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What to eat and drink in Taiwan

In Taiwan most people usually eat breakfast, lunch and dinner away from home. Westerners may be surprised, but in Asia it is very common. Many of our Taiwanese friends admit that they have never cooked a single dish at home.

The apartments are usually small and the kitchen even more so. In addition, there are so many food stalls on the street and the food is so cheap outside the home that it makes no sense for them to cook.

Next we tell you the most typical dishes and drinks of Taiwan, with the most famous restaurants where to try them.

In our Taiwan Guide you also have the most popular restaurants in each city and each neighborhood in Taipei.

Most famous and popular dishes of Taiwan:

  • Beef noodles: noodle soup with beef. They usually have three types of meat: tendons, intestines or meat. The latter is the best option, you will recognize it in the English menu as "chunky". There are dozens of sites just dedicated to this dish. The three most famous beef noodle stalls in Taipei are Lin Dong Fang Beef Noodle, Yongkang Beef Noodles, and Liu Shandong Beef Noodles. Here you can see the complete list of the best beef noodle restaurants in Taipei.
  • Cold noodles: different from Korean noodles with the same name. They are also cold but not icy like there. With sesame sauce, a little vinegar and soy, and cucumber. I know it's scary but they are very tasty. In places specializing in this dish, there is always also miso soup with pork meatballs. You have to order both to combine hot and cold. There are many popular sites: Fu Te, Kao Family, Liu Mama noodles, etc. But our favorites, huge on Fujin street, Dai Kee Fujian Cold Noodles.
  • Danzi noodles: not as famous as the previous ones but also well known. With pork sauce and a prawn on top, it is usually a small dish that they eat as a starter. They are original from Tainan. The most popular restaurant is Du Xiao Yue. In Taipei they have a store on Dihua Street.
  • Xiaolongbao: typical Chinese dish from the Shanghai area. People mistake it for dumplings. Made with steamed dough, cooked and served in bamboo baskets. It is the star dish of Din Tai Fung, the renowned Taiwanese slow-food chain, famous for having earned a Michelin star (its Hong Kong location). In Taipei you have several establishments, the most popular being the one in the same skyscraper 101 (basement B1). Here we tell you what dishes to order at Din Tai Fung.
  • Dumplings: dumplings stuffed with meat, prawns or vegetables that can be steamed or grilled at the end. The ones in Takumi, near Huashan creative park, are the most popular in Taipei. Ask for the mixed ones and the stuffed vegetable (green) ones, they are very tasty.
  • Lu Rou Fan or braised pork: fried pork served on top of white rice. Very simple dish that they usually take as an accompaniment, that is why the quantity is usually very small. In good places it is really tasty. The two most famous in Taipei are Jin Feng Braised Pork Rice near the National Chiang Kai-Shek memorial and Huang Ji Braised Pork north of the city.
  • Hot pot: Chinese fondue, served at the table. You choose the type of broth and the meat or seafood you want to add. It always goes with vegetables and other condiments that you should add to the soup. To do it you will have a stove in the middle of the table (sometimes each person can have their own pot). It is also accompanied by noodles or rice, if they are noodles you must throw them into the broth to make them. Mala Hotpot is the most famous chain but then there are many restaurants where you will find the same dish.
  • Shabu shabu: the Japanese version of the hotpot, usually has more types of broth and the quality of the meat or seafood is usually better (and more expensive, of course). Here the flavor is usually given by meat or fish, in the hotpot the vegetables. Taipei is full of shabu shabu restaurants and they all work very similarly. First you have to choose the type of base broth and then what you will put inside. Drinks (not alcohol), desserts, ice cream and some accompaniments are usually included in the price.
  • Sukiyaki: between the previous two. Children tend to like it better because it is sweeter. MoMo Paradise in the most popular chain, always full, reservation required.
  • Fried chicken: very popular, especially in the night markets. Coarser than Korean. They add what is known as the 5 species. Try it if you want, but most Westerners prefer it without this seasoning (luckily they add it once fried so you are always in time to ask not to put it on). The most popular fast food chains are J&G, A&T, and TKK fried chicken. In night markets they are usually a battered chicken breast blankets. The most famous stall is the Hot Star.
  • Cabbagge: a kind of cabbage salad boiled and grilled with garlic. Typical accompaniment to a Taiwanese menu. Other similar dishes are water spinach or bamboo. You have to try them all.
  • Sushi: It is clear that sushi is not Taiwanese, but the Japanese dominated this island for a long time, so their influence is also noticeable in food. The difference is that Taiwanese are attracted to large pieces of fish. That is why many places are famous for having huge nigiris like blankets but personally we think that the experience is much worse. The best known is Sanwei Canteen. But you can also eat first-class sushi. Here we tell you the best sushi restaurants in Taipei. One of those that you cannot miss for being one of the most famous in general is the Aquatic restaurant in the old fish market.
  • Ramen: for the same reason that we explained before in Taiwan there are many great ramen bars. Here you will see our list of the best Ramen restaurants in Taipei. The most famous of all, Okaeri. Our favorite, a gem, Ranmaru.
  • Yakiniku: is not a dish but a type of restaurant, Japanese barbecue made at the table. But it deserves to have a site on the list because it is a must to try them. Here you will see the best izakayas in Taipei with the two famous streets where there are a few very popular ones.
  • Izakaya: as before, it is not a dish but a type of restaurant. In this case they are the Japanese taverns. As if it were a tapas bar but with Japanese food. Here the beers and sake go flying.
  • Rechao: to finish another type of restaurant, although this time it is Taiwanese and not Japanese. Fried food place, with dishes to share and Taiwan Beer for everyone. As if it were a Spanish bar. The most famous refusal in Taipei is Pin Xian 100 NT Dollar Stir Fries and you also have the Baxian grill.

