10 Foods You Must Try in Taiwan

I love Taiwanese food, that's why I've stayed in Taiwan so long! Oh, and my lovely fiancé, Ruby, played a part in that too! As much as I love Taiwanese food, it is often difficult to talk about in English, and many of the English names below are just made-up approximations or descriptions. The following list is not in any particular order, and is by no-means complete. Taiwanese cuisine is incredibly diverse, and there is so much more out there for you to try! So, to start off, we have…

1. Marinated food lŭ wèi 滷味– I love this stuff, the sauce is amazing and you have tons of choices to choose from and create your own dish, so each time you can eat a new combination of foods. You pick everything out your self(usually) with a pair of tongs and place it in a basket for the cook, and they boil it all in a wonderfully flavored soup.

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2. Sausage with rice sausage wrap dà cháng bāo xiăo cháng 大腸包小腸– The English name I gave it sounds kinda weird, but a true translation would be stranger. "A big sausage wrapping a small sausage" sounds great in Chinese, but just weird in English, therefore I have jokingly dubbed these "Chinese hotdogs". Many stands offer lots of favors, such as wasabi, black pepper, garlic, and others. They are awesome, so go get one!

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3. Green-onion pancakes cōng zhuā bĭng 蔥抓餅– This was one of my go-to snacks when I first moved to Taiwan. They are great by themselves, but I personally always add an egg and usually corn, but other great toppings are cheese and bacon, even tuna!

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4. Red-bean popsicles hóng dòu bīng bàng 紅豆冰棒– Have I mentioned that Taiwanese people love red beans, and they are a big feature in their desserts? Try one and see if it's for you!

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5. Dumplings and fried-dumplings shuĭ jiăo 水餃 and guō tiē 鍋貼– I've eaten these regularly since I've been here, and I still love them! They are much better than anything you can get back home. An interesting side-note, fried-dumplings, which are usually called pot stickers, probably got this English name because in Chinese, means pot and means stick, go figure!

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6. Tofu pudding dòu huā 豆花豆花, which literally means "bean flower" is a great traditional dessert. Tofu is healthy, nutritious, and CHEAP, and that is why it is a big player in Chinese cuisine. I am constantly impressed with the ingenuity it took to make so many different dishes from one base ingredient! Bottom line, try it!

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7. Stinky tofu chòu dòu fŭ 臭豆腐– I hesitated to add this one, as I feel it's the most discussed Taiwanese food out there, but at the same time no list of Taiwanese culinary creations would be complete without it. 臭豆腐 is aged tofu and it stinks, literally! It comes in two forms, fried with a side of cabbage, or boiled with soup (my personal favorite), but they are both worth a try. So next time you are wandering through a night market and you venture into a pocket of stink, look around and find the stand responsible and steel your stomach!

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8. Hotpot huŏ guō 火鍋– This is my fiancé's personal favorite. The general idea is you take a ton of vegetables, and huŏ guō liào 火鍋料, ingredients especially made for hotpot, and you toss the, in boiling water and eat until you're about to explode! Served with fish, chicken, lamb, beef (meat is dipped into the boiling soup until it is cooked, then it is dipped into shā chá jiàng 沙茶醬 and eaten) and a variety of seafood fare, or even just vegetarian, served with your choice of rice, noodles, or dōng fĕn 冬粉 a type of thin noodle made from beans, hotpot makes for a great, and filling meal! Also, many restaurants include an nice selection of all you can eat ice cream!

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9. Seafood hăi xiān 海鮮– This should be a no-brainer. Taiwan is an island, and as such, you have access to higher quality, and cheaper priced seafood than you can get in the states, and it is awesome!


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10. Bubble milk tea zhēn zhū năi chá 珍珠奶茶– Also Translated more literally as "pearl milk tea", this is a Taiwanese invention that is so popular that it's hard to walk five feet down the street without passing half-a-dozen tea shops that sell the stuff. Some brands have even opened up stores in the USA, such as Come Buy. A word of warning though, it's really sweet and incredibly bad for you, so don't drink it every day!

