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30 Street Foods to Eat when Traveling in Taiwan

Much like fast food, the biggest general advantage of street food, is how easily accessible it is. You don’t have to worry about table reservations, or anything that comes with eating in a restaurant. However, street food is so much more than convenience. It is a communal experience and cultural melting pot all in one. When you buy street food, you are eating what the local masses eat, and experiencing all the various influences and preferences in their food. This is something that even the fanciest restaurants cannot often replicate. So read on to see which 30 street foods to eat when traveling in Taiwan.

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Importance of Street Food

Vendors usually write the prices on visible signs.

The street food industry is a key part of the Taiwanese economy and one of its most famous draws. It makes up a good majority of the island’s flourishing night markets, as well as the day-to-day outdoor markets and street-side businesses. As such, Taiwan’s street foods are a culinary culture in themselves. Taking influence from Fujian and Hakka traditions, the cuisine also has indigenous and Japanese influence, as well as traces of other mainland Chinese flavors. Over time, these tastes have developed into something uniquely Taiwanese.

A large percentage of the local population eats street food for the convenience and affordable prices. Some even have street food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This can be a lifesaver for those with little time or space to prepare food at home, and it is why street food is especially popular for young people and families with children.

Street Food by Area – 30 Street Foods to Eat when Traveling in Taiwan

There are no particular seasonal or holiday traditions associated with Taiwan’s street food, although there are seasons where certain foods are more available than others. For example, summer sees more lychee and watermelon as well as a spike in the popularity of cold desserts.

30 Street foods to eat when traveling in Taiwan
Sausages and pork meat are common foods you will find in both day and night markets.

Most street food offerings are uniform throughout the island, and you can still come by the same dishes in the countryside and in the city center. They are quite literally, everywhere. The widest variety of street food comes from the night markets of course, and there are certain streets that specialize in only selling one type of food. For instance, one street can be filled with fried squid snacks, while another is filled with sausages, and so on. Travelers will typically encounter these kinds of specialized streets in areas near daytime markets.

For the most part however, one can find Taiwanese street vendors just by going for a stroll. You can see them below apartment buildings, across from hotels, beside banks and temples, next to schools, and so on.

What to Know About Street Food

Street food generally leans on the cheap side, but the more famous or popular an item is, the more expensive it can get. And so, street food can cost anything from $10NTD to over $500NTD. The standard method of payment for street food is cash, though a vendor with a storefront might be able to take credit cards. It is safer to have cash on hand however, because most street vendors do not have card readers. There is also a no tipping policy for vendors. This is because you typically leave after buying your food and because there is generally a no tipping culture in Taiwan as a whole, (with the exception of takeout delivery drivers).

Jenny’s Pro-Tip: The price of street foods are generally fixed, but they can fall to cheaper prices once the venue approaches its closing time. For instance, morning markets close around 2pm, so vendors will lower prices after 1pm in order to get rid of perishable items.

How to Determine the Contents – 30 Street Foods to Eat when Traveling in Taiwan

Although some street foods might have signs in English, most do not. The one drawback to shopping for street food as a foreigner in Taiwan is that if you are unfamiliar with Chinese characters, you will have to determine what the food is based on what you see. This is often easy enough because if there is a menu, you can see any accompanying images with each item, and if not, you can still see the ingredients the vendor uses.

If neither are secure enough options for those with dietary restrictions or preferences, they can also ask the vendor directly what the food contains. Note that most street vendors do not speak English. Asking if something is “Shu” or “Xu” (素) asks whether or not something is vegetarian, and there are usually a number of vegetarian options at any given food stall.

Culture of Street Food – 30 Street Foods to Eat when Traveling in Taiwan

Street foods have business throughout the day, and although they are most busy on weekends, they remain popular with locals throughout weekdays as well. Most customers buy street food early in the morning and in the middle of the evening, coinciding with breakfast before work or school, and dinner afterwards. Many people buy street food for meals, but also consume street food as snacks between meals or for dessert. The items they buy for snacks are called “small bites” (Xiaochi) and eaten for leisure or a quick fix rather than a full meal.

30 street foods to eat when traveling in Taiwan
Example of a small bite (pig knuckles in this case)

Some street vendors have storefronts, usually small open-air spaces with tables, chairs, and disposable utensils. Others only have a table and a few chairs. And still, others just have their stalls. Whether or not you can sit and eat depends on how much space the vendors have to themselves. Most customers take their food elsewhere because there are not enough places to sit or because it’s simply more comfortable to eat at home. For certain items such as soups, most carry them home to eat. It is entirely common to stroll while eating as well, although this is more convenient for foods you can easily carry and nibble, or drinks you can sip. 

How to Eat – 30 Street Foods to Eat when Traveling in Taiwan

Whether or not takeaway customers automatically receive utensils from street vendors depends on the vendor. Usually, customers are asked if they need them, or they can request utensils themselves. Some items can be eaten by hand (Ex. pork buns and barbeque skewers), but most will either require a toothpick (usually given to you automatically for things such as sausages, sticky desserts, and fruit snacks) or chopsticks. Wooden chopsticks and plastic spoons are the most common utensils you will find with street food. Plastic forks are rarer to come by. Vendors also seal drinks with plastic and automatically provide you with thick, plastic straws.

