Taiwan is a food lover’s paradise where snacking is the favourite national pastime, irrespective of the time of day or night. The country’s cuisine is a true melting pot, featuring a blend of Chinese Fujian, Cantonese, and Hakka flavours, as well as foraged ingredients from Taiwan’s indigenous peoples, and a hint of Japanese and American influence.
In Taiwan, you don’t have to spend a lot to enjoy the best food; some of the most unforgettable dining experiences can be found on the streets. Stroll past rows of family-run stalls that expertly fry, grill, or steam one or two xiao chi (small eats) to perfection. If you’re new to Taiwanese cuisine, here’s our guide to traditional dishes to get you started.
Beef Noodle Soup
Taiwanese beef noodle soup, also known as niurou mian, combines tender braised beef, chewy wheat noodles, and pickled mustard greens in a savoury broth with a hint of Sichuan spice. This comforting dish, considered Taiwan’s national dish, has a unique origin story. It was created by Chinese civil war veterans who migrated to Taiwan, bringing their regional recipes with them in hopes of finding a taste of home. In fact, niurou mian is so beloved in Taiwan that it has its own festival and has even helped overturn the island’s long-standing taboo against beef consumption.
Boba cha, or bubble tea, is a popular beverage trend originating from Taiwan that has taken the world by storm. The traditional version is made with tea, milk, ice, sugar, and chewy tapioca pearls and can be found at roadside stands and chain outlets. However, it has evolved into a variety of flavours using blended fruits, sweet potato balls, pureed taro, and even cheese – all of which are highly photogenic and shareable on social media. Regardless of the type, all boba drinks are shaken over ice and come with an extra-wide straw to enjoy the syrupy bubbles of tapioca that are mixed with the tea.
Shanghai-Style Soup Dumplings
Back in 1972, Din Tai Fung introduced its first bamboo steamer filled with handcrafted xiaolongbao, a type of soup-filled pork dumpling, to Taipei. Today, this iconic dish remains one of the most celebrated foods in Taiwan, drawing crowds to the original Xinyi Road location, where the queues attest to the simple yet impeccable quality of the Shanghai-style fare. Alongside the famous xiaolongbao, the menu also features soul-warming wonton soup and pork cutlet served over egg-fried rice. Despite the humble origins, Din Tai Fung has grown into a global brand with over 170 locations worldwide. A must-try when in Taiwan!
Taiwan’s take on green onion and fried egg pancakes, known as “congyoubing,” is a budget-friendly delight for the taste buds – crunchy, fluffy, and just greasy enough to cure a hangover. This popular street food is often sold from the most modest of carts, and the top vendors will have a queue of ravenous customers waiting. If you see an experienced cook working the wok, you know you’ve hit the jackpot. Get in line and join the queue.
Ice-Cream Spring Roll
One of the more fusion of Taiwan’s snacks, this burrito-like street food is assembled while you wait, a crepe folded around three scoops of fruit ice cream, shards of peanut candy, and sprigs of cilantro that cut through the sweetness with a floral zing. Called run bing, the dish is a playful dessert riff on a savoury spring roll of the same name originating from Fujian on the mainland and traditionally filled with shredded turnip, sausage, peanuts, and cilantro.
We’re salivating just thinking about all these delicious delicacies. Happy eating!