Food is a very big part of any Chinese culture you come across in the world. This is the same for Taiwan food, though you will find that the food you find here is very much a reflection of how the Formosa island has been influenced by many other different cultures of the people that has assimilated into the island’s population.
Whether the food in Taiwan is good or not, I tend to get many polarizing views. As for me, I’ve observed (as well as tasted) and find that there are some instances where the dishes use the simplest of ingredients and yet the flavor combination just works so well. Having said that, there are also some downright weird ones which I find unacceptable to my palate.
Here are some of my hits (and misses) of food from this island nation!
One of my favourite in Taiwan, who would have thought a piece of “roti”-like pancake, can actually be this good? These savoury pancakes are flaky with a hint of onion oil flavor is so good and satisfying – whether you take it plain or go crazy with its filling (ham, cheese, eggs, shredded cabbages, etc). That being said, different regions of Taiwan will have its own twist to this national staple. In my time here, these are two of my favourite scallion pancake places:
(i) 逢甲酥皮蛋餅 in Tai Chung
A little store by the roadside near the Feng Chia University, this friendly little store serves up some delicious combination of ingredients as a good Taiwanese breakfast for you.
Address: 407, Taiwan, Taichung City, Xitun District, 逢甲路11號
(ii) 老牌炸蛋蔥油餅 in Hualien
By far, this is my favourite version, this pancake is different as in they deep fry the pancake, instead of pan frying it and to top it off, comes with an egg inside. Take a bite into it and the combination of the pancake, the sauce and the oozing egg yolk – just heavenly!
Address: No. 2, Lane 110, Fuxing Street, Hualien City, 復興街110巷2號, 花蓮市
2) Pepper Meat Cakes 帝钧碳烤胡椒饼
Just like the scallion pancakes, another national staple are these little pepper meat cakes. The “cakes” are filled with minced pork with scallions and baked off. You can find these practically anywhere, especially in the night markets around Taiwan. The first one I stumbled across was on the way to the Fengjia night market. Surprisingly a Michelin Guide featured outfit – I didn’t find this one particularly special, so…eat at your own risk… haha!
3) Tea-flavoured Eggs 日月潭金盆阿嬷茶叶蛋
Another must-try food in Taiwan is the tea-flavoured eggs. This simple dish of eggs, marinated and cooked in tea, soy sauce and a variety of spices is so simple, yet so tasty and very satisfying to have as an on-the-go snack as you are walking around in cold weather.
Apparently the most famous ones happen to be the ones you find at the Sun Moon Lake from the store near the pier – Ah Ma Tea Leaf Eggs.
4) Hotpots – Taiwanese and Japanese 台式和日式火鍋
I particularly love the variety of hotpots you can get in Taiwan. Ones that I love are the “Mala” (Szechuan styled spicy soup) and the Japanese sukiyaki. Taiwan food culture has as much influence from their mainland ancestors as there was from the Japanese, during their occupation of this island nation in between 1895 to 1945. Usually prices at these hotpot places can be a little pricey, but if you can afford it, it is so worth the try. Here are the places where we enjoyed these dishes:
(i) Beef King – All you can eat mala hotpot in Tai Chung
This place is fantastic. Both the normal and mala broth is so tasty. The all-you-can-eat package comes with a list of fresh meats – Wagyu beef, Aussie beef, Iberico pork – and all-you-can-drink as well! Photo credit to https://www.facebook.com/beefkingbuffet/
(ii) Top One Pot 這一鍋 皇室秘藏鍋物
Although not as fancy as the one in Tai Chung and not all-you-can-eat, this place is equally good, with delicious broths and quality fresh meat.
Instagramer can also play dress up here as they provide costumes and photo taking spot for you to post!
(iii) Luxury Hotpot in Mihan Jiaoxi Wellspring by Silks Hotel, Hualien 礁溪晶泉丰旅三燔礁溪
This one we splurge a little. Since we are staying in the hotel, we decided to also have our dinner at Mihan Jiaoxi. There are two options to choose from, Mihan Jiaoxi Lobster Surf and Turf Hotpot or Mihan Jiaoxi All-You-Can-Eat Sukiyaki. Photo credit to https://www.silksspring.com/en/dining.
We decided to opt for the sukiyaki set. The broth is comparable to ones we have had before in Japan and of course the food is absolutely fresh!
5) Stinky Tofu 臭豆腐 – a smelly Taiwan Food icon
This one is a definite miss for me. I know, I know…there will be plenty of outcry from supporters of this stinky dish for me saying this. I absolutely hated this dish – not just because of the smell, but the taste was unbearable as well. However, funnily enough, the best food places in Taiwan will definitely have on within a 100 metre radius and so you have to eat the best foods in Taiwan within the radius of its smell. You can find this dish, annoyingly enough, at anywhere around Taiwan.
Sorry folks, despite what you tell me about how good it tastes in spite of its smell, I gotta disagree. :p
6) Taiwanese Noodles
We cannot of course miss this Taiwan food staple.
(i) Ay-Chung Flour Rice (Mee Sua) Noodles – Famous Taiwan Food Store
Right in Ximending Night Market, you will find Ay-Chung’s interesting flour rice noodles. The dish doesn’t look like much and you will notice the flour rice noodles are mixed in with a broth that is pretty starchy and thick… and goopy – you might think that it is just an ordinary bowl of noodles. But look at the queue outside this shop and you will know how famous this place is.