How to Choose A Street Food Stand or Vendor

There is no secret or pattern to choosing the right street food stand, but there are always clues that lead to a better experience. Travelers should keep an open mind toward each stand, while also being aware of their own dietary limits and the vendor’s hygiene practices.

If a stand seems popular with local customers, then chances are it is a local favorite for a good reason. This does not mean seemingly unpopular stands have worse food though—if something interests your taste buds, you definitely owe it to yourself to take a closer look. Remember to make sure the vendor takes proper safety measures (wearing a face mask, having somewhere to wash hands, etc.) and that there are no obvious pests roaming around the cooking tools.

All that said, there are still lesser known concerns to watch out for. Something that agrees with the local customers’ stomachs might not necessarily agree with yours. There is a chance you might not be used to certain types of grease or flavors, so it is up to you to decide what to eat. If you are someone who often tries foods on the go from different countries, this will be less a concern for you than someone who has grown accustomed to only one type of cuisine. For the latter, the safest tip would be to steer clear of foods that seem overly greasy or overly spicy. Also cooked or peeled foods tend to be hygienically less risky than raw ones.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Eating Street Food in Taiwan

To reiterate, here are the advantages of eating street food in Taiwan:

  • Allows travelers greater insight into local cuisine and the down-to-earth culture of street food
  • Provides a communal experience
  • Extremely affordable
  • Easy to encounter, and convenient for quick meals and snacks
  • Customers can eat wherever they want
  • Street food booths are as much of a feast for the eyes as they are for the stomach

The disadvantages for eating street food are:

  • Customers can only pay with cash (usually)
  • It can be difficult to figure out what the foods contain if customers are not familiar with the local language or writing
  • There is usually nowhere to sit after buying your food
  • Unfamiliar flavors and grease might upset traveling stomachs
  • Depending on the popularity of the area or vendor, crowds are unavoidable more often than not

Also see Jenny in Wanderland article, Pros and Cons of Street Food

Jenny’s Pro-Tip: If you are Vegan or Vegetarian, Don’t miss out! It is extremely helpful to take This Small Group Tour with a Local that will help you decipher the food booth signs and show you the best authentic dishes that meet your dietary requirements. Some dishes may seem vegan, but can contain gelatin or meat and fish stock, but there are plenty of things that you can try too.

30 Street Foods to Eat when Traveling in Taiwan

There is no small range of street food variety in Taiwan. Flavors range from savory to sweet, and everything in between. With mouthwatering textures and tailored tastes, there is something for every foodie in the streets of Taiwan. Here are the 30 street foods to eat when traveling in Taiwan.

Breakfast – 30 Street Foods to Eat when Traveling in Taiwan

Although most street foods are sold throughout the day, breakfast items are limited to the morning and early afternoon. Customers can expect to see the following in the morning (sometimes as early as 5am) through the start of the afternoon (usually around 2pm):

1. Baozi – 30 Street Foods to Eat when Traveling in Taiwan

Photo by Petch Mn

One of the most common traditional Chinese dishes, baozi are also consistently popular throughout Taiwan. With origins going back to, who knows how many centuries, baozi are steamed buns with a soft, white cover made from flour and yeast. They are stuffed with a variety of fillings, including pork, beef, chicken, mushroom, bamboo, cabbage, or red bean paste. In Taiwan, you can find baozi vendors at nearly every night and day market you encounter. Easy to snack on and quick to have as meals, baozi is a food that you can have for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or anything in between.

People typically eat baozi with their hands, but it is not uncommon to use chopsticks either. Street vendors usually give them to customers in plastic bags. Although travelers do not have to come to Taiwan specifically for baozi, it is definitely worth it to try a Taiwanese baozi out.

Texture and Taste

In a loose sense, baozi are similar to dumplings and empanadas. The flavorless dough has a fluffy, filling texture to it, while the filling (usually savory, but sometimes sweet) provides the taste and crunch.

2. Tea eggs

30 street foods to eat when traveling in Taiwan

Tea leaf egg, shortened to “tea egg,” is a Chinese snack that is also incredibly prolific in Taiwan. Now, this is not exactly a street food or something you would find in the night market, but it is certainly popular enough to be an honorary street food. Travelers will rarely see it outside Asia, and it has a distinct flavor hard to compare with anything else.

You typically find it in local corner and convenience stores. It is hugely popular as a snack and breakfast food, usually selling out well before the end of the afternoon.

The eggshell is cracked to create the marble look.

Tea eggs are made when you lightly crack a hardboiled egg, (so the shell has a cracked texture that produces a marble-like look to the resulting egg,) before boiling it with copious amounts of black tea and soy sauce. The Chinese version is sometimes spicy, but the Taiwanese variation leaves spice out of the picture. A simmering pot is then put in place in the store with a whole batch of eggs waiting inside, so they are always hot upon purchase. You scoop out however many eggs you want with a pair of complimentary pliers, and place them in a plastic bag, before going to the cashier. Then you can consume the eggs with just your hands or chopsticks (or whatever utensil you have on hand).

Texture and Taste

If you have had “lu dan,” eggs marinated in soy sauce before, the taste of tea eggs is reminiscent of it, but with a slightly sweeter flavor. Mostly savory, tea eggs carry a hint of black tea within, giving you a delicious, refreshing taste.

