteens or night markets, there are also plenty of restaurants specializing in Taiwanese food. Although Taiwanese cuisine is rooted in Fujianese cooking (from southern China), since 1949 many dishes have evolved from specialities originating in other parts of China. In addition, much of what’s considered to be Taiwanese food, particularly cakes and desserts, was influenced by the Japanese during the occupation period. Being an island, Taiwan is also particularly renowned for its fresh seafood.
Here Are 15 Must Try Tastes in Taiwan:
Congee is a savoury rice porridge enjoyed for breakfast throughout China and much of Asia. Most hotel’s in Taipei offer a “do it yourself” congee line where you can top your bowl with whatever you fancy: pork floss, crunchy Chinese donut, kimchi, chopped peanuts or crunchy pickles.
Taiwan is home to a large population of Hakka people so it’s no wonder that Taipei is known as one of the best cities on earth to sample their unique Chinese cuisine. The most popular dish is Hakka Rice Noodles, a delicious comfort food featuring flat noodles which are stir fried with chicken, green onion, carrots and bean sprouts.
By the early 20th century, Maokong village and the surrounding hillsides were a thriving tea-producing district, with oolong and tieguanyin teas being exported all over the world. Today, the 100-plus hectares of plantation still produce around 60 tons of tea a year, but now most of this is consumed at teahouses that dot the hillside. Enjoy the most authentic sipping experience with a jaw-dropping view at Yaoyue Teahouse.
Minced Pork Noodle is a popular Taiwanese dish featuring ground pork marinated and boiled in soy sauce served on top of steamed noodles.
One of Taiwan’s culinary success stories can be found at the restaurant chain Din Tai Fung. The franchise is dotted throughout the island and is also a popular export in Australia, Dubai, America and beyond. In Taiwan’s capital head to the main entrance at Taipei 101 and you’ll find a bustling restaurant where you can watch dumpling masters preparing the restaurants signature xiaolongbao soup dumplings.
Invented by resourceful Taiwanese fisherman as a way of making money during the off season, Slack Season Danzai Noodle Soup is packed with a flavourful pork-and-shrimp broth, long-simmered meat sauce and pleasantly chewy wheat noodles.
If you’re a fruit fan looking for a surreal dessert look no further than Ice Monster. Be sure to order the Strawberry Snowflake Ice, a monstrous sweet treat featuring mountain of shaved strawberry ice, scoop of strawberry gelato, freshly sliced strawberries and vanilla custard.
Beef Noodle Soup is often considered Taiwan’s national dish and is made of braised beef, beef broth, vegetables and Chinese noodles.
Taiwan Beer is the country’s national brew an icon of Taiwanese culture which began as a monopoly product but has remained the best-selling beer on the island in the era of free trade. It’s an amber lager featuring a distinct taste do to the addition of locally produced ponlai rice during the fermentation process.
If you’re looking for a cool thirst quench pop by a Happy Lemon for Taipei’s fave drink. Bubble Tea was invented in Taichung in the 1980s and contains a tea base mixed with fruit or milk, to which chewy tapioca balls and fruit jelly are added.
If you’re serious about spirits head to one of Taipei’s luxury hotel bars to sample Taiwan’s world renowned whisky. In 2015 Kavalan won the World’s Best Single Malt Whisky at the World Whiskies Awards. Produced in Taiwan’s Yilan County, Kavalan’s Soloist Sherry Single Cask Single Malt Whisky is clean and complex with multi-layers of dried fruit with notes of marzipan and vanilla.
Taiwanese Fried Chicken, westernized as popcorn chicken is commonly found in Taipei as a street snack. It consists of bite-sized pieces of chicken, coated and fried with flour and topped with a seasoning of salt, pepper, chili powder and fried basil leaves.
Taiwan’s signature baked sweet is Pineapple Cake, featuring a crumbly, fragrant crust filled with a chewy and sweet pineapple filling.
Prince Cheese is one of Taiwan’s newer food fascinations and can be found across Taipei but is best enjoyed at the Shilin Night Market. The dish consists of a deep fried ball of mashed potato which is topped with corn, ham, pineapple and covered in liquid cheese.
Sheng Jian Bao is a pan fried pork bun which is served as a street food throughout Taipei. The steaming hot bun recipe is originally from Shanghai and features a crispy exterior which is filled with a savoury pork meatball.