- Advertisement -

There are few places in the world that care about eating well as much as the Taiwanese. Having absorbed and adapted from many of its neighbours and visitors, Taiwan has one of the most eclectic culinary cultures in the world. In Taiwan, eating like a local is as easy as walking down the street—the abundance of roadside food carts, night markets, as well as restaurants makes its variety of food accessible to travellers. Next time you visit the island, make sure to try these 10 traditional Taiwanese dishes. 

Three-cup chicken

The 3-cup chicken uses three main ingredients to make its sauce

The 3-cup chicken uses three main ingredients to make its sauce

The “three-cup” in three-cup chicken refers to a cup of each of the ingredients used to make its sauce: soy sauce, rice wine, and either sesame oil or sugar (though both sesame oil and sugar are used in most recipes, it is the chef’s preference to use more sesame oil or more sugar).  The recipe used at Shin Yeh mixes oyster sauce with its cup of soy sauce, a half bottle of rice wine, and a tablespoon of rock sugar for just enough sweetness to not overpower the natural sweetness of its freshly sourced chicken. Fresh basil, fresh chilli and sesame oil are added at the end of cooking.

Shin Yeh / No. 34, Shuangcheng St, Zhongshan District, Taipei City, 104

Almond tofu

The almond tofu in Taiwan is as authentic as it gets

The almond tofu in Taiwan is as authentic as it gets
- Advertisement -

The almond tofu in Taiwan is not anything like the version sold overseas made with packaged powder mix. A good bowl of this deceptively simple dessert is made through a laborious process involving hours of soaking, careful simmering and rigorous stirring by at least three chefs. The resulting “tofu” is a slippery yet chewy cloud of almond fragrance.

Shin Yeh / No. 34, Shuangcheng St, Zhongshan District, Taipei City, 104

Ba wan 

Meat-filled ba wan

Meat-filled ba wan

Ba wan literally translates to “meatball”, yet one would never guess from its appearance that it has any kinship to a meatball. The meat in the ba wan is wrapped inside a half-centimetre-thick, translucent and elastic rice wrapper. Think of it as a mega mochi that has flattened out from its own savoury weight.

Fuji Meatballs / No. 299, Section 1, Fuqian Rd, West Central District, Tainan City, 700

Raohe Night Market / Raohe St, Songshan District, Taipei City, 105

Beef noodle soup

Hearty beef noodles are a favourite in Taiwan

Hearty beef noodles are a favourite in Taiwan

At once comfort food and culinary adventure, the beef noodle soup is one of the most discussed and debated foods in Taiwan—it even has its own festival where chefs compete to be recognised as having the best beef noodle soup in the country.  Official titles notwithstanding, every local has his or her favourite shop that serves either a clear broth version or a more pungent “red braised” version. 

Jiang Jia Huang Beef Noodles / No. 1, Lane 240, Guangfu S Rd, Da’an District, Taipei City, 106

Oyster wheat vermicelli (oyster misua)

The oyster wheat flour noodle is a popular street snack

The oyster wheat flour noodle is a popular street snack

Adapted from Teochew cooking of Fujian province, the Chinese name for the wheat vermicelli is mian xian, flour thread, which is an apt name for these very thin threads of noodles. The dough is lightly fermented before being made into noodles, which are then steamed until brown, a process that helps them preserve their chewiness when cooked in liquids. Submerged in broth, the starch escapes the noodles and gives body to the broth, turning it into thick umami heaven. Small Taiwanese oysters are added in the bowl when serving to preserve freshness. Some shops substitute chunks of pork intestine for the oysters. Ah Liang Mian Xian serves it with both. 

Ah Liang Mian Xian / Shilin Nightmarket, Jīhé Rd, Shilin District, Taipei City

Oyster omelette

Oyster omelettes offer a definitive taste of Taiwan

Oyster omelettes offer a definitive taste of Taiwan

The oyster omelette is perhaps the most perfect taste and textural representation of Taiwanese cuisine in one simple dish. The briny taste of Taiwanese oysters mixes with the earthiness of eggs, held together by a web of chewy starch, which is brightened up by a douse of sweet chilli sauce. Any night market stall will satisfy your midnight hunger, but if you want omelette packed with more oysters and less grease, head to a restaurant that uses higher quality ingredients.

Ningxia Night Market / Ningxia Rd, Datong District, Taipei City, 103

Shin Yeh / No. 34, Shuangcheng St, Zhongshan District, Taipei City, 104

Pepper cake

Pepper cakes with pork fillings are best eaten hot

Pepper cakes with pork fillings are best eaten hot

The pepper cake is not a cake at all, but rather a combination of baozi (bun) and scallion pancake baked in a tandoor. A good pepper cake is round, not flat like a bing (pancake), because of the abundance of pork filling spiced with black pepper. Be guided by the smoky smell of charred pizza crust and the huge line of people at the end of the Raohe night market. Be sure to eat this fresh out of the tandoor, when the crust is crisp, the dough is flaky and the meat is juicy.

Raohe Night Market / Raohe St, Songshan District, Taipei City, 105

Scallion pancakes

Street food stalls selling all manners of fried snacks are aplenty in Taiwan

Street food stalls selling all manners of fried snacks are aplenty in Taiwan

Crispy, soft, flaky, chewy and fragrant, scallion pancakes will satisfy any carb craving, any time. They’re easy to find on the roadside and at any night market. Just make sure the vendor rolls the dough fresh, pops the pancakes on the grill to order, and fluffs the layers at the end of cooking to maximize flakiness. Enjoy piping-hot in a paper – never plastic – bag.

Deep-fried stinky tofu

The stinky tofu may need some getting used to but it is absolutely worth the try

The stinky tofu may need some getting used to but it is absolutely worth the try

As with stinky cheeses, the stinky tofu is an acquired taste, and everyone has a different level of preferred stank. If smell is a deterrent, hold your breath for your first bite; you may develop an affinity for its crispy shell, pillow-soft interior, and cheesy flavour. Who knows, you may even graduate to the steamed version, which is reputed to be even more pungent.

Shilin Night Market / Jīhé Rd, Shilin District, Taipei City

Run bing

The run bing is the perfect on-the-go snack

The run bing is the perfect on-the-go snack

Run bing is like a burrito whose wrapper is a crepe and whose filling is reminiscent of a Vietnamese spring roll. It is the sum of many of Taiwan’s culinary influences wrapped up in one roll. It’s sweet and savoury, fresh and filling—the perfect on-the-go snack.

Shin Yeh / No. 34, Shuangcheng St, Zhongshan District, Taipei City, 104