3. Egg Pancakes – 30 Street Foods to Eat when Traveling in Taiwan

30 street foods to eat when traveling in Taiwan

Perhaps the number one breakfast food in Taiwan, “egg pancakes,” are a menu staple in every breakfast booth on the streets. In this dish, an egg is spread out and cooked, then topped with a rice flour wrap (traditionally, also with scallions embedded within), doused with soy sauce, and wrapped into a roll. The original flavor is the most popular, but other flavors such as bacon, ham, pork floss, and cheese are sold as well.

30 street foods to eat when traveling in Taiwan
Alternatively, egg pancakes come in paper slips.

Egg pancakes are usually chopped into pieces and served in a box or plate so you can eat them with chopsticks. Alternatively, they remain in one piece and are wrapped in a paper slip so you can eat them with your hands. It is not uncommon to come by either option.

Texture and Taste

Don’t let the name of this dish fool you. Despite the “pancake” title, this is not a sweet food. It is comparable to a savory crepe. The wrap is crunchy, but the bite has a chewy, rubbery texture. By the time you finish your first egg pancake, you will already be craving your second.

4. Sesame bun and oil sticks

30 street foods to eat when traveling in Taiwan
Shaobing sandwiching two youtiaos

You tiao shao bing (“oil stick sesame bun”) is a classic Taiwanese breakfast combo, immensely popular among the local populace. You might see it in a restaurant abroad, but the taste is freshest in Taiwan itself. That is why it makes the list of 30 street foods to eat when traveling in Taiwan.

Sesame bus for sale on the street

In this dish, you sandwich a savory doughnut (the “oil stick,” deep-fried to a golden brown) in a cooked sesame bun. Alternatively, you dip the oil stick into a bowl of soy milk (cold or warm, depending on your preference). The dish usually comes in a plate or bowl, but if buying takeout, you can expect to take the sesame bun and oil stick away in plastic bags, separately. You usually eat this with your hands. Soy milk is usually carried away in a sealed paper cup.

Texture and Taste

You can compare the oil stick to a salty churro and the sesame bun to flat bread. The oil stick is very crunchy and crispy, but ultimately rather light, and the sesame bun is more solid, with an equally crunchy texture. Both tend to leave crumbs! Once you dip the oil stick in soy milk, it becomes soggy and quite soft on your teeth. Although the combo is savory, the soy milk adds a layer of sweetness to this breakfast while also soaking away some of the grease.

Small Bites – 30 Street Foods to Eat when Traveling in Taiwan

Eating many bites at once can fill you up as much as a meal, but small bites are generally consumed as snacks throughout the day. They can be anything from light treats to alcohol companions and side dishes. For the most part, small bites come in smaller portions and can be quickly eaten anywhere you go.

5. Ba-wan

30 street foods to eat when traveling in Taiwan

Ba-wan (“meat ball” in Taiwanese) is a traditional small bite in a spherical shape about the size of a fist. The outer layer is made from rice flour, sweet potato starch, and corn starch. Together, they create a gelatinous “skin” that holds savory filling, usually a meatball made from pork and bamboo. Then the cook covers the Ba-wan with a specialized sauce and sometimes some cilantro. You then it eat it with a spoon or chopsticks, and can add hot sauce if you prefer.

Usually served in a bowl or takeaway cup, ba-wan is a must-try street food for travelers in Taiwan. Originating in Taiwan in the 19th century, ba-wan were allegedly invented as emergency foods during a period of terrible floods. Evidently, the flavor stuck, and today, ba-wan is a distinctly Taiwanese food. It is on the list of 30 street foods to eat when traveling in Taiwan because you can’t find its flavor anywhere else.

Texture and Taste

You can compare the taste of ba-wan’s sphere to savory gelatin. It has a blubbery texture to it that goes well with the sweet and salty sauce on top. While the outer dough is chewy, the filling is crunchier with a dryer, saltier taste. The stuffing combines with the wrapping to create a savory sweetness that brings out the best of each flavor.  

6. Gua Bao

Photo by Ryan Kwok

Translated to “cut bread,” gua bao are synonymous with pork belly buns. Similar to an open baozi, gua bao are made the same way: steamed flour and yeast. When laid flat, the gua bao has a fold in the center that makes the bun look as if it has a cut in the center.

A traditional Fujian dish that spread to Taiwan with the arrival of Fujianese immigrants, the gua bao is essentially a flat bun that sandwiches a piece of pork belly and other condiments. Although pork belly is the most common ingredient, the filling can be other proteins as well. People typically eat gua bao with their hands (though there is nothing wrong with using utensils to pick it up either!). 

Gua bao is on the list of 30 street foods to eat when traveling in Taiwan because of its interesting appearance and the rarity of finding it outside Asia.

Texture and Taste

Gua bao have the same texture as baozi’s skin or mantou (a filled Northern Chinese bun made with flour and yeast). The bun itself has no flavor, since it functions the same way as bread, and the taste comes from the filling within. In this sense, gua bao is comparable to a sandwich or taco. The bun itself has a chewy texture, while the filling provides the crunch and taste.

