What is the first thing that springs to mind when you think of Taiwan?

For me, it's definitely the food. Be it street, fusion, urban or traditional - the Taiwanese just seemed to have its cookery all figured out, making each traveler's gastronomic experience across the mighty island nothing short of pure delight.

Listed below are my top picks for the must-eat food in Taiwan. What’s your favorite? 🥟

popular taiwan street food
10 Must-Eat Food in Taiwan

10 Must-Eat Food in Taiwan

Beef Noodles 牛肉麺

Every country has a national dish, and when it comes to Taiwan, Beef Noodles has definitely clinched that esteemed title. A dish claimed to have originated from the southern city of Kaohsiung, it is everything any food ought to be: comforting, savory, spicy to the precise degree, and most of all - enjoyable. The beef is stewed to the perfect tenderness, its noodles are freshly hand-pulled, the broth is mindbogglingly rich with all the flavors imaginable, and coy yet beautiful specks of green from the scallion victoriously give the dish the perfect finishing. 

Beef Noodles Taiwan
Beef Noodles 牛肉麺 in Taiwan

Smelly Tofu 臭豆腐

Let me begin by saying that I am personally very offended that this masterpiece is being labelled as stinky. It is unique, it has an amazing perfume and a work of outstanding artistry. The perfect snack for anytime of the day, these tofu cubes are first fermented up to a few months in a brine cocktail consisting of vegetables, meat, fermented milk, dried shrimps, amaranth leaves, bamboo shoots and an assortment of herbs. To serve, the tofu is deep-fried and topped with pickled cabbage. Fun fact: Report from a 2012 chemical analysis discovered that there are 39 volatile organic compounds that help give stinky tofu its distinct taste and smell!

Smelly Tofu taipei
Smelly Tofu 臭豆腐 in Taiwan

Pearl Milk Tea 珍珠奶茶

Ah, the sensation that took the world by storm. Despite having a sugar content that is twice as much as a can of Coca-Cola, this drink somehow still managed to be the best-selling edibles in liquid form not just in Taiwan, but across the globe. The most popular type of bubble tea at the moment is the brown sugar pearl milk tea, which is prepared using black tea, brown sugar syrup, tapioca pearls, water, fresh milk and needless to say: more sugar.

taiwan Pearl Milk Tea
Pearl Milk Tea 珍珠奶茶 in Taiwan

Oyster Omelette 蚵仔煎

This omelette dish is created by the Teochew Chinese, and it comes with a delicious combination of fillings consisting primarily of tiny, bite-sized oysters gloriously wrapped within a thick, silky layer of egg. Depending on the cook, some oyster omelettes might come an extra gravy serving to further elevate the taste!

Oyster Omelette in taiwan
Oyster Omelette 蚵仔煎 in Taiwan

Lu Rou Fan 滷肉飯

Believed to be the most-loved comfort food in Taiwan, Lu Rou Fan is translated to be braised pork rice - where luscious braised meat sauce is served over a bowl of hot, steamy rice. Other toppings include hard boiled egg sliced in halves lengthwise, and bok choy cooked in boiling water.

Lu Rou Fan Taipei
Lu Rou Fan 滷肉飯 in Taiwan

Chicken Cutlet 大雞排

It's old news by now that Taiwan is famous for its "bigger than your face" deep-fried chicken cutlets, which people queue up for hours and get sold out in minutes. Almost 30 centimeters in width, the cutlet is showered generously with seasoning of choice, namely salt, pepper, chili powder, seaweed and plum.

Taiwan Chicken Cutlet
Chicken Cutlet 大雞排 in Taiwan

Gua Bao 割包

This dish is a ravishing Chinese-style sandwich with two primary modules: the softest, pillowy steamed buns and the juiciest, most tender braised pork belly chunks. Other additions include suan chai (pickled mustard greens), coriander leaves, coarsely chopped peanuts and a tantalizing chili dip.

taiwan Gua Bao
Gua Bao 割包 in Taiwan

Pig Blood Cake 豬血糕

Horrified by the name of the dish? Don't be! This one of a kind delicacy is made using pork blood, cooked sticky rice and homemade soy broth before being shaped into cuboids. It is served hot and steamy on a stick and coated generously with peanut flour.

taiwan Pig Blood Cake
Pig's Blood Cake 豬血糕 in Taiwan

Xiao Long Bao 小笼包

Another dish that needs no introduction - little steamed buns in bamboo baskets. Xiao Long Bao is known to the world as soup dumplings as they are each loaded with hot broth within and hence, must be very carefully eaten to avoid spills and burns. Traditionally stuffed with minced pork, it also come with other variants such as chicken, crab, shrimp and roe.

taiwan Xiao Long Bao
Xiao Long Bao 小笼包 in Taiwan

Meat & Scallion Pies 餡餅

Of course I am leaving the best for last! Every Taiwanese dish mentioned so far is absolutely mouth-watering, but my personal favorite (after a very long and tough selection) will be the country's pan-fried buns or Shen Bing. The dough that forms its wrapper is incredibly divine - thin yet capably thick of being both crispy and chewy, and its meat-and-scallion filling requires the simplest of preparation yet it transforms into a gourmet item when padded within the doughy envelope and pan-fried to sublimity.

Meat & Scallion Pies taiwan
Meat & Scallion Pies 餡餅 in Taiwan

Taiwan is a food haven.

I have been struggling with veganism and I can safely bet that my recent solo trip to Taiwan is one of the biggest contributing factors. Listed above are my top 10 must-eat food in Taiwan, and most of them can easily be found in night markets or along the streets. What is your favorite Taiwanese dish?

Happy eating!
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