Taiwan is world-famous for its street food that makes this island a foodie haven. There are hundreds of street food markets around the country that are popular among locals and tourists alike and are also an important part of Taiwan’s culture. After my first visit, I realized that Taiwan is like a tasty, giant labyrinth and the only way to get out of it is eating your way out. There are thousands of different street food joints to explore in Taiwan and they all have their own unique inventions and variations but we’ll do our best, to sum up, the 23 best street food dishes in Taiwan. Let’s start!
Note: it’s the street food dishes that are the most important part of this article, not the restaurants mentioned. The places mentioned in this list are ones that I tried personally but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any other places that serve equally good or even better variations of the street food dishes mentioned in this article.
Xian dou jiang
If you’re one of those people who think breakfast is the most important meal of the day, you definitely need to visit Fu Hang Dou Jiang. You might be surprised by the morning queues but the 15-20-minutes waiting will be worth it. One thing you have to try is xian dou jian. Xian-dou-jian is basically a savory soup made from soy milk topped with pickled veggies, crispy youtiao, and dried shrimps. It’s a great energizing meal that will give you more than enough energy for a day full of exploring! PS. If you want to avoid the queue, try to get here before 7 AM.
If you want to check it out, the exact address is Hua Shan Market, 2F, No. 108, Zhongxiao East Rd., Sec. 1 Zhongzheng District, Taipei.
Daikon & pork rib bone soup
If you’re a big-time gourmand, you probably know how cooking meat on the bone helps improve its flavor. The pork rib bone soup is a prime example of this. This soup is not only a popular Taiwanese street food; it’s also one of the most popular Taiwanese home-cooked meals. The daikon radish gives the soup a more herby and sweet flavor and this complements the tender pork ribs surprisingly-well.
Oyster mee sua
This dish is a great example of how Taiwanese can turn the simplest dishes into real delicacies with a couple of minor changes. Oyster Mee Sua is basically a regular noodle soup with oysters and braised pig intestines. This makes the soup a lot thicker, it gives it a smooth texture and makes it a lot tastier, especially if you add some black vinegar! The best part? You can get it practically anywhere for less than $1 per bowl!
Chen dong ribs in medicinal herbs
This soup is kind of similar to the daikon & pork rib bone soup. The main difference is the ribs are cooked in 14 different herbs, roots, and dried fruits. It’s delicious, healthy, and a great way to stay warm during the winter. After drinking the soup, the locals pick up the bones and suck the juice off. It might sound a bit strange at first, but it makes the dish even tastier and enriches the dining experience even more. The best place to try chen dong ribs is the Nanya Night Market which also happens to be a great starting point for exploring Taipei. It’s a great place to visit not only for trying the best of Taiwan’s street food but also some of the city’s cultural monuments.
Related: The best street food dishes in South Africa
Ban tiao noodles
Taiwanese are crazy for ban tiao noodles. I’ve seen people driving for hours just to check out a new street food stall that serves great authentic ban tiao noodles. These thick, slippery noodles are made of glutinous rice and are prepared by stir-frying and mixing them with pork and vegetables, giving the dish a rustic texture and a rich flavor. Most locals prefer to have it as a soup but you can get a dry version of it in a lot of places as well.
The best ban tiao noodles I tried were the ones from the street food stall on Meixing Street in Kaohsiung.
Iron egg (tie dan)
Iron eggs (Tie Dan) are the most famous delicacy of the North-Eastern town of Danshui. This delicacy is prepared by repeatedly air-drying and boiling the eggs in a broth until it gets the desired color. Every batch of eggs goes through this process at least 10 times! You can buy tie dan, fresh or vacuum-packed, and in many different flavors (garlic, soy sauce, chili, etc.) You might be wondering who would think to do this with eggs and that’s a good question. It was accidentally invented by a street food vendor during a slow rainy day when she had to continuously cook the eggs to keep them warm because there weren’t a lot of customers. This lead to the creation of one of the locals’ favorite street food snacks.
From my experience, the best place for this dish is Grandma’s Iron Egg on Zhongzheng Road in Taipei.
