Street food is the best option in Taiwan. When tourists travel to an unfamiliar country, it can be hard to know how to order food and eat like the local people, particularly if you do not understand the local language and of course if the menus do not have pictures.
When you travel to Taiwan, you probably think, ‘where I can find the Taiwanese food’ and ‘how do I order it?’. This article will guide you on how to get the food and eat like local people.
What Is Taiwanese Food?
What is Taiwanese food? A very commonly asked questions.
In Taiwan, you will see restaurants, street food and convenience stores everywhere. They range from very traditional Taiwanese food to international dishes. You can generally find traditional foods such as Rice Tube Pudding (筒仔米糕), Braised Pork Rice (滷肉飯), Turkey Rice (火雞肉飯) to modern Taiwanese foods such as Beef noodle soup, Bubble tea and fried chicken.
There are many more Taiwanese foods to choose from. As you can see above, Taiwanese people eat a lot of rice but if you are not a fan of rice, you do not need to limit yourself. However, there is something I need to remind you that if you go to south Taiwan such as Kaohsiung or Tainan, the food usually tends to sweeter than north Taiwan.
Where to get food in Tawan?
I understand you might be afraid to order food from shops that do not have an English menu, my partner is the same. Do not worry, there are many street food and convenience stores all over Taiwan which are typically easier for tourists to choose what to eat using pictures and some English.
7-Eleven and other convenience stores offer a wide range of different food options, even fresh food. You will definitely find something you like, particularly if you have certain food requirements.
Does food from 7-Eleven or convenience stores taste bad? No, in fact, there are a lot of options and it is generally really good, including healthy options.
I understand that it is hard to order food when you do not understand the menu at all and there are no pictures either. A good tip is to look around at what other people are eating and politely ask them what they ordered so you can order the same thing.
Street Food In Taiwan
Taiwanese people eat out a lot, so it is no surprise that there is also a lot of street food available.
Recommend : Try Taiwanese local street food tour
Why there is so much street food in Taiwan?
One of the many reasons Taiwanese people trend to not cook, particularly the younger generation is that they do not know how to cook and do not want to learn to cook either. Another reason is that many people live in share houses or they do not have a kitchen if they live in small inner city units.
When I moved out for university and stayed in a suite, the building I stayed in did not have a kitchen or even a lounge. It was basically just rooms, a toilet and a place to hang out your clothes.
There are many more possible reasons why street food is so popular in Taiwan. Street food in general is cheaper than eating at restaurants.
If you are looking for a small snack, you will usually spend around NT$10-50 and for a meal the price is usually about NT$50-150. (This of course depends on the city as well, in the capital, Taipei, prices are usually higher.
There are some street food dishes I recommend you to try, Flaky Scallion Pancake (蔥油餅), Gua Bao (割包), Wheel Pies (紅豆餅)…etc
Recommend : Try local dessert Wheel Pies
Street food v.s. Night market in Taiwan
Do not confuse street food with night markets, night markets are places where you can find a large number of street food shops but there are plenty of street food shops that do not operate at night markets.
Their opening hour will depend on the shop owner and a lof of them are very popular and if you would like to try it, you might need to wait the line.
Note of Street Food :
- Price range : NT$10 – 150
- No tip policy
- Everywhere in Taiwan
- Opening hours and days depend on shops itself
Night Markets In Taiwan
Taiwan’s night markets are one of the must-do and must-go places in Taiwan. I talked about the night markets in my previous post – 10 must go places in Taiwan.
In the night market tour , you will see plenty of food stalls, clothes, apparel and even games. The night market food is of course the highlight so I recommend you pay particular attention to that. For example, the Garden Night Market in Tainan was the 12th most checked-in place in the world on Facebook in 2013.
Depending on the night market, for example, if you want to try as many different foods as possible, Taipei’s Raohe Street Night Market（饒河夜市）is a good option. Shi-Da night market (師大夜市) is a good option is you are looking for clothes, apparels and is more popular amongst the younger generation. Both night markets are very easy to get to by public transports.