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And, just because I'm nice, I've added an 11th food…..

*11. Mochi ma jí 嘛吉! This is probably my favorite food that I have discovered since I have lived in Taiwan, and it is definitely my favorite form of rice! 嘛吉 pronounced moa ji in Taiwanese, is a snack traditionally made by painstakingly squishing sticky rice in a big bowl with a wooden stick…it's a great form of exercise, I should know, I've done it! But nowadays, it is most-often machine-mashed. After the rice is smashed into a thick, sticky paste, it is rolled into balls and rolled around in peanut powder. There are lots of other modern flavors and styles (filling, no filling, served in a bamboo shoot, ice cream) but I love anything peanut flavored, and 嘛吉 is at the top of my list!

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So the you have it, eleven more reasons to make Taiwan your next travel destination. Enjoy!


Chinese phrases of the day:

滷味= a type of marinated food
大腸包小腸= sausage with rice sausage wrapping ("Chinese hotdogs")
蔥抓餅= green onion pancakes
紅豆冰棒= red bean popsicles
水餃= dumplings
鍋貼= fried dumplings(potstickers)
豆花= tofu pudding
臭豆腐= stinky tofu
火鍋= hotpot
火鍋料= hot pot ingredients
沙茶醬= hotpot dipping sauce
冬粉= thin noodles made from beans
海鮮= seafood
珍珠奶茶= bubble(pearl) milk tea
嘛吉= mochi


Chill Out in Taipei

One of my favorite places to spend an evening in Taipei is the Xinyi District. Not only is it home to the famous Taipei 101, it's also filled with tons of interesting art exhibitions.


(The ever-present Taipei 101)

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(Check out these awesome sculptures. I don't know what they're waiting in line for, but they sure look cool!)

Oh, and did I mention that it's a shopper's paradise? There are almost half a dozen giant shopping malls clustered together in this part of town, and they are all worth a visit.


(Feel free to indulge yourself, just take it easy on that credit card!)

My personal favorite is the ESLITE chéng pĭn 誠品. Each floor has something to peruse, whether it be the latest in trendy clothing or handmade crafts, DIY stands, food or other delicacies, there is something for everyone. And then there is the bookstore which is open until 1am. That's what my fiancé and I usually go for. And then there's the food!

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(a shot of some of the surrounding department stores, and the entrance to ESLITE)

Most of the food courts in the different shopping centers will feature pretty similar selections, but as far as dessert goes, I highly recommend the shaved-ice bào bīng 刨冰 stand right by the escalator as you enter the food court in B1. It's awesome! Despite it being autumn, we have still been getting a lot of hot weather lately. When it is still this hot this late into fall, Chinese people call it qiū lăo hŭ 秋老虎, which translates to fall tiger.

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(L: waiting in line to get some shaved-ice R: choose your toppings)


(It tastes like sweet snow, and it melts in your mouth!)

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(Do you want a bite?)

If you go on a Saturday, then you are in for a treat! Walk through the underpass in the B1 area and over to the băn jí 阪急 department store (it would also be convenient or you to start your evening here, as it connects to both the Taipei City Hall MRT Station as well as the respective bus station). There are tons more great restaurants in the food court here, and you have to stop by my favorite Japanese store, Muji wú yìn liáng pĭn 無印良品, before leaving. The bus station is upstairs, so take the escalator up and then walk outside and then up the stairs onto the rooftop square. There is a TGI Fridays here, as well as a Starbucks xīng bā kè 星巴克 and an NY Bagels(The home of the best American style breakfast I've had to date in Taiwan), but that's not why we're here. Just take a look around you, you should be in the midst of the jumble of stalls that makes up Taipei's newest Art Market!

