Culinary Delights of Taiwan: A Gastronomic Journey

I’ve had the privilege of exploring some of the most exotic and delectable cuisines around the world. However, my recent journey to Taiwan left an indelible mark on my palate. Taiwan is a gastronomic paradise, and I’m excited to share some of the most mouthwatering dishes and treats I had the pleasure of trying.

Bubble Tea :

Bubble tea, also known as pearl milk tea, is a Taiwanese culinary sensation that has gained worldwide popularity. It was invented in Taichung, Taiwan, in the 1980s. This delightful beverage consists of a base tea (often black or green tea) mixed with milk and sweeteners like sugar or condensed milk. The unique twist comes with the addition of chewy tapioca pearls, also called “boba.” These pearls are made from cassava root and give the drink its distinctive texture. The combination of creamy, slightly bitter tea with the sweet, chewy pearls is truly addictive. Prices for bubble tea can vary depending on the size and the toppings you choose, but you can typically find it at local tea shops for around $2-5 USD.

Coffin Bread :

Coffin bread is a one-of-a-kind snack that originated in Tainan, Taiwan. It’s essentially a thick slice of bread, hollowed out and toasted to perfection, creating a crispy and edible “coffin.” This hollowed bread is then filled with a savory stew, which can contain a variety of ingredients such as seafood, chicken, or vegetables. The stew is usually thick and flavorful, and it complements the crispy bread wonderfully. The dish not only pleases your taste buds but also offers a visually striking presentation, as the stew spills out of the bread “coffin.” Prices for coffin bread can range from $4-8 USD, depending on the ingredients and location. To enjoy this unique dish, head to local night markets or specialty stalls in Tainan, where it’s most commonly found.

Baozi Sausage :

Baozi sausage is a delightful Taiwanese twist on the classic baozi, which is a steamed bun often filled with a variety of ingredients. In this case, a delicious Taiwanese sausage takes center stage. The bun is typically soft and fluffy, providing a contrast to the flavorful and slightly sweet Taiwanese sausage. The sausage is usually made from a blend of pork and sometimes other spices and flavorings. This culinary delight can be found at various street food vendors, night markets, and even some local restaurants throughout Taiwan. Prices for baozi sausage can be quite affordable, with a single bun typically costing around $1-2 USD.

Pork and Chili Buns :

Pork and chili buns are a popular street food in Taiwan, offering a flavorful and spicy experience. These buns are typically filled with a mixture of minced pork and spicy chili, which provides a delicious kick of heat. The balance between the tender, doughy exterior and the spicy, savory filling is a true delight for the taste buds. Prices for these buns can vary, but you can generally find them at street food stalls and markets for around $1-2 USD each.

Stuffed Chicken Wings :

Stuffed chicken wings are a unique and delectable Taiwanese dish. Chicken wings are carefully deboned, and then they are filled with a savory mixture of meat and vegetables. Afterward, they are deep-fried to a crispy, golden perfection. The result is a delightful combination of textures and flavors, with the juicy chicken, savory stuffing, and crispy exterior. You can find stuffed chicken wings in night markets and specialty stalls throughout Taiwan, typically priced at around $2-4 USD for a serving.

Peanut Ice Cream Roll :

The peanut ice cream roll is a delightful sweet treat that combines the contrasting elements of creamy ice cream and crunchy peanut brittle. It typically features a scoop of creamy ice cream wrapped in a thin layer of peanut brittle, creating a harmonious blend of cold creaminess and the nutty crunch of peanuts. This dessert is a refreshing way to satisfy your sweet tooth. You can find peanut ice cream rolls at various dessert shops, night markets, and street food vendors in Taiwan, with prices ranging from $2-4 USD depending on the location and additional toppings.

Squid :

Fresh grilled or deep-fried squid is a popular street food in Taiwan. Vendors across the island offer this tasty and chewy delight, often seasoned with a variety of spices and sauces. Squid is a versatile seafood option, and in Taiwan, it’s prepared to perfection. You can enjoy it as a whole grilled squid on a skewer or as bite-sized fried pieces. Prices for grilled or fried squid can range from $2-6 USD, depending on the size and preparation method. Look for street vendors and night markets for an authentic squid experience.

Taiwanese Fried Chicken (TFC):

Taiwanese fried chicken is a beloved local specialty and a must-try for any visitor. The secret to its deliciousness lies in the crispy, flavorful coating and the tender meat underneath. You’ll find TFC stalls on almost every street corner in Taiwan, each with its unique twist on this classic dish. Prices for Taiwanese fried chicken can be quite affordable, typically ranging from $2-5 USD. Enjoy it plain or with a variety of seasonings and dipping sauces.