7. Hua Jun

30 street foods to eat when traveling in Taiwan

Hua jun, or “flower rolls,” are steamed scallion buns artfully rolled into the shape of flowers. Another dish that comes from Northern China, this is a snack food as popular in the mainland as it is in Taiwan (and beyond). Made from the same material as baozi and gua bao, hua jun consist of yeast and flour, with the addition of green onions and a more decorative shape. Once steamed, hua jun will appear as a batch of beautiful flower rolls with the aroma of scallion.

Typically eaten with the hands, hua jun can be found in most day and night markets, and are just as popular as baozi. Travelers should definitely give this snack a try because they cannot be compared to any other food.

Texture and Taste

Hua jun have the same chewy and fluffy texture as gua bao and baozi skin, but the additional shapes give it more pizazz. The scallions provide a slight crunch, and a savory flavor to the roll that never overwhelms.

8. Small Sausage in Large Sausage

Sausage stall at Fengjia night market selling “small sausage in large sausage”

Invented in the 90s and popularized since, the “small sausage in large sausage” is exactly what the name implies. Also known as sausage in sticky rice, this is a sausage wrapped hotdog-style in a sausage made from glutinous sticky rice. The sticky rice is fried, then stuffed into a sliced open intestine, giving it the “large sausage” shape.


The typical Taiwanese sausage itself is already different from a western sausage. It has a drier texture and crumblier taste since it is usually mixed with alcohol and other spices. This type of sausage is then chargrilled and placed in a “bun” made from sticky rice (and shaped like a large sausage). You can also add on condiments such as peppers, soy sauce, garlic, and pickled vegetables. Typically served in a paper slip or box, you consume this with your hands.

Texture and Taste

This small dish is most comparable to a hot dog with a bun made from rice.  The sausage has a strong savory taste that carries traces of alcohol. Its crunch balances the texture of the bun, which is chewy and leans more sweet than salty.

9. Deep-fried squid balls

A fast food favorite and long-standing tradition of day and night markets alike, deep-fried cuttlefish (or sometimes just squid) balls are snacks that no trip to Taiwan can do without. These balls are made from diced cuttlefish or squid, combined with starch and animal fat (though vegetarian variations exist), then shaped and fried to a shiny golden brown. The vendor usually puts a row of balls on a wooden skewer and hands it to the customer in a small paper tray or slip. You can eat it just with your hands (though mind the heat if it’s still hot!), or with chopsticks (or even a toothpick) if you prefer. 

Texture and Taste

You can compare deep-fried squid balls to a mix of meatballs and calamari. However, the balls have a rubbery, almost elastic texture that accounts for their chewiness. You can also expect bits of cuttlefish or squid to poke through the balls. The taste is savory, with a rich greasy flavor that leaves you wanting more.

10. Stinky tofu

No article about the 30 street foods to try while traveling in Taiwan would be complete without a mention of the (in)famous stinky tofu. It makes the list because it is not something you will find at a restaurant in its unfiltered, stinky glory. Taiwanese stinky tofu in particular, is renowned for its taste.

Originating during the Qing Dynasty, stinky tofu was the brainchild of an Anhui merchant who failed to sell all his tofu. He stored the leftovers away, and when he next checked on them, found them molding (and smelling terrible). To his surprise, they tasted as good as how bad they smelled, and the new dish managed to even become a hit in the imperial palace. This story definitely has a seed of truth, because today, most will tell you that stinky tofu really does taste much better than it smells.

Stinky tofu is traditionally fermented and brined alongside vegetables, milk, and meat, sometimes up to several months. This results in its distinct odor. The tofu is then steamed, cooked, barbequed, or stewed. The most popular and common version in Taiwan is the fried variation. Then the vendor tops it with pickled vegetables and chili or soy sauce. It is served in a bowl or box, and eaten with chopsticks or a toothpick.

Texture and Taste

Stinky tofu has the texture of fried tofu: a little crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. It smells a little like the gutter on a bad day, mixed with the stench of someone’s feet (or maybe rotting cheese). However, it has a savory, sour flavor that is surprisingly refreshing and almost addicting. This may not be a small bite for everyone, but if you think you can handle it, you may be pleasant surprised.

11. Fried tofu

Sometimes regular fried tofu looks just like stinky tofu (but without the stink!)

For those who want to taste stinky tofu without the stink part, fried tofu serves as a great alternative. Although not as famous as its stinky counterpart, regular fried tofu is also quite popular among Taiwanese street booths. Typically sold as a side dish or small bite, fried tofu is exactly that: tofu cut into squares, then fried golden brown and served with soy sauce (and chili or hot sauce upon request) and pickled vegetables.

Texture and Taste

Fried tofu is relatively crunchy on the outside, and soft on the inside. It is somewhat similar to Japanese agedashi tofu, though without the ginger and green onion. As with stinky tofu, fried tofu provides a savory, lightly sour flavor (but without the stench!).

12. Salt and pepper chicken wings

This small bite is also sometimes known as Taiwanese “popcorn chicken”

Salt and pepper chicken wings are a more underrated street food, but an incredibly popular and delicious small bite all the same. That is why it makes the list of 30 street foods to eat when traveling in Taiwan. Although you can find it in certain Chinese restaurants, salt and pepper chicken is usually hard to come by, and nothing quite beats the taste of getting it from the street booths in Taiwan.