Quail egg takoyaki balls
These delicious egg balls are filled with shrimps and prepared in a takoyaki. Just like Japanese takoyaki, the concoction is turned over multiple time and cooked on both sides. The outcome is a perfectly spheric and delicious egg ball that melts in your mouth. There are a variety of toppings you can choose from, like honey mustard, orange yogurt, cheese, Thai sour, etc.
Once you pass by a stinky tofu street food stall, you’ll understand why this snack bears the nickname ‘stinky’. Just like smelly cheese, there’s no middle ground with stinky tofu; you’ll either love it or hate it. Just like blue (smelly) cheese, some people like stinky tofu because it has more flavor. Stinky tofu comes in two variations- steamed and fried. I would recommend you to try it because it tastes nothing like tofu and all the different sauces mute any ‘stinky’ flavors you might expect after passing by a stinky tofu stall.
`Milkfish in Taiwan is so popular that it has an entire museum dedicated to it and there’s also a milkfish festival in Kaohsiung. This fish can be prepared in many different ways; it can be pan-fried, served in a soup, braised, or in a congee porridge. Milkfish is a local favorite because of its tender meat but it can be a bit tricky to eat because it has a lot more bones than most average fish. Either way, it’s one of the street food dishes in Taiwan you shouldn’t miss.
Ba-Wan (Taiwanese meatballs)
We can’t really talk about street food in Taiwan without mentioning ba-wan. This dish originates from the Beidou region but you can find it pretty much anywhere in Taiwan. It consists of dough made of sweet potato wrapped around a filling of seasoned pork, mushrooms, shallots, and bamboo shoots. Ba-wan comes in two variations- steamed and deep-fried and is served in a starchy gravy with some sweet chili sauce. Looking for the best place to try Ba-wan? Check out the street food stall on Tonghua Street in Daan District in Taipei.
Da chang bao xiao chang
If you thought a hot dog is the best sausage-based street food ever, that’s probably because you didn’t try da chang bao xiao chang. The name literally translates to small sausage in large sausage, which is a rather descriptive name. The dish consists of a small grilled pork sausage wrapped in a big glutinous rice sausage topped with some fried vegetables, garlic, and fresh lettuce. Da chang bao xiao chang is usually served with soya sauce or wasabi that makes this street food delight even more exquisite. The best place to try ‘small sausage in big sausage’ is the Feng Jia Night Market.
Pig blood cake
I know the name doesn’t sound appealing at all, but pig blood cake is definitely worth tasting. This street food delicacy is served on a stick and can be found in street markets around the country. It consists of pork blood, soy broth, and sticky rice. It’s one of the street food dishes in Taiwan that requires an acquired taste and is definitely not for everyone, but if you consider yourself to be a gourmand, it’s definitely something you have to try.
If there’s a Taiwanese street food version of a burger, gua bao is the closest thing to it. Gua bao is basically a white wheat bun filled with juicy pieces of pork belly, pickled veggies, fresh cilantro, and small pieces of crushed peanuts. This dish technically originates to China but Taiwanese street food vendors have mastered it into perfection and from what I could see, it’s a lot more popular in Taiwan than it is in China. If you’re looking for the best gua bao street food stalls, head to the Raohe Night Market in Taipei.
Black Pepper Meat Buns
This street food dish’s name is quite self-explanatory; it consists of buns filled with pork, vegetables, and black pepper. The buns are usually steamed on the side of what appears to be a clay oven. After baking for some time, the final product is served; a sandwich with a crispy outside layer and a hot, melting concoction that that overflows with meaty juices and will probably burn your tongue a bit (because the smell is too tempting to wait for it to cool down) but it’ll be worth it.
Flame-grilled beef cubes
As you’re walking by street food stalls, the raw beef cubes on the barbecue might not look appetizing and this might make you move on without even giving it a chance but if you don’t, you’ll be missing out one of the best street food dishes in Taiwan. In fact, flame-grilled beef cubes are so good, they have become a hit in several other countries too. The beef cubes are prepared on a large blowtorch and are served with a variety of different seasonings like black pepper, Xinjang cumin, rose-pink salt, and teriyaki sauce. The balls are very tender and just melt in your mouth, excreting a taste you probably didn’t expect can come from beef.