Xiaolongbao :

Xiaolongbao, also known as soup dumplings, are a culinary marvel that originated in Shanghai but have gained immense popularity in Taiwan. These delicate dumplings are filled with savory pork and a flavorful broth, creating a burst of flavor with every bite. They are typically steamed in small bamboo baskets, which adds to the experience. To fully enjoy xiaolongbao, be sure to dip them in a mixture of black vinegar and fresh ginger. You can find xiaolongbao in specialty restaurants and dim sum teahouses throughout Taiwan. Prices vary but are generally reasonable, with a serving of xiaolongbao costing around $4-8 USD, depending on the location and the number of dumplings you order.

Dumplings :

Taiwan is renowned for its diverse and delicious dumplings. You can find an array of dumpling types, from pan-fried to boiled, with various fillings such as pork, shrimp, vegetables, and more. Each dumpling is a delightful bite-sized package of flavors and textures. Prices for dumplings can vary depending on the type and location, but they are generally quite affordable, with an order of dumplings typically costing around $3-6 USD. You can savor these delectable dumplings at local dumpling houses, street food stalls, or even upscale restaurants.

Pineapple Cakes :

Pineapple cakes are a popular Taiwanese pastry and a delightful souvenir or snack. These small, square-shaped cakes are filled with sweet and tangy pineapple jam and enclosed in a crumbly, buttery crust. They strike a balance between sweet and slightly tart, making them a favorite among locals and visitors alike. You can find pineapple cakes at specialty bakeries and souvenir shops throughout Taiwan. Prices vary depending on the brand and packaging, but they typically range from $5-15 USD for a box of these delectable treats.

Scallion Pancakes :

Scallion pancakes are a beloved breakfast favorite in Taiwan. These crispy and flaky pancakes are made by frying a dough infused with scallions and oil, resulting in layers of savory goodness. They are often served with a dipping sauce or enjoyed on their own. Scallion pancakes can be found at breakfast shops, street vendors, and even some night markets. Prices for scallion pancakes are quite affordable, typically ranging from $1-4 USD per piece, depending on the size and location.

Japanese Cuisine:

Japanese cuisine is widely enjoyed in Taiwan, with a variety of options ranging from sushi and sashimi to ramen and tempura. Japanese food has become an integral part of Taiwanese culinary culture due to historical ties and shared influences. Prices for Japanese cuisine in Taiwan can vary significantly depending on the restaurant and the specific dishes. You can find everything from affordable sushi conveyor belt restaurants to high-end sushi omakase experiences in cities like Taipei and Taichung.

Beef Noodle Soup:

Beef noodle soup is a beloved Taiwanese dish with a rich history. It typically features tender braised beef, either in a clear or spicy broth, served with wheat noodles and garnished with green onions. Prices can vary, but you can find a hearty bowl of beef noodle soup at local restaurants and street stalls for around $4-8 USD. For an authentic experience, try the renowned Lin Dong Fang or Yong Kang Beef Noodle in Taipei.

Stinky Tofu:

Stinky tofu is a unique Taiwanese snack that divides opinion due to its strong odor. Despite the smell, it’s a flavorful and crunchy dish. The tofu is deep-fried and served with a spicy or sweet sauce. Prices for stinky tofu can range from $2-5 USD, and you can find it at street food vendors and night markets throughout Taiwan. For a famous spot, try Shenkeng Old Street in New Taipei City.

Taro Ball Dessert:

Taro ball desserts are sweet treats featuring chewy taro balls in various forms, often served with sweet syrup or in a bowl of crushed ice. This dessert has a history tied to Taiwan’s indigenous culture. Prices range from $2-5 USD, and you can find them at dessert shops, night markets, or specialty stalls, with Jiufen Old Street being a popular spot to enjoy taro ball desserts.

Shaved Ice:

Shaved ice is a popular Taiwanese dessert, especially during hot summers. It consists of finely shaved ice topped with a variety of sweet toppings, such as fresh fruits, flavored syrups, and condensed milk. Prices can vary depending on the toppings, but a serving typically costs around $3-6 USD. Popular places to enjoy shaved ice include Ice Monster in Taipei and Ice Shop in Taichung.

Sweet Potato Balls:

Sweet potato balls are a common street food in Taiwan. They are made from mashed sweet potatoes, rolled into balls, and deep-fried to a crispy exterior. You can find them at street food vendors and night markets for around $2-4 USD.

Taiwan’s culinary scene is a captivating fusion of flavors, traditions, and creativity. From street food to fine dining, it’s a destination that will satisfy any food lover’s cravings. My adventure through Taiwan’s gastronomic delights was nothing short of a culinary tour de force, and I can’t wait to return for more epicurean discoveries.

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