These chicken wings are fried to a crispy gold, then mixed with garlic, pepper, generous amounts of salt, and sometimes chili. They are then served on plates or put in takeaway boxes. It is also common to receive them in paper slips instead. You can eat these wings with your hands, chopsticks, or toothpicks.

Texture and Taste

Salt and pepper chicken wings have the same texture as regular fried chicken wings: crunchy and crispy. The addicting flavor carries a savory and mildly sour taste, with hints of pepper every now and then.

13. Oyster misua

Oyster misua is a noodle dish that remains a favorite of many Taiwanese locals and international travelers alike. Originating in Taiwan, it cooks oysters with misua (skinny, salted noodles made from wheat). Alternatively, the oyster is replaced with pork intestine. Compared to vermicelli, the misua is steamed until it turns brownish yellow. The noodles then become part of a savory soup topped with cilantro. This is a dish that you can only taste in Taiwan, and as such, cannot find anywhere else. That is why it makes the list of 30 street foods to eat when traveling in Taiwan.

Oyster misua is served in a bowl, with complimentary chopsticks and a spoon, or in a clear plastic bag for takeaway.

Texture and Taste

The texture of misua is close to rice noodles, due to how thin and slippery they are, though they break apart easily once you start chewing. The soup is a brothy sort that is closer to thick stew. Together, the dish has a savory, slightly sour taste, with pops of flavor thanks to the oyster.

14. Oyster Omelet

30 street foods to eat when traveling in Taiwan
Oyster omelet. This omelet is from Kinmen; see also Jenny in Wanderland article Top 5 Tourist Sites in Kinmen Island

Speaking of oyster dishes, o-a-tsian, or “oyster omelets,” are another champion of Taiwanese street food. Massively popular with both tourists and locals, it is one of the most enduring small bites in Taiwanese street food history. Taking influence from Fujian and Teochew cuisine, oyster omelets are exactly as the name implies. The omelet is made from thick egg batter, mixed with starch. The cook then fills it with small oysters, and fries it with lard. These omelets can be eaten plain, but it is more common to see them topped with some sort of sauce (usually tomato sauce or chili sauce) for extra flavor.

When buying the omelet, you can usually expect it on a plate or takeaway box. Then you eat it with chopsticks.

Texture and Taste

Oyster omelets have the same texture as regular omelets, though the egg wrap is a little thicker. The oysters provide a chewy texture to it, and the sauce usually gives a sweet and sour flavor. Together, the components provide a unique savory taste that will make you want more.

15. Pig’s blood cake

30 street foods to eat when traveling in Taiwan

It is hard to visit a night market without running into a booth selling pig’s blood cake, a snack with Fujian influence. Another of Taiwan’s most popular small bites, this is a type of black pudding made from pig blood and sticky rice. The cook then steams or fries it, and coats it with peanut powder, coriander, and other sauces. This usually results in one or several squares of pig blood pudding skewered on a wooden stick. Alternatively, it is served on a small plate, or takeaway box (or slip), and you consume it with chopsticks. At the night market however, you usually just eat it with your hands directly off the complimentary skewer.

This is one of the 30 foods to eat when traveling in Taiwan because it is definitely hard to find anywhere else, especially in the west! There’s also the fact that pig’s blood cake is among a list of global foods banned by the United States by the USDA.

*Note: It is most common to see pig’s blood cake, but you will also sometimes see chicken blood cake for sale.

Texture and Taste

The texture of pig’s blood cake is comparable to mochi. It is very chewy, with the peanut powder giving it a slight crunch. The taste is both sweet and savory, with a distinct steamy flavor.

16. Barbecue Corn

30 street foods to eat when traveling in Taiwan

Barbecue corn makes the list of 30 street foods to eat when traveling in Taiwan because it is a small bite rarely talked about in the mainstream. However, it is just as delicious as its brethren and another night market favorite. Usually served on a wooden skewer and paper slip, barbecue corn is a cob of corn grilled with soy paste, sweet chili sauce, and garlic until the cob takes on a distinct charred look. You then grab the wooden skewer and chew away at the corn kernels.

Texture and Taste

Barbecue corn has a dry, charred texture, with chewy kernels. It has a sweet and savory taste that comes with a hint of garlic and peppery bite (though not spicy). Fun for the mouth all around, barbeque corn is the perfect small bite to snack on while wandering the local night markets in Taiwan.

Sometimes it is difficult to find the best markets or figure out exactly what to eat. A tour like This Night Market Tour with a local guide and small group can be really fun! It allows you to see some places that you may miss, helps you to get familiar with the foods, but most of all provides a social context to experience food.

Meals – 30 Street Foods to Eat when Traveling in Taiwan

Small bites make up a big portion of the street foods in Taiwan, but there are more than enough vendors that sell full meals as well. Usually eaten for lunch, dinner, and “midnight meals,” these are some notable examples of must-try street meals in Taiwan.

17. Zongzi

30 Street Foods to Eat when Traveling in Taiwan
Zongsi for sale on the street

A traditional food mostly consumed during the Dragon Boat Festival, zongzi are glutinous rice balls filled with sweet or savory stuffing and steamed in bamboo leaves. Artfully folded into pyramid shapes, this aromatic treat typically consists of egg yolk, daikon, and pork. The sweet variation is filled with mung bean paste or red bean paste. 

