Taiwan Breakfast Guide

If you know me then you will know that food is a big deal to me, hailing from a family of chefs I have always been raised around different kinds of foods and I am a far cry from a fussy eater. Breakfast is also a big deal to me, it’s the fuel that starts this engine in the morning and I don’t take that lightly.
soy_milk_kingWhen I came to teach English in Taiwan I was excited to see what people ate for breakfast here. Living in a western breakfast bubble of toast, cereal and the full English breakfast I was ready to have my bubble popped and eyes opened to the delectable delights that the mysterious Taiwan had to offer.

First let’s talk location.

Breakfasts (and most meals) are usually eaten out and not in the home. Taiwan can be fast paced at times and you will notice that breakfast stores have evolved around this lifestyle. Food on the go is the name of the game and everybody’s playing. A breakfast store will usually be a small open front place that can range from only fitting in a griddle and a toaster and one or two tables and chairs outside to a small diner style establishment. They are designed so that you can literally drive up on your scooter, order, and go on your merry way.

Now let’s talk food. Below is a list of common foods you can find on a menu in a Taiwanese breakfast store.

Dan Bing
dan bing and milk tea
This is definitely my ‘go-to’ breakfast choice (mainly because it’s easy to say and very versatile). This is basically like a thick Taiwanese style pancake that is layered with an egg and your filling of choice and then rolled up and chopped up. This will usually always come with a sweet brown sauce and some spicy sauce.

In the beginning I always played it safe and just went for bacon and cheese (note: this will be burger slice cheese) but as time went on and my mandarin improved I opened my world up. You can pretty much get anything on a dan bing. My favorite is chicken and basil, but you can also find other fillings like fried chicken, chicken nuggets, tuna mayonnaise and even pork floss (this is pork that has somehow been made into a candy floss like state).

American Diner Food

You didn’t read that wrong. I came with my mind open and ready to tackle whatever crazy far eastern wonders my palette could handle, and then I saw that pretty much every breakfast menu has options for burgers, fries, fried chicken, bagels, chicken nuggets and sandwiches. My initial disappointment was soon replaced with joy as I realized I get to eat this kind of food for breakfast.

Shao Bing
燒餅油條A Shao Bing is a rectangular flaky pastry that has been oven baked and usually topped with black sesame seeds. These little puffs of delight are usually lined with an egg and then filled with all manner of things (a lot like the dan bing). If you want to get the real Taiwanese experience you should ask for a ‘you tiao’ filling, in essence this is like a savory churro that has been oil fried.

Radish Cake

Radish cake is a soft fried square dish that has been made from shredded radish and rice flour. It is compressed into a square shape and then pan fried to give it a light brown toasted exterior whilst leaving a soft interior. This doesn’t have a particularly strong or pungent flavor, it is quite starchy in texture and is usually always served with the same sweet brown sauce you find with dan bing.

Dumplings

These little pockets of joy are delicious. Usually these come fried or steamed and are little balls of dough that are usually filled with pork and leek. The steamed dumplings are easy to see, they will be stacked in a circular container made of bamboo with steam billowing out of them.

Steamed Buns

These are similar to a steamed dumpling however they are about the size of a burger and the dough is made from steamed milk bread and is quite thick. You can get sweet or savory fillings, popular fillings are red bean, sesame seed paste or pork.

Drinks

Taiwanese breakfast places usually have three sometimes four types of drinks. You can usually find soy milk, milk tea, black tea, and in some places almond milk. These usually always come hot or cold.

These are just some of the things that you can find at a Taiwanese breakfast shop, I am still finding new dishes in places I visit. Warning should be taken if you are trying to watch those calories. Taiwan breakfasts tend to usually all be fried in oil on a griddle. I would say I eat out for breakfast twice a week, the rest of the time I eat cereal at home. Another not to make is that everything listed here and everything that you find in a Taiwan breakfast place can be found for very low prices.

Eaten breakfast in Taiwan before? Let us know in the comments below what your favorite foods were.

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