Note of Night Markets:
- Price range : NT$10 – 100
- No tip policy
- Opening hours and days depend on the night market, but usually go from 5pm – 12am
Taiwanese people see food as a significant part of their life. As they finished dinner, they are already thinking about breakfast for the next day. Remember I mentioned Taiwanese love eating out?
Yes, this also includes breakfast, I would say about 80% of people in Taiwan eat out for breakfast.
When I say eat out for breakfast, it does not mean dine in, many people prefer to pick up and take away. There are plenty of breakfast shops that specialise in breakfast food in Taiwan, you can find Taiwanese style and Western style breakfast shops.
Those breakfast shops usually open quite early, depending on the shop but in general they start at 5 am and finish around 12ish, some restaurants open from 10 pm and stay open until the next morning.
Why there are so much breakfast shops in Taiwan?
Since Taiwan’s economy started from farming industry and later developed into more of a manufacturing industry, Taiwanese people became much busier than they were before.
People rush to work and try to wake up at the very last minute. Thus breakfast shops have became a popular trend for parents getting food for their children before a school day to people rushing to get to the office on time.
Even on weekends or holidays, people have their breakfast at the shop or go to a restaurant for brunch, and spend their morning hanging out with friends.
Taiwanese style v.s Western style
The breakfast style can be divided roughly into two types. Western style and and sometimes they will mix the two up. Taiwanese breakfast style is typically bao or porridge while the western style is typically sandwiches, toast and coffee, but usually there is some overlap.
Western breakfast shops are open between 5am to 11pm and some shops close around 12pm while the Taiwanese breakfast shops usually open very early, they usually open around 10 pm to 9 am the next day.
You can still find something to eat in the middle of night, in fact some people will go to Taiwanese breakfast shops after partying all night.
Here is my recommendation, if you would like to try some Taiwanese breakfast:
- Radish cake 蘿蔔糕
- Egg pancake roll 蛋餅
- Rice balls 飯糰
- Oyster and pork intestine intestine vermicelli 麵線 （Oyster and pork intestine are optional）
- Rice milk 米漿
- Soy milk 豆漿
Note of Breakfast Shops :
- Price range : NT$10 – 80
- No tip policy
- Taiwanese style opening hour : 10pm – 9am
- Western style opening hour : 5am – 12pm
Restaurants In Taiwan
In Taiwan, generally you do not need to pay tip for to hotel clerks or for body but at some restaurants you might be expected to pay a ‘customer service’ fee.
They do not tell you but you can find it on the bottom of the menu and the tip is normally 10%-15%. If you are not sure, you can ask the waiter or cashier. These restaurants are usually bigger restaurants and are “fancier” than the more simple family run restaurants.
Due to Taiwan being a small country and Taiwanese people caring about food so much, you basically can find restaurants everywhere in Taiwan particularly on western side of the island.
Taiwan does not have as many international restaurants chains that you will see in other cities around the world (such as is Melbourne and other large cities); however, if you can find some restaurants like these in Taipei or in Taiwan’s other big cities.
Recommend : Taiwan Beef Noodle Soup, you must try it
Street food stall or Restaurant in Taiwan?
There is one type of restaurant I am not sure how I should categorise it. It is a food stall but it also offers indoor seating. This kind of “restaurant” is suitable for people who want to get the food as soon as possible and usually, people will not stay there very long.
You can recognize it because the kitchen is in front of the dining area. You also can see the staff while they are preparing your food. The food in this kind of restaurant is much more local and relatively cheap compared to normal restaurants. The price range will between NT$50-150, also this restaurant will not charge for the customer service fees.
Note of Restaurant in Taiwan :
- Price range : NT$50 – 400 (depends on the restaurant type)
- Some restaurant included customer service fee
- Opening hours and days usually between midday and 10 pm, but depends on the restaurant
Taiwan is a great place to produce tea leaves and tea because of its climate and topography; however, Taiwan’s tea is not as famous as Sri Lankan tea, but I believe it is even better.
Taiwan does not only produce one type of tea, they produce black tea(紅茶), green tea(綠茶), oolong tea(烏龍茶), and many more.
If you are a fan of tea, you definitely need to try some Taiwanese tea. There are many tea houses in Taiwan, they are located either in the mountains like Taroko National Park or in some hidden alleyways in the city such as Jiufen, it adds to the mystery of Taiwanese tea.