Chicken wing rice roll
The chicken wing rice roll is one of the most glorious inventions of Taiwanese street food markets. Just like its name implies, this dish consists of a marinated chicken wings stuffed with fried rice. It’s so popular among locals that some vendors even came up with variations including chicken wings with kimchi rice, curry rice, etc. If you’re looking for the best chicken wing rice roll street food stalls, head to the Ruifeng Night Market in Kaohsiung.
Cong you bing (scallion pancake)
Scallion Pancakes are one of the most famous street food delicacies of Taipei. Unlike the name suggests, the scallion pancake isn’t something you’d normally call a pancake. It’s an unleavened flatbread flooded with oil and minced scallions. It’s pan-fried and made of dough rather than flour and can be filled with different toppings, such as ham, cheese, eggs, etc; basically anything you want. The best scallion pancake I tried in Taiwan was in Tianjing Chong Zhuaqe’s street food stall on Yongkang Street. There’s always a long queue and you can’t miss it.
If you’re visiting Taiwan for the first time, you probably didn’t try anything remotely similar to deep-fried milk. I know it sounds wrong on so many levels but this is one of the tastiest street food snacks you can find in Taiwan. It’s made by deep-frying frozen milk cubes previously dipped in batter. It’s very hot when served and you would have to take many tiny bites before finishing one ball but the sweet taste is bound to leave you longing for more.
Frog’s egg drink (qing wa xia dan)
qing wa xia dan is one of the most popular drinks you can find in street markets around Taiwan. Even though the name translates to ‘frog egg drink’, this refreshing drink has little to do with actual frog eggs. It’s actually a basil-seed drink mixed with sugar water and tapioca pearls. It’s called frog’s egg drink because when tapioca pearls cool down, they look a lot like frog eggs. There are two versions of this drink; in the summers it’s served cold and in the winters, it’s served warm.
Aiyu Jelly is a wobbly, crystalline jelly which is made from the gel of the awkeotsang creeping fig. This jelly originates from Taiwan but it became so popular, it quickly became a hit in other countries in the region as well. The Aiyu jelly is typically served with lemon juice and honey or fresh lime. You can get this refreshing treat on most street markets in Taiwan but the best one can be found in its place of origin; the region of Chiayi.
Taro balls is one of the most famous desserts in Taiwan that can be found in every part of the country. In case you’re wondering, taro is a root vegetable grown primarily for its edible corms. This dessert is prepared by peeling and steaming fresh taro and mixing it with some potato starch and dicing it into bite-sized pieces. Afterward, the whole texture gets boiled until getting its famous QQ texture. Taro Balls are usually served over chipped ice or warm dessert soup, come in a variety of flavors and this colorful dessert tastes just as good as it looks.
Fried taro balls
This delicious street food snack has been awarded the Taipei Michelin Bib Gourmand in 2018 and for a good reason. Liu Yu Zai’s taro balls are prepared by deep-frying and are served with a salted egg yolk. These taro balls have a thin, crisp crust wrapped around a soft taro paste dough and have a slightly sweet taste. The best thing about this snack is that it’s being prepared on the spot, right in front of your eyes. There are several different places where you can get fried taro balls, but the best one from my experience is Liu Yu Zai on Ningxia Road in Taipei.
Peanut ice-cream Roll
Spring taro ice cream rolls with peanut candy and fresh cilantro might not sound very appetizing but trust me, it tastes amazing! This street food delight originates from Yilan and needless to say, this is the best place to try it. The sweet ice cream and salty peanut candy create a very interesting contrast that gives this spring-roll-look-alike a very unique taste.
Even though this list includes 23 popular Taiwanese street food dishes, it’s still hard to pick just 23 of them. There are hundreds of different street food delicacies around street markets in Taiwan that are waiting to be discovered, but we believe that this article is a great starting point for all foodies that want to get acquainted with Taiwanese cuisine and prepare for their upcoming trip.
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Did you ever visit Taiwan? What are some of your favorite street food dishes in Taiwan? Do you have a favorite dish you think we didn’t mention in this list? Let us know in the comments!
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