Traditional recipes of the aborigines of Taiwan

The above dishes are actually the recipes of the Chinese descendant population. Here we indicate the typical dishes that you will find when you leave Taipei and visit the towns where there are still aborigines (they are 100% integrated but logically they continue to maintain their culture and gastronomy).
  • Salt water chicken: typical chicken from towns and inland areas. Served cold, it has little flavor. In Taipei you can try it in the popular Ching Cheng Hainan Chicken Rice. 
  • Sausages: made with wild boar and with a sweet spot. They are also gigantic, sometimes covered in a batter that is not worth much or even wrapped in other sausages (a large sausage that covers the small one, a literal translation of its name in Mandarin). You will see them in street stalls and almost always at the entrance of any attraction or point of interest.
  • Salt pork: roast pork usually served on a hot slate on a bed of onion and with black pepper. Very tasty.
  • Grilled chicken: always served whole, with crispy skin and with gloves so that you can chop it up yourself. It does not usually have much flavor but it can be fun to eat if you go with children.
  • Dried fish: with a smoky touch, if well done, it can be really tasty.

Food to try in the night markets of Taiwan:

Below we list the typical dishes or most popular food in the night markets. Here you can see the best night markets in Taiwan with the best food stalls in each case.
  • Gua baos (they are also called Black pepper buns): also known as the Taiwanese hamburger. Salad-type pork meat in a bun type bread. The most famous are those of Lan Jia Guabao in Gongguan night market and especially Fuzhou Pepper Buns in Rahone night market. But our favorites are on a corner one street below Taipei Station, Fuzhou ancestral pepper cake.
  • Giant squid: grilled, they are usually a bit tough. Attention if you don't like their seasoning of the 5 species because they usually put it.
  • Sweet potatoes: directly fried or stuffed with cheese.
  • Diced meat (dice iron steak): literally made with a blowtorch. It looks better than what it tastes like. The quality of beef in Taiwan is usually very fair.
  • Oyster omelette: omelette made with oyster sauce.
  • Scallion pancake: similar to the previous one, mixed to taste with basil, cheese or ham. Better than the previous one for our taste. On Yonkgan street is our favorite.
  • Stinky tofu: the worst of Taiwan. Really stinky, the smell can be so disgusting that you may get a mania for night markets.
  • Century Egg (rotten egg): actually hard to find. It smells like ammonia but doesn't taste as bad as one would expect.

Breakfast in Taiwan:

As in many Asian countries, breakfast in Taiwan is an important meal. Not from a spoon to take soup as it could be in Vietnam or Laos, but from chopsticks because it is common to eat pancakes, even noodles.
  • Dan bing: legendary Taiwanese breakfast. A kind of pancake or crepe with egg filled with all kinds of things such as cheese, bacon, tuna, etc. Possibly the most famous stall is Tian Jin Onion Pancake on Yonkgang street.
  • Bao zi: buns filled with meat or vegetables. Boiled, they usually take it to eat on the road.
  • Youtiao: also known as Chinese donuts. The most famous sites are Fuhang Soy Milk and Yong He Soy Milk king. The soy milk drink with which they accompany it is also typical.

Desserts and sweets in Taiwan:

  • Pineapple Cake: a kind of cookie filled with pineapple. It drives the Japanese crazy.â??
  • Taro balls: typical dessert from Taiwan and other parts of mainland China. Sweet potato with syrup.
  • Shaved ice: This is actually how the first ice creams were thousands of years ago in China. Shaved ice, mixed with sorbet and condensed milk sometimes. Here they cover it with fruit as well. The star flavor is mango (when it is mango season, from May to September, just for the fruit it is worth it). The most famous chain is Ice Monster. In Ximending you have a couple of other stores, like Ximen Mango Shaved Ice or Ice Galaxy. On Yonkang street is the famous Smoothie House.
  • Shaved peanut ice cream crepe: ice cream wrapped in a pancake and topped with peanut scraps. If the ice cream was good it would be interesting. The pity is that the quantity of sweetness is almost always minimal.

