Written by Melaura Rice (Grand Valley State University), Student Correspondent for CET Taiwan, Fall 2019
If there’s one good thing to do in Taiwan, it’s to eat! Contrary to some other countries, you can find the best food in Taiwan on the street. I’ve made it a point to try as much street food as possible and have compiled a list of some of my favorite and most intriguing foods you can buy off the street. So, after visiting many night markets and sampling many foods, here is my Taiwanese street food review!
Fried taro & sweet potato balls
These fried balls are crispy and pretty delicious! Most have airy centers, but some are filled with egg yolk which makes for a delicious but messy snack. Because these aren’t too filling, they’re the perfect food to snack on while wandering around a night market looking for your next purchase.
Black pepper bun
The Fuzhou Black Pepper Bun stall at the Raohe night market has earned its spot on the Michelin Bib Gourmand list, and for good reason. These pork-filled buns are peppery and delicious, but also come with high odds of burning your mouth while eating them because they come out and remain piping hot. I highly recommend specifically going to Raohe night market for these buns. Not only are they the original, but the stall is set up so you can see the production line process of these buns being made while you wait!
Rice ball (饭团)
I like to get these on the way to class in the morning because they are super filling and delicious. There are always plenty of street vendors selling these for about 35 NTD. It’s basically a burrito, but instead of a tortilla, it’s sticky rice. The flavor is overwhelmingly dominated by the pork floss they place inside which can be a little off-putting for some, but I personally like it. Inside, you can find you tiao (fried dough stick) that adds a little crunch.
Scallion Pancake （葱油饼）
This is the essential breakfast food in Taiwan! Flaky on the outside and chewy on the inside, this breakfast food is super easy to eat and just filling enough to get you through the morning.
I tried these for the first time with some non-tomato fans and even they agreed that this was pretty good! This snack is literally just skewered cherry tomatoes coated with hard sugar, interspersed with sour plum candy. These can be hit or miss though depending on how recently they were coated. The coating needs to be fully dried and hardened to give it the crunchy texture that it is famous for. If eating a sugary tomato sounds like something you’d like to avoid, you can opt for candied sour plums, strawberries or crab apples also sold at these stands.
My number one! My top food! I would eat this for every meal if possible! It’s funny because it’s just ice, but the number of ways you can have it makes for a million different options. First, you can either get the kind of ice that is crunchy (kind of like the good ice they put in drinks at some restaurants) or the kind that is called “snowflake ice” and definitely is similar to the fine texture of snow. The snowflake kind usually comes in preset dishes you can order, the most popular kinds being mango, peanut, and matcha. At places that serve the crunchy kind, you can usually pick your own toppings. There are a bunch of different ones, but I usually like getting jelly (like the grass jelly mentioned below), boba, glutinous taro & sweet potato balls, and red bean (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it). The ice is then coated in brown sugar, making it very syrupy and sweet. Sometimes condensed milk is added for an extra layer of sweetness. No matter which type you get you can’t go wrong. Shaved ice is the perfect snack for any time of the day especially when trying to escape the heat in Taiwan!
Grass jelly drink
Don’t be alarmed if you are walking the streets and see signs advertising frog eggs, it is just referring to this jelly drink! While there are all kinds of beverages you can have with your grass jelly, I opted for the brown sugar drink which was really sweet but went well with the grass jelly. The jelly makes the drink pretty filling, so I highly recommend trying this as a snack in Taiwan!
These cakes are light and jiggly and kind of feel like you’re eating air. The flavor is pretty good, but they aren’t very filling and are typically more expensive than other night market desserts. With multiple flavors, you can choose and a novel status among street market dwellers, I think they are certainly at least worth a try!
I’ve seen this done several different ways, but the type I had was made with a thin flour crepe base, then topped with shaved peanut candy, vegan ice cream, and coriander. I am obsessed with anything peanut related, so this dessert was an instant favorite for me. It’s basically an ice cream burrito, which is an idea I’m surprised hasn’t caught on in the US. The only downside about this dessert is the fact that you have to bite the ice cream while eating it, which is a strange sensation on the gums (unless if you are really hardcore and normally bite your ice cream).
The infamous street food, the most intensely loved and intensely hated snack of them all. You know when you’re coming up to a stall that serves stinky tofu because you smell it before you see it. If I’m being honest, it really doesn’t taste that bad! The taste is similar to the smell but toned down a lot. I’ve eaten stinky tofu on three occasions, and I’d be fine if there wasn’t a fourth, but I also don’t regret trying it. Pairing this with some Taiwanese kimchi definitely adds to the dish and helps make it more delicious in my opinion.
This list is only the tip of the iceberg for delicious Taiwanese eats! The only way you can ensure you can try all these authentic, delicious dishes is to come to Taiwan and try them for yourself. I guarantee you will not be disappointed!