From the smoky, sizzling food stalls in Taipei's night markets, to the deftly-crafted dumplings of Din Tai Fung, Taiwan loves its food – and so will you....
Taiwan is a haven for foodies, where the streets are alive with the smells of freshly steamed dumplings and the sounds of sizzling pancakes. Don't miss these top 5 delectable dishes to try. Plus, read to the end to download your complimentary e-guide to Taiwan, with more cuisine highlights, as well as need-to-know travel tips, top outdoor adventures and more…
What’s that? This tangle of noodles, spicy broth, and succulent slow-cooked beef is Taiwan's favourite dish – slurped everywhere from street markets to five-star restaurants. It'll warm you from the inside out: the perfect post-hike grub.
Why should I eat it? It's Taiwan on a plate – or, rather, a bowl. The beef is so tender you could cut it with a spoon, but the noodles have bite. As does the chilli: ask for your soup mild if you can't handle heat.
Where to tuck in: Skip the fancy restaurants: this soulful speciality is best-served from family-run canteens. In Taipei, the crowds at Ay-Chung Rice Flour Noodles in Ximending often queue around the block – but trust us, those bowlfuls are well worth the wait. Everyone has their own recipe, so consider it your duty to try as many as you can.
What’s that? Is it a drink? Is it a dessert? Usually served in a takeaway cup and slurped on the go, this milky iced tea comes with a love-it-or-loathe-it surprise at the bottom: small pearls of tapioca jelly. When these sugary marbles whiz up your super-sized straw (it's extra wide to accommodate them), it's not clear whether you should be drinking or chewing – so do both, and ride that caffeine wave for the rest of the day.
Why should I eat it? Taiwan invented bubble tea (also known as boba, or pearl milk tea), so while it might feel like you've succumbed to fast food, you're actually sampling something authentic.
Where to tuck in: Trendy hole-in-the-wall joints mix up a mean bubble tea, often in a huge range of flavours: green tea, caramel, mocha and many more. You'll find them in cities and towns all over the country.
What’s that? Chou doufu – also known as stinky tofu – really lives up to its name. Honestly, it smells awful (like the ripest of cheeses), but if you can get past the smell it's surprisingly inoffensive: creamy and soft, and positively delectable when fried. It gets its stench from a fermentation process, during which it's steeped in brine for months.
Why should I eat it? Like the durian, that ill-scented Asian fruit, tasting stinky tofu is a rite of passage: no trip to Taiwan would be complete without a bite.
Where to tuck in: Follow your nose – not that you'll want to – through the night markets and street food stalls all over Taiwan. Chou Doufu is a snack rather than a full meal, ideal for nibbling on the go.
What’s that? Omelettes aren't just for breakfast in Taiwan: they're whipped up at all times of day, stuffed with oysters, onions and vegetables. Get yours fresh from a street food stall: it'll be sizzled and flipped before your very eyes, with a good dose of chilli and lime juice too.
Why should I eat it? It's cheap, fast, and tasty. As an island nation, Taiwan loves its seafood – and oyster omelettes are just the tip of the iceberg.
Where to tuck in: Look for the street food stall with the longest queue, as that's where the freshest oysters will be. You'll find excellent seafood in any of Taiwan's sea-side settlements, but the city of Kaohsiung, in the south, is particularly renowned for its fish.
What’s that? In Shanghainese style, these delicately-twisted dumplings are steamed to plump perfection in bamboo caskets. The herby pork stuffing creates a soup inside the dumpling as it cooks – making for a delicious (if sometimes dribbly) bite.
Why should I eat it? Because it's sheer umami heaven.
Where to tuck in: The award-winning Din Tai Fung restaurants (in Taipei and Hsinchu City) each serve around 10,000 dumplings per day. There are vegetarian options, as well as fabulously oozy chocolate versions too. As you tuck in, you can watch the chefs making each one by hand: a hypnotic culinary origami. Learn their tricks at Taiwan Cooking 101 in Taipei, with culinary whizkid Chef Jeff. As well as sharing traditional recipes and insider secrets, he's a trove of info on the city's food scene.
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