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(L: This is where I take the bus back to Zhongli R: an outside shot of the bus station, now let's head upstairs)

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(L: NY Bagels, the best place for an American breakfast in town R: checking out the market) 

The market features many unique and handmade products shŏu gōng pĭn 手工品, so take a look around and if anything catches your eye, then buy it! While some of the price tags may be a little higher than you'd expect, remember that the goods are handmade and try to support our artistic community. Plus there is usually a band playing live, so take a seat and let the rhythms soothe your feet!

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(Well, I couldn't decide what to buy…but I made a new friend!)

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(L: A stand selling Taiwan Beer. I don't drink, but don't let me stop you. R: Take a seat and let the music do the rest!

So there you have it! Enjoy your relaxing day in Taipei.

How To Get There:

Take the MRT to Taipei City Hall MRT Station. Many buses go here as well, both in Taipei and from other cities. It's really easy and convenient.

Chinese phrases of the day:
刨冰= shaved-ice
秋老虎= autumn tiger
阪急= the department store connected to Taipei City Hall MRT Station
無印良品= Muji
星巴克= Starbucks
手工品= handmade products


One of the things I love the most about living in Taiwan is the food. It may not be what you expect if you have never tried it though. It's not quite the same as the Chinese food we eat back home(except for the fried rice chăo fàn 炒飯, that's a pretty universally similar dish). Today we had a big family lunch, and my fiancé's mother spent the morning preparing lots of tasty dishes.

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(This is where the magic happens, my fiance's mother is a great cook!)

Meals are traditionally eaten at a round table with the various dishes placed in the middle. Unlike most Western style dining scenarios, where you have your own plate of food, what typically happens in a Chinese family is everyone fills a bowl with rice and then takes what they want to eat, serving themselves. Of course, there is etiquette that you should be aware of, such as older people get the first pick, and you shouldn't grab the biggest and best pieces of meat or other dishes, and leave the lesser quality for everyone else(that's just rude!). And you all know about sticking your chopsticks end-up in your rice bowl, right? If not, go check out my article on taboos in Chinese culture.


(Pull-up a seat, lunch is served!)

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(L: delicious roast duck kăo yā ròu 烤鴨肉 R:a stir-fried egg plant, qié zi 茄子 dish)

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(L: yā jiăo 鴨腳 duck feet, yum! R: I love the fish, but I try not to look it in the eye…it makes me feel guilty)

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(L: boiled bamboo shoots, zhú sŭn竹筍 R: Thai style liáng bàn mù guā sī 涼拌木瓜絲, a crunchy dish consisting of slices of pickled papaya served cold)

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(L: stir-fried beef with yellow and red peppers R: a traditional staple Chinese dish, tofu dòu fŭ 豆腐)


(a fantastic marinated pork dish called méi gān kòu ròu 梅干扣肉)

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(and no Taiwanese meal would be complete without a good soup, we had lián ŏu tāng 蓮藕湯, lotus root soup)

Do you know another good thing about home-cooked meals? The leftovers shèng cài 剩菜 baby!


(Round two…FIGHT!)


Chinese phrases of the day:

炒飯= fried rice

烤鴨肉= roast duck

茄子= eggplant

鴨腳= duck feet

竹筍= bamboo shoots

涼拌木瓜絲= a dish made from pickled papaya

豆腐= tofu

梅干扣肉= a marinated pork dish

蓮藕湯= lotus root soup

剩菜= leftovers


How To Use Chopsticks

One of the many interesting cultural aspects of dining in Taiwan, or many other Asian countries for that matter, is that people use chopsticks to eat. Everyone has seen chopsticks and knows what they are, but not everyone can use them. I remember many years ago when I first saw chopsticks(years before even moving to Taiwan) my initial thought was "How the heck do I eat with these!" So today, I will show you in 5 easy steps.

Step 1: Pick up a pair of chopsticks. In Mandarin, chopsticks are called kuàizi(筷子).


Step 2: Place the end of one of the chopsticks on the webbing between your thumb and pointer finger, and support the other end with your pinky and ring finger. While you are eating, this chopstick will not be moving.

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Step 3: Now take the other chopstick and grip it with your thumb on one side and your pointer and middle finger on the other. This is the chopstick you will be actively controlling to eat with.