Although you can eat zongzi with your hands, most people use chopsticks or a spoon (and as nice as the leaves smell, they are not edible!). Zongzi may look small on the surface, but they can be very filling so this is definitely more of a meal than a treat. You can compare it to a compact rice ball.

A food that dates back to 278 BC, zongzi have been a staple of the Chinese community since. That is why it is on our list of 30 street foods to eat when traveling in Taiwan. As such, it is something that travelers must try because you will rarely encounter it outside Asia.

See Jenny in Wanderland article on the Summer Dragon Boat Festivals, definitely a bucket list experience!

Texture and Taste

The closest comparison to a zongzi is a rice ball. Think of the sticky rice that holds sushi together, but instead of a lightly sour taste, you have a faintly sweet flavor with a hint of tea. The rice is chewy, but the protein filling usually provides a crunch to balance the texture out.

18. Rou Geng

30 street foods to eat when traveling in Taiwan

Rou Geng, otherwise known as thick meat soup, belongs to both meals and small dishes.  Traditionally cooked with pork, carrots, bamboo, mushroom, and fish paste, it is blended with soy sauce and black vinegar. A staple of Fujian and Taiwanese cuisine, this dish is nearly everywhere in Taiwan. On the streets, you can see it served in a bowl or carried away in a plastic bag (or in a large paper cup). You typically eat it with chopsticks and a spoon (though some forego the spoon and just drink the soup from the container with their mouths).

This makes the list because it is one of the most popular and enduring dishes in Taiwan.

Texture and Taste

You can compare the taste of Rou Geng to sweet and sour soup. It has a distinct sour and savory tang, thanks to the vinegar in its stock. The soup is thick, more closely resembling stew stock than clear soup, and the mixture of ingredients gives it a memorable crunchy texture.

19. Liang mian – 30 Street Foods to Eat when Traveling in Taiwan

30 street foods to eat when traveling in Taiwan

Otherwise known as cold noodles, liang mian is definitely a dish you will rarely find anywhere outside Taiwan. It is an extremely popular street lunch in Taiwan, refrigerated and sold in both convenience stores and market booths. Most popular in the summers, liang mian is perfect for a light summer lunch. This is another must-try meal when traveling in Taiwan, and that is why it makes the list of 30 street foods to eat when traveling in Taiwan.

30 street foods to eat when traveling in Taiwan

The dish consists of relatively thin yellow noodles packaged with diced carrots and cucumbers (and sometimes garlic). Then a mixture of peanut sauce and vinegar is poured over it, giving the noodles a delicious tang. However, this food is typically pre-prepared and sold in sealed boxes so the sauce usually comes separately in a small plastic pack. Although the vegetarian version of this is the most popular, there are also variations with pieces of meat. You can ask for hot sauce or chili sauce as well. You then mix the ingredients together with a pair of chopsticks, and eat it directly from the box.

Liang mian is usually refrigerated

Texture and Taste

Liang mian offers a rather chewy texture, with the vegetables providing a balanced crunch. The dish has a sweet and savory taste, thanks to the unique sauce, and the coldness refreshes your mouth.

20. Braised pork rice – 30 Street Foods to Eat when Traveling in Taiwan

“Lu rou fan,” translated as braised pork rice, is one of Taiwan’s most popular and quintessential dishes. It consists of stir-fried pork belly (fat and meat included) simmered with soy sauce and layered over steamed white rice. For a few extra NTD, it also includes a hard-boiled egg marinated in soy sauce (a staple side item in itself!). The dish often mixes pork with daikon, pickled cabbage, and hints of black pepper as well.

Served in a bowl (or takeaway box), you can eat this dish with a spoon or chopsticks. It makes the list because it is hard to come by anywhere else, and although travelers can encounter it abroad every now and then, nothing beats the taste of braised pork rice in Taiwan.

Texture and Taste

The texture of braised pork rice is somewhat similar to ground beef over fried rice. Although chewy, the pork belly and meat are surprisingly soft and easy to eat. The flavor is quite savory, so the white rice balances the salt and grease, and the egg provides the final compliment.

21. Danzai noodles

30 street foods to eat when traveling in Taiwan

Danzai noodles get their name from the long, wooden poles used to carry pots of noodles over the shoulders of fishermen selling the dish (as opposed to seafood), during their off season. A century later, danzai noodles remain popular today. The dish uses noodles made from wheat flour, cooked in a broth with pork, vegetables, bits of garlic, and sometimes shrimp.

The noodles are served in a bowl (or takeaway cup) and consumed with noodles and a spoon. A special flavor or noodle unique to Taiwan, it is definitely something travelers must try when visiting the island.

Texture and Taste

Danzai noodles have a chewy texture and salted flavor. Although the soup is clear, it also has a broth-like quality that makes it thicker than water. Together, the dish forms a rich, savory flavor that takes over your taste buds but never overwhelms. In other words, every bite makes you want even more.

Desserts – 30 Street Foods to Eat when Traveling in Taiwan

Another highlight of Taiwanese street food is the amount of sweets. Customers can buy and consume these treats at almost any point of the day, but most people eat them as a dessert or snack.

