Guide to Taiwanese Street Food
The lucky expats who have found themselves on the gorgeous island of Taiwan will find that there are endless ways to pass their time here. While the usual trip to the beach and shopping are ever-popular options, none can compare to the excitement of trying out Taiwanese street food in Taiwan’s world famous night markets.
The labyrinth like twists and turns that each street takes you down in the night markets offer up delicious fried, baked, and steamed treats. Trying to choose which enticing treats to sample can be fun, but it can also be nerve wracking when you’ve never seen or smelled any of the items being cooked. With the right know-how, though, you can fearlessly taste any of the delicacies Taiwan offers. These top ten Taiwan food snacks are easy to spot and sure to satisfy any traveler’s insatiable cravings.
1. Oyster omelet
The recognizable omelet has a unique twist in Taiwan. Creative cooks serve up the egg dish with oysters and a deliciously unique sweet sauce. A little salty, a little sweet, a little briny, this dish is perfect for those who enjoy mixing flavors up. While the dish can be found in almost any night market, the best spot to buy it is said to be Keelung Market since it’s so close to the beach and the oysters can be found fresh.
2. Pig’s blood cake
Not for the faint of heart or squeamish, pig’s blood cake is only for those with steel tummies and adventurous hearts. While most foodies find the use of blood in the treat to be the distinctive aspect of pig’s blood cake, I actually felt that the chewy texture was the most interesting quality when I tasted it for the first time.
Assuming the snack would be either rock hard since the cakes are cut into neat little squares and skewed on wooden sticks or runny from the blood, I was completely taken aback to find that pig’s blood cake was sticky! Sticky rice is steamed with blood then dipped into peanut powder and dusted with spicy chili sauce. This street food definitely nudges more than just the sense of taste. The smell of steamed blood and sight of the little rice cakes can be intimidating, but once tasted, you’ll definitely go back for more.
3. Stinky tofu
Ok, I’ll admit it here since we’re all friends…. I’ve never tried stinky tofu. The popular smelly treat is probably the best-known street food in Taiwan and the locals love it. The smell, though, is extremely difficult to get passed. The golden fried nuggets look innocent enough from afar, but every time I work up the courage to finally purchase one, the scent rises from the pan and assaults my nose, leaving me afraid for my life.
Ok, maybe not afraid for my life but afraid that the pig’s blood cake I just ate 15 minutes ago will come back up in front of judging Taiwanese people for sure. If your stomach happens to have a steel coating (as I sadly can no longer claim since I refuse to try this street food), please taste this and let me know your thoughts. Maybe it will give me the courage someday to taste it on my own – with a clothespin on my nose.
Oh, the vulgarity of this street food brings me to giggles every time I pass the food stall, A Piece Of Gayke. Offensive, delicious, and palatable, travelers sign up to sample the crude penis shaped cakes mainly to say they have and to snap a few Instagram photos. While these novelty treats are in no way one of Taiwan’s must-taste street foods, they definitely are a must-buy if only for the pictures.
5. Bubble milk tea
Taiwan is the proud inventor of bubble milk tea (also known as pearl tea or boba tea), a delicious drink made with a tea base, milk, and chewy tapioca balls. While not technically a street food, the drink is so popular that pop-up stands, drink trucks, and street vendors are dedicated to the making the yummy tea.
6. Coffin cake
As the name suggests, you will die and go to heaven after eating coffin cake, metaphorically, of course. Lame dad jokes aside, this treat is probably my favorite food stall find since arriving in Taiwan. It’s basically Texas toast gutted to create a little holding area for delectable fillings. Hence the name, coffin cake. After the toast is cut open, yummy little treats are piled into the bread like meat (your choice of peppered beef, chicken, or seafood), pineapple, steamed veggies, and an amazingly creamy gravy reminiscent of the same, which is slathered onto chicken fried steak. The cake is cut into 4 pieces for sharing, but take my advice and buy your own. These babies aren’t made for sharing.
7 Grilled squid on a stick
There is hardly anything more satisfying than walking around a night market enjoying the sights and sounds while munching on a delicious, purple, perfectly grilled squid on a stick. The best part of this snack is that you can choose how you’d like to season it. Ask the seller for a little sprinkle of chili pepper for a little heat or a nice heavy-handed shake of the pepper can for an addicting spicy squid snack.
8. Scallion pancake
The perfect hangover cure, scallion pancakes are doughy wraps made with scrumptiously greasy fried eggs, melted cheese, and the perfect little dollop of spicy sauce all rolled into itself. When they’re frying hot on the pan you might be tempted to order two because of the optical illusion the giant frying pan lends that makes scallion pancakes, but between the eggs, dough, and cheese; a single scallion is more than enough to fill up your belly.
9. Candied strawberries or cherry tomatoes on a stick
Think of crunchy red candy apples at the fair. How satisfyingly sweet yet tart they are! Now, imagine all that candied goodness drizzled on an even better fruit, strawberries. It gets better; they also candy plump, juicy little cherry tomatoes! The candied fruits and vegetables are served on little wooden sticks in Taiwan, and the sweeties cost practically nothing. Just be careful when biting into the hard candied shell because the fruits and vegetables inside are very ripe and tend to shoot juice out. I’ve ruined a couple of cute sundresses while nomming on the sweet treats.
10. Potato cheese
It doesn’t matter what day or time it is, whenever I head to Shilin night Market the longest line is always for potato cheese. Similar to a cheese drizzled baked potato, the main difference in Taiwan is that the whole potato is peeled and drowned not drizzled in a river of ooey gooey melted cheese. You can always choose between toppings like a variety of meats or veggies to finish off your potato, and because the potato is entirely peeled, you can eat every last bite of your snack!
Which street food across the world is your favorite and why? Share your answer with other travelers in a comment below!