What to drink in Taiwan:

The most typical drinks in Taiwan are tea to eat and coffee to relax. It is actually much more common to be served tea in a restaurant than water. More or less in all cities you can find teahouses, although there are usually more in areas with plantations.

In the case of coffe in almost every block you can find a small corner where they serve it. There are also many cafes, most of which are usually really cute. In fact, there are so many that most are always empty. Here we tell you which are the best coffee shops in each neighborhood of Taipei.

Besides, in Taiwan, they happen to be the inventors of bubble tea, a cold milk tea drink with small balls of tapioca. The original store is in the city of Taichung, Chun Shui Tang, but curiously there is worth nothing. In Taipei there are several chains, the best Tiger Sugar and Kebuke. Xing Fu Tang is also famous but in our opinion it is a little below the previous ones. Here we tell you where to find the best bubble tea shops in Taiwan.

As for alcoholic beverages, beer is the most typical, although they do not have it in all restaurants. And when they have it, it is often barely warm. Of course, in the izakayas, yakinikus and breweries they have bottle and draft beer, with cold jugs and at the correct temperature. The national brand is of course Taiwan Beer . Green colored bottle, the Draft 16 days is our favorite (bottled but draft type so it has a short shelf life). The Gold Metal is also good. And the weisebeer also draft type to change is a great option. Apart of that, Japanese and Asian brands in general have a lot of distribution. On western brands, Heineken stands out for its availability.

As for wine, you will find it only in restaurants of a minimum level and they are usually the typical import brands. Logically many from Australia and New Zealand or the New World, that falls closer than not to Europe (if you want to buy wine, the best option is Carrefour de Tianmu). 

Types of restaurants in Taiwan:

As in most Asian countries, in Taiwan there are four types of restaurants:
  • Local or street places very simple (tables and low stools, open rooms without walls), usually concentrated in certain streets.
  • Night markets (there are also day markets, although they are not so famous among tourists). In some towns it is directly the Old Street that combines food stalls with shops.
  • Tablecloth restaurants as everywhere, both local, Asian or international cuisine in general (they are usually hotpot type restaurants, shabu shabu, izakayas, yakinikus, ramen, Thai, Indus, pizzerias, etc).
  • Food courts in shopping centers (usually in the basement or in large areas, with shared tables and local restaurants or fast food chains around).
At street stalls and most local restaurants you can only pay with cash. If there is a queue, you have to request a batch from the person you will see at the entrance. Simply by indicating with your hand how many of you will understand you. You usually know the numbers in English, so no problem.

In many of these local places they usually have the letter printed on small sheets where you will have to write down the order yourself. Some usually have an English version, at least from the menu. Don't be shy about asking for it.

Sometimes you will have to pay on the spot. Others at the exit with that same note or the one they give you when serving you food.

The drink in most cases you have to take yourself from the fridge. In the more informal places, they simply have tea or water at room temperature so that you can help yourself.

In many cases, you will also have to take the bowls, chopsticks and spoons from a cart or similar that they have in the dining room. Right there you can serve different sauces and also white rice at will.

Tips in Taiwan:

To the question of whether to tip in Taiwan and how much is a good tip in Taiwan, the answer is very easy. You don't tip in Taiwan! And if you give it they will be surprised.

That said, in restaurants in tourist areas, expat neighborhoods or international cuisine, it is increasingly common for them to directly charge 10% for service. At the time of payment they will explain it to you... In any case, nobody disputes this 10% because it is allways indicated on the menus.

Restaurant hours in Taiwan for lunch and dinner:

In Taiwan, lunch is usually between 11:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., some places even close at 1:30 p.m. Dinner time is from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

The night markets usually open from 5:00 p.m. and come alive around 6:00 p.m. or 7:00 p.m. Some open earlier on weekends and come up even earlier for lunch.

Card payment in restaurants in Taiwan:

If they are modern restaurants with air conditioning (it is a good way to identify them) they usually accept payment by card. The rest do not. That is why you always have to carry cash or cash on you.

But don't worry too much because on every corner there is a 7-11 or a Familymart, convenience stores where most of them have an ATM inside (the commission at these ATMs is 100 NTD, 3 euros).

In our General Information section about Taiwan, in the section on Budget and Currency in Taiwan, we indicate the best and cheapest way to exchange currency in Taiwan.

In our Route to travel to Taiwan you have the best plans to get to know the whole country, including the most authentic restaurants in each place.