22. Bubble Tea

We cannot talk about the 30 street foods to eat when traveling in Taiwan without mentioning bubble tea (or boba tea). This may very well be Taiwan’s greatest international export, and a global hit in the world of beverages. You might have already had bubble tea at some point, but Taiwan is the place it all started, so you will definitely want a taste of authentic bubble tea when you visit.

Originating in the 1980s, bubble tea is basically milk blended with black tea, and filled with tapioca pearls at the bottom. This is bubble tea at its most basic level, but today, you can expect a wide variation of boba, enough to cover an entire booth or store’s menu. Alternatives to black milk tea are green milk tea, oolong tea, tea without milk, and so on. Instead of tapioca pearls, you can also buy “bubbles” made from honey, grass jelly, fruits, and more. Most stores allow you to customize how much sugar or ice you want as well.

Sold in sealed paper cups, you drink the tea with thick plastic straws, or the increasingly common paper straw.

Texture and Taste

Bubble tea generally has a smooth, milky texture, with the pearls coming up your straw every few sips. The pearls themselves are always slippery and chewy, providing a sweet taste to an already sweet drink. Bubble tea generally contains quite a lot of sugar, so it is sure to satisfy your sweet tooth and quench your thirst.

Indulge in a culinary adventure on this Private Foodie Tour with a local guide that even provides pick up at your location. In addition to the delicious food experience, you will also learn some culture and history, as well as visiting a temple and main shopping street with some famous photo stops.

23. Papaya milk

The drink doesn’t arrive like this in Taiwan, but the texture and color is the same.

Papayas are one of Taiwan’s most prevalent fruits, so it is no surprise that the papaya also forms part of street food culture. A local beverage almost as popular as bubble tea, papaya milk is essentially a milkshake made from creamy milk and fresh papaya. It is definitely worth a try because you are unlikely to combine milk and papaya on a whim.

Sold in sealed plastic cups, you consume papaya milk through a thick plastic straw (though paper straws are becoming more and more common now as well).

Texture and Taste

The drink has a soft, creamy texture that easily goes down the throat. It is sweet, but not overwhelmingly so, and the taste of papaya is nicely balanced by the milk mixed in.

24. Douhua

30 street foods to eat when traveling in Taiwan

Translated as “bean curd flower,” douhua essentially refers to sweet tofu. A popular snack dessert with origins dating back to the Han Dynasty, douhua has been a street food favorite since its conception. The Taiwanese version of douhua follows the Fujian tradition of mixing sweet tofu with brown sugar and toppings such as peanuts, soy milk, or mung bean. Cold douhua is served with ice, while warm douhua is heated up. The former is especially popular in the summer, and the latter in winter.

Travelers can typically find douhua in stores or booths that specialize in the dish. These vendors usually have douhua as their main draw, but also sell other sweet dishes such as grass jelly bowls (see below). Vendors can serve you douhua in a bowl or put them in a paper cup for you to take away; either way, you eat these with spoons.

A cornerstone of any Taiwanese local’s childhood, douhua is something that any visitor to the island must try.

Texture and Taste

Usually quite sweet, douhua has a tapioca-like taste to it. The sweet tofu is extremely soft, to the point where you can easily swallow it without chewing. However, the tofu itself does not have a strong taste, which cushions and balances the sweetness of everything else in the dessert. If peeled peanuts are added, they also carry a sweet taste, in addition to being softer than crunchier.

25. Grass Jelly

Grass jelly dessert with milk.

Known as “xian cao,” grass jelly is another popular street dessert that travelers must try while in Taiwan. Made from Chinese mesona, xian cao is a black, herbal jelly typically cut into squares and used in a number of Asian desserts. In Taiwan, grass jelly is often sold alongside douhua by the same vendors. Cold variations chill the jelly (then place them with ice), and top it with cream milk, fruit jelly, and fen yuan (a tapioca-like condiment made from sweet flour and starch). As with douhua, grass jelly bowls also have warm variations, and are served with spoons, in bowls or takeaway cups.

Taro balls and fenyuan, common additions to street desserts

You can also see grass jelly served alongside bubble tea, made into its own popular drink (grass jelly tea). Since grass jelly comes from a mint-like herb, it is known for its cooling properties and ability to counter inflammation.

Texture and Taste

Grass jelly is comparable to unflavored gelatin. It has a minty aftertaste, but leans more bitter than sweet. This unique taste however, creates an interesting balance with the sweetness of toppings such as milk and sweet jelly. The end result is a refreshing flavor that never overwhelms.

26. Tshuah Bing

30 street foods to eat when traveling in Taiwan

The list of 30 street foods to eat when traveling in Taiwan would not be complete without mentioning Tshuah Bing. Tshuah Bing, also known as “shaved ice,” is another traditional Taiwanese street dessert that is just as popular, if not more so, than douhua. Influenced by the Kakigori shaved iced dessert during Japanese rule, Tshuah Bing consists of a hearty amount of shaved ice and sweet toppings. These toppings are usually milk, sugar syrup, fruit, jelly, tapioca, mung beans, peanuts, or fen yuan (colorful balls made from sweet flour and starch). There is also a popular variation called xuehua bing (snowflake ice), that makes shaved ice from milk instead of water.