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Step 4: Now that you know how to hold them, it's time to make those chopsticks work for you! It's very simple and you should get the hang of it pretty quickly. Keep the first chopstick stable resting against your pinky and ring finger and across the webbing between your thumb and pointer finger, and use the other chopstick to pick up food by moving your middle and index finger. Think of it as a tiny lever and fulcrum.

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(The way I usually eat with chopsticks is to hold the two sticks parallel to each other)

Step 5: Now that you've got it down, all you need to do is keep practicing. Now go eat some Chinese food. Forks are forbidden!


(Another way to use chopsticks, and the one favored by my fiance, is to hold them with the sticks crossing. The grip and controlling chopstick are the same, you are just picking up the food in a different way. Think scissors.)


Chinese phrases of the day:

kuàizi(筷子)= chopsticks



Okay, so I have to take a minute to rave about my latest addiction…no, it\’s not anything bad, except maybe a little for my waistline. And the culprit is shūcàidànbǐng(蔬菜蛋餅)!

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(The stand I always go to in the Zhongyuan Night Market in Zhongli City. Let\’s take a look behind the scenes.)

Like the classic Taiwanese breakfast food, dànbǐng(蛋餅) which is like an omelet, only injected with steroids(not literally I hope, but they are seriously like 5 times the size of your regular dànbǐng(蛋餅)!), these babies will keep you coming back for more! This growing chain of stands is popping up all over the place, and with good reason. With flavors such as tuna wěiyú(鮪魚), barbecue kǎoròu(烤肉), beef niúròu(牛肉), corn yùmǐ(玉米),cheese with bacon qǐsīpéigēn(起司培根), ham huǒtuǐ(火腿) and more, you won\’t get sick of eating them, just try a new flavor each time!

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(Let\’s see how it tastes….)

One of the reasons I love shūcàidànbǐng(蔬菜蛋餅) is that each one comes stuffed with cabbage, so you\’re getting a balanced meal all in one package(or at least I like to think so!). Actually, the only thing I really don\’t like about this stand is that the food is really popular and I always have to wait in line (waiting in line is just part of life in Taiwan, but I\’m an impatient American and I want my dànbǐng(蛋餅) immediately!).


(You can tell by the look on my face that it tastes awesome!)


Chinese phrases of the day:

shūcàidànbǐng(蔬菜蛋餅)= vegetable Chinese omelet
dànbǐng(蛋餅)= Chinese omelet
wěiyú(鮪魚)= tuna
kǎoròu(烤肉)= barbecue
niúròu(牛肉)= beef
yùmǐ(玉米)= corn
qǐsī(起司)= cheese
péigēn(培根)= bacon
huǒtuǐ(火腿)= ham



Who doesn't love them? Especially lathered in butter and dripping with maple syrup! Yum! I'll be blogging about the best place to get pancakes in Taiwan in the second part of this article, but for now I'd like to introduce you to a local equivalent. Chēlúnbǐng(車輪餅)is one of my all time favorite Taiwanese snacks (shown below)


They are called Chēlún= wheel bǐng=round cakes due to their shape. In fact, they are a lot like pancakes in sandwich form, and what self respecting Westerner doesn't like sandwiches?!? In all seriousness, these tasty little treats will fill you up, and it won't hurt your wallet much at 10NT a piece (though some more famous stores can sell them for as much as 20NT). They come in an assortment of favors, such as cabbage, chocolate, peanut, hóngdòu(紅豆) or red bean, and cream….Let's try a bite!

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Boy, that was GOOD!

The two most popular flavors by far are cream or nǎiyóu(奶油) and red bean. In fact, they are also often called hóngdòubǐng(紅豆餅), or red bean cakes. Whatever you call them, they're delicious and I'm going to get some! See you at the night market!


Chinese phrases of the day:

Chēlúnbǐng(車輪餅)= tire cakes

hóngdòu(紅豆)= red beans