Take a bite into this and you will be surprised. The broth is smooth and silky, with a hint of smokiness to it. The broth is boiled with pig intestines and smoked bonito flakes. Mixing in some chilli, grated garlic and vinegar, the flavor combination is just…so good!
(ii) Jianhong Beef Noodles 建宏牛肉面
The beef noodles I’ve had here is delicious! The one store I like particularly is in Taipei. This unassuming store’s noodles are springy and al-dente, the soup is flavour some and the beef, so fresh and tender to the bite. Must have!
And since I’m a sui gao lover, i ordered their also tried their dumplings to try and it turns out to be so flavourful it goes so well with the noodles.
(iii) Hu’s Taiwanese Cuisine 古月軒時光麵 埔里
And if you happen to be travelling towards Cingjing, from TaiChung, make sure you make the effort of including this restaurant into your trip. The variety of noodles here are quite interesting and very yummy. There is a particular dish which I ventured to try as well, despite my dislike to stinky tofu, the noodles mixed with stinky tofu and meat toppings – is surprisingly tasty.
Despite the hint of smell, the flavor somehow works – so there, I always am fair in my review of foods. :p
7) Addiction Aquatic Development 上引水產
When in Taipei, make sure you make time to visited the Addiction Seafood Market! This is a seafood lovers’ dream – a combination of a live seafood market and seafood restaurants, if you love fresh seafood, this is where you want to be!
Take a slow walk around the place and admire the fresh seafood within the tanks of the aquarium, walk into the supermarket and if you want some seafood on the go, just pick any up and be on your way. Or if you’re like us, just take your pick of restaurants, from sushi to freshly made seafood, you are spoilt for choice… and reasonably priced too!
(i) Sushi Bar
This sushi bar serves a few sets for you to choose and our choice is 立帆套餐, priced at NT$780 per set. Having said that, make sure you reserve your seat in advance to avoid disappointment as this bar could be filled up during lunch and dinner time.
(ii) Seafood Bar
We stumbled across this awesome place where they serves Deluxe Seafood Plate (priced at NT$1280) on the weekends. Here’s all the goodness we had that satisfied our inner soul!
8) Night Markets 夜市
I cannot write about Taiwan food without mentioning their night markets. If you are lazy to go from place to place to try different foods, you can opt for a one stop food point – these night markets will have everything in one location and every region/locale’s has their own one. Of all the markets I have gone to, Raohe Night Market (饒河夜市) in Taipei was my favourite!
(i) Flaming Angus Beef Cube 火焰骰子牛
We did not expect much of these grilled beef from this little humble stall in the night market – especially when they claim it to be Angus Beef cubes. So we were pleasantly surprised – at one bite, the beef was delicious! In addition, they were well seasoned, tender and the final touch of torching the beef over the grill – perfection! We tried the original version which was seasoned with rose rock salt – superb flavour and crisp on the outside – yum!
(Ii) Lu Rou Rice 金林三兄弟藥燉排骨
Don’t leave Taiwan without trying their Lu Rou Fan (Braised pork rice)! Available all over Taiwan, every region will have its own version of this – be sure to try whenever you come across one! We had this at the night market, together with a bowl of hearty Herbal Pork Rib soup.
9) Other Worthy Taiwan Food Mentions
Be on the watch out for some of these little nuggets too.
Traditional Taiwan Food
In Cing Jing, we chanced upon a store that does Taiwanese traditional dishes like the ones we had below. Worth a try!
Humble little shop along Cingjing is Jiahong Street Restaurant 嘉弘大排檔 which serves traditional Taiwanese dishes.
At yet another night market – Tungtamen Night Market (東大門夜市), we came across shops that cooks up indigenous vegetables. At the store, we were recommended these vegetables which was harvested on the day itself – we did not regret our decision. The vegetable was crunchy and fresh and the cooking spot on! These stores are actually quite noticeable, just look around for those displaying these interesting looking vegetables at their storefront.
This vegetable tastes just like an asparagus
This one tastes like a cross between a “tin chat” vegetable and mustard leaves
Urn-baked Chicken – A Taiwan Food Miss (Point us to a better one if you know)
We also came across an urn-baked chicken restaurant somewhere in Puli of the Nantou County, which is pretty popular for this dish. The urn-baked chicken is supposedly delicious, where its chicken are baked in a clay urn by a master and is supposed to come out juicy and skin crispy. Therefore, we walked into this restaurant thinking that we could not go wrong, seeing that this is a famous this there. Boy were we wrong. Please do proper research and choose a proper restaurant before you go. We did not mark down the location of this one but we hope you don’t make the same mistake as us – the chicken in this place was dry and bland, the other dishes… just meh.
Taiwan Food in Convenience Stores!
This is worth a mention too. If it is convenience you are looking for, just walk into any convenience store (7-Eleven, Family Mart) and you will be able to have a decent meal, all in one place! At the same time, do check out some memorabilia unique to Taiwanese convenience stores – like these “Where’s Wally” transportation cards.
Food in Taiwan
Taiwan is a foodie’s heaven – period. I occasionally reminisce of my trip here and find the parts that I miss the most are the food. In this blog, I have listed a few of my favourite places, which is just a very small part of the list of places you can go to in Taiwan for many other good food. If you are interested to read about the sights of Taiwan, you can read them in my other posting – Taiwan: Why I Must Visit Her Again