Navigating the Taiwanese food scene can be intimidating. There’s SO MUCH FOOD.
These are probably my favourite Taiwanese staples that I encourage everyone to try:
1) Taiwanese Beef Noodles (牛肉麵)
Many people’s favourite Taiwanese dish:
Slow-stewed beef brisket in a “hongsao” flavoured broth with noodles. Price for a large bowl typically between $75 – 110nt. This bowl costs $100nt at:
No. 96 Shiwei Rd
2) Stinky Tofu (臭豆腐)
Only for the brave, and the real food explorers. It smells a whole lot worse than it tastes (otherwise why would anyone eat it!). This is fermented tofu (think blue cheese of tofu) that is then deep fried. The frying process amplifies the smell 1000x.
The taste is that of a flavoursome part-crispy part-juicy tofu, had with Taiwanese pickled cabbage (much like Korean Kimchi, but not spicy).
If you can get over the smell for a minute – it’s well worth a try!
This plate cost me $35nt at:
No. 248 Wumiao Road,
Lingya District, Kaohsiung City, 802
3) Taiwanese Hot Pot (火鍋)
It takes practice to learn how to eat hot pot properly! But know this – Taiwanese hot pot is nothing like Chinese hot pot, and rather different from Japanese hot pot. There is no oil in the pot, just a carefully blended base broth for you to cook with.
Everyone deveops their own favourite way to cook their hot pot, but this is how it will be served to you: all the ingredients fresh and raw.
I advise bringing the broth to a light boil, then adding all of the cabbage and root vegetables, followed slowly by the rest of the ingredients in personal preference order. Don’t oook the seafood or meat for too long – generally a quick 3 min boil will do it!
Most restaurants will have a sauce counter for you to make your own dipping sauce. To preference, combine any of the following: sacha sauce (staple of hotpot), soy sauce, vinegar, chillies, spring onions, sesame oil or paste, garlic, and radish paste.
This particular hot pot was the lunchtime “business menu” for $200nt at:
Chinjin Zer 輕井澤火鍋 (a chain with many locations throughout Taiwan)
No. 274, Zhongshan 2nd Road,
Lingya District, Kaohsiung City, 802
4) Steamed Dumplings
Dumplings need no introduction, but in Taiwan are best enjoyed steamed or seared. All Taiwanese breakfast shops will sell seared/fried dumplings for breakfast. We call these Jian-Jiao (煎餃). Steamed or boiled dumplings are called Swei-Jiao (水餃).
The going price for dumplings at a street-stall is $4nt/dumpling or $60nt/basket at an airconditioned restaurant.
5) Pork Knuckle
Pork-knuckle slow-cooked in a light soy sauce is a Southern Taiwan specialty, from ethnic Hakka influence. You won’t get this everywhere, look for Hakka restaurants or Dim Sum restaurants. A great really authentic Hakka restaurant run by a Hakka husband and wife is:
No. 3 Xingzhong 2nd Rd, Lingya District, Kaohsiung City, 802
6) Taiwanese Custard Pancakes
7) Seafood Congee
Hai-Xian Moi (海鮮粥) usually contain variations of oysters and fish flakes, topped with asian celery and crispy taiwanese ‘croutons’. This bowl with saba fish and oysters cost $100nt at:
No 163 Chin-nian Rd
Kaohsiung City 802
8) Sticky steamed Pork Rice (筒仔碗糕)
I’ve seen this called “Savoury Rice pudding” or “Salty Rice pudding” but I think that’s a terrible name.
Rice and stewed pork are steamed together in small cups and inverted before serving. A special variety of short-grain rice is used to produce the sticky texture. Served usually either with ginger or cucumber slices. This portion cost $35nt at
No. 167 Her-Xi Rd
Kaohsiung City 803
This place also invented the unsual steamed-egg soup worth a try:
9) Oyster Vermicelli Noodles（蚵仔麵線）
The Taiwanese love oysters. Short stringy noodles topped with oysters and lots of coriander and garlic. Add a splash of dark vinegar to have it like a local.
This bowl for $40 at
No. 104, Lingya 2nd Road,
Kaohsiung City, 80244
10) Pork Buns
Pork buns need no special introduction. In Taiwan we like them small, bite-sized, and for breakfast! You’ll find these at any breakfast shop.