Taiwanese food is known for being diverse and flavorful. In fact, I would go as far as to say the main reason you should visit Taiwan is for the food. Of all the countries I’ve visited, I’ve never been so impressed with the variety of cuisine. It doesn’t matter if you prefer sweet or spicy, whether you eat meat or if you’re a vegetarian, you will fall in love with eating in Taiwan! I know I did.
The best place to introduce your taste buds to Taiwanese food is at one of the country’s famous night markets. Every city in Taiwan has a night market, and many cities have several. As soon as the sun sets, the streets light up with a food cart frenzy! I loved to wade through the narrow walking paths, witnessing the excited chatter and trying to identify the smells (some of them were not very appealing).
Taiwanese food is cheap at night markets. I was known to spend less than $3 USD on an entire meal! The portion sizes are small, so you can try a bunch of local favorites. Below I’ve listed just a few of the items I tried on my 17 day trip around the country, including one that I warn you to avoid.
10 Taiwanese Food Items to Try at Night Markets
1). Dan Bing (Taiwanese Egg Crepe)
A salty, savory crepe with a crunchy inside. Dan Bing tastes similar to spring rolls with soy sauce, and it’s a lot of fun to watch them make it right in front of you.
2). Grilled Mushrooms
If you’re a mushroom lover, you can’t walk by someone grilling fresh wild mushrooms without wanting to try one. Available in a variety of seasonings, I usually chose a simple salt and pepper or a spicy flavor.
3). Bubble Tea, Milk Tea or Frog Eggs
I had so many bubble teas over my trip, I think I ate more tapioca than the average American eats in a lifetime! Variations of these delicious sweet drinks are available everywhere. Don’t worry, it’s not really frog eggs. Just a cute name.
4). Xiao Long Bao (soup filled dumplings)
I loved Xiao Long Bao even before coming to Taiwan. The most famous place to try these soup filled dumplings is at Taipei’s Din Tai Fung restaurant, but many local night markets serve fresh Xiao Long Bao and they are almost as good.
5). Fried Chicken
Fried chicken is one of the most popular Taiwanese foods you’ll find at night markets. Mostly you’ll find fried chicken nuggets, but the vendors serving large, flattened fried chicken pieces will have a huge line.
6). Gua Bao (steamed pork belly buns)
Delicious, filling, and flavorful. These pork filled buns are like a Taiwanese version of a BBQ sandwich!
7). Green onion (scallion) pancake
One of my favorite Taiwanese food items was the simple green onion pancake. If you like onions, you’ll love this dish. You can eat it solo or have it filled with meat.
8). Flame grilled steak
This on is for the meat lover. Street food vendors will cook cubed beef right in front of you with a torch! Available in a variety of marinades.
9). Candied tomatoes & strawberries
If you have a sweet tooth, these will surely satisfy you. Cherry tomatoes dipped in liquid sugar and hardened to a candied treat. You can also find strawberries served this same way, but watch out, they are really sweet.
10). Fruit smoothies
If you aren’t in the mood for a milk tea, there is always a fresh smoothie stand at every night market. I had a few mango smoothies on my trip. It’s a yummy way to eat your daily serving of fruit!
11). Quail Egg
Skewers of tiny fried eggs. As an American accustomed to eating eggs daily for breakfast, this was a special treat. You can also find street vendors serving quail eggs in the morning in the Ximending district in Taipei.
12). Taiwanese sausage
The cheapest and most common food you’ll find at any night market in Taiwan is the grilled pork sausage on a stick. They are usually sweet and very tasty.
13). Beef Noodle Soup
Everyone has an opinion on where you can find the “best beef noodle soup in Taiwan,” but night markets are the easiest place to try this famous dish without waiting in a long line.
14). Chinese pancakes with filling
Two tiny pancakes sandwiched together in what looks like a waffle maker and filled with a flavorful paste! I tried a red bean pancake and it was a nice, sweet snack.
One Taiwanese Food to Avoid
I know I’m going to get in trouble for saying this, but don’t try the stinky tofu. The locals in Taiwan certainly disagree with me, because stinky tofu is a popular food served at every night market in the country. Tourists seem to love it too! Every blog I’ve read told me to eat stinky tofu. So, of course, I tried it.
Stinky tofu is the worst thing I’ve ever tasted.
I don’t think I’m very picky when it comes to food, but stinky tofu tasted just like it smells. And it smells like sewer. I actually couldn’t swallow it. For the rest of my trip, I had to stay clear of any food stands within 15 feet of a stinky tofu vendor! It really turned my stomach.
Like I said, there are plenty of people that disagree with me, but my advice is to stay clear of this Taiwanese food. Like so many local culinary favorites in the world, stinky tofu is an acquired taste. If you are still curious, go ahead and try it, but you’ve been warned!