Little has changed about tshuah bing since the 20th century, but today, you can see many innovations with it such as ice cream combos. As with douhua, tshuah bing is served in a bowl (or takeaway cup), and eaten with a spoon. It is often sold alongside douhua, but it is not uncommon to see vendors devote themselves specifically to tshuah bing either.

Texture and Taste

You can compare tshuah bing to shaved ice, but instead of a fruity syrup, imagine brown sugar layered on top instead. The ice flakes are just ice, and the flavor mainly comes from the toppings. The toppings are usually chewy and tangy, providing a fun texture to the frozen dessert, and a refreshingly cool sweet taste.

27. Aiyu Bing

30 street foods to eat when traveling in Taiwan

Aiyu bing, also known as ice jelly, is another dessert popular among locals during the summer. Made from the seed of a special Taiwanese figs, aiyu is a dark yellow gelatin with a vaguely sweet taste to it. The jelly is then chilled, and served with honey, lemon juice, and slices of lime. A classic dessert, it can be found in most night markets and open-air day markets. Although this dessert is more popular among older generations, it still sells due to its refreshing properties and taste. As with the other dessert dishes, aiyu bing is served in a cup (and sometimes with a spoon).

30 street foods to eat when traveling in Taiwan
Aiyu jelly for sale (center back) alongside grass jelly tea, gelatin, douhua, pudding, and sweet desserts.

You can compare aiyu bing to fruit jelly. Rarely found anywhere outside Taiwan, Singapore, and Malaysia, aiyu bing is an unique Taiwanese street item that travelers must try while visiting.

Texture and Taste

Aiyu bing has a slippery, soft texture to its gelatin thanks to the jelly’s own properties and the liquid sweeteners around it. The dessert itself has a sweet and sour taste perfect for relieving heat during the summer and quenching thirst.

28. Wheel Cakes – 30 Street Foods to Eat when Traveling in Taiwan

30 street foods to eat when traveling in Taiwan

Another popular dessert you will see at night and day markets, the wheel cake is Taiwan’s variation of the Japanese imagawayaki. Brought to the island during Japanese rule, wheel cakes are also sometimes called red bean cakes. They are made with a sweet pancake-like batter in a specialized pan to produce the wheel shape. The cake is then filled with red bean paste and served hot, usually in a paper slip so you can eat it with your hands.

Red bean paste is the most common stuffing, but vendors also sell vanilla custard filling, chocolate filling, mung bean paste, and even savory variations such as curry and meats.

Texture and Taste

You can compare wheel cakes to pancakes or waffles in terms of texture, but slightly thicker and sturdier. The wrap is typically sweet, but not as sweet as the filling itself. Although they appear big, these desserts are not that filling so if you have the chance to try them, don’t worry about them taking up too much stomach room.

29. Fruit jelly cake – 30 Street Foods to Eat when Traveling in Taiwan

Fruit jelly cake, or “liang geng” (cold jelly), is an interesting street snack invention that makes the list of 30 street foods to eat when traveling in Taiwan due to the fact that you cannot get it anywhere else. They are not quite cakes or gelatin, and closer to a combination of both. Made from a combination of flour, jelly, and fruit essence, they are colorful rectangles of refreshing sweetness.

You can eat them with your hands or any utensils you wish. They are usually sold in plastic boxes, and best eaten cold.

Texture and Taste

Comparable to a cheap version of Turkish delight, liang geng have a chewy texture and are sticky to the touch (but not so much, thanks to the flour they are dipped in). Despite the bright colors, liang geng has a relatively light flavor, with a slightly fruity aroma, making it ideal for a cool summer snack.

30. Chicken egg cakes – 30 Street Foods to Eat when Traveling in Taiwan

30 street foods to eat when traveling in Taiwan
Various jidangao in the shape of cartoon characters

A snack with Chinese origins, ji dangao, or “chicken egg cakes” are small sponge cakes made from eggs, flour, and starch. Crispy outside and soft inside, they are a light snack sometimes more popular for their shape than taste. It is one of the most common snacks you will see on Taiwanese streets and in night markets, often sold in the shape of popular children’s characters or adorable animals. Most of the time, they are hollow or solid with no filling, but you can sometimes find them with vanilla custard or red bean paste filling.

You can consume chicken egg cakes with your hands, because they are usually small enough to pinch or come with toothpicks. They are served in paper slips.

Texture and Taste

Chicken egg cakes are sweet, but not overwhelmingly so, and without filling, so they tend to lean on the light side of flavors. They have a fluffy inner texture, and a crisper outer texture, comparable to the surface of a waffle.

Taiwan is an Excellent Country to Visit

There are several one stop and nonstop flights available daily to Taiwan. I personally prefer a shorter flight, even if it costs slightly more. You can compare discounted flights here.

This luxury Taipei hotel makes for an excellent base to explore the street market. It is very comfortable and welcoming with extremely clean rooms, amazing skyline views, free wifi and parking, and a rooftop pool. The bar and lounge even offers live entertainment some nights when you are ready for a reprieve.

See also Jenny in Wanderland article, How to travel in Taiwan to learn how to easily get around.

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