Sun Moon Lake Black Tea (日月潭紅茶)
Dongding Oolong Tea (凍頂烏龍茶)
Taiwan High Mountain Oolong Tea (高山茶)
Sanshia Dragon Well Green Tea ((三峽龍井茶)
Winter melon punch (冬瓜茶)
Herbs Ching-Tsao-cha (青草茶)
Note of Taiwanese Tea :
- Tea shops Price range : NT$150- 400 (depends on the tea you choose)
- Bubble tea shops price range NT$20 – 80
- Some tea shops included customer service fee
- Opening hours and days usually between midday and 10 pm, but depends on the shop
Beer In Taiwan
In Taiwan people usually do not drink a can of beer or a glass of wine with a meal, however, if people hang out with friends in restaurants, it might be a different story.
Consuming alcohol is more associated with partying and hanging out with friends in Taiwan. In general Taiwanese people do not drink as much as other Asian countries like Japan or South Korea, Taiwan does, however, have its own brand of beer or whisky.
Recommend : Try Taiwanese unique beer
Unlike in Australia, you can grab a beer and other alcoholic drinks at 7-eleven in Taiwan. Of course there isn’t a huge range of options but the popular brands are usually there.
Taiwan Beer is the most popular brand of beer in Taiwan. Besides having an original flavour, Taiwan Beer also released a lot of fruit flavour and they are quite popular as well, particularly among women.
Note of Beer in Taiwan :
- Taiwan Beer Classic / 18 days / fruit flavour / Gold Medal
- BUCKSKIN and many ale beer
Food From Taiwan
Taiwanese food has become popular around the world, bubble tea and fried chicken are the most well-known street foods from Taiwan that you are most likely to be able to find in your own country.
- Recommend : Learn how to make your own Bubble Tea
- Recommend : Try everyone’s favourite Taiwanese fired chicken
My partner tried a lot of Taiwanese food before he came to Taiwan with me and he told me that trying Taiwanese food is the highlight of traveling to Taiwan.
Besides Taiwanese street food, there is a Taiwanese restaurant chain called Din Tai Fung where you can try very local Taiwanese food such as Pork Xiaolongbao or fried rice and much more.
Recommend : Michelin one start restaurant – Din Tai Fung
There are outlets of Din Tai Fung all around the world, but sometimes there are small differences, such as the restrictions around eating pork.
Taiwan Pineapple Cake
Every time I travel overseas, I always bring some local coffee or food back to my family that I want to share with them. For a lot of those places we probably only travel to once in our life, so we always try to bring some memories back.
I usually prefer to bring some food back because the texture and smell is something that is impossible to replicate in a picture. Plus it allows me to share memories with my family and friends.
Pineapple cake is one of the most popular desserts in Taiwan, even now people still bring it as a gift when they visit friends or family.
Type of Pineapple cake
There are two different kinds of pineapple cake, traditional and modern, the biggest difference between them is the filling. The traditional Pineapple Cake is filled with a mixture of pineapple and winter melon that tastes sweeter and smoother, and the modern filling is pineapple on its own and has a more pineapple flavor and is a little more sour-sweet.
Note of Souvenir :
Beside Pineapple cake, what you can travel back with you?
- Sweet Potato Crisp
- Sun cake
Taiwanese people see food as a significant part of their life. The one thing I could guarantee is that you will never starve in Taiwan. In Taiwan, there are too many food options to can choose from and they are all quite tasty.
If you would like to travel to Taiwan and learn from local people and see what they order, you will not be disappointed. Of course, after the food trip of Taiwan, you might want to learn how to cook Taiwanese food.
*Both offer cheaper entry tickets to many attractions, such as museums and theme parks. You can even get discounts on sim cards, transportations and much much more.
When I look for flight tickets I usually go to:
Skyscanner is the biggest flight ticket search website
When I look for accommodation I usually go to:
- Agoda (Tip: if you book a non-refundable room, you usually get a very good deal).
- Booking.com (my favorite one, easy to manage bookings).
- Hotel.com (If you book more than 10 nights, you will get one night for free).
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