Potstickers, Fried Noodles, and BBQ Squid
Freshly pan-fried dumplings or potstickers are an everyday street food in Taiwan, as are pan-fried noodles with assorted additions. Large squid that's been marinated and grilled are cut to bite-size pieces for delicious snacking as well.
The Hakka people are a unique cultural group from China that have been in Taiwan since the 1600s, and comprise some 15-20% of Taiwan's current population. Its rustic food traditions play heavily into Taiwanese cuisine, including the prominent use of rich and offal cuts of pork and dried seafood.
Taiwanese pork sausages are similar to Cantonese lap cheong sausages, but they're a bit sweeter. You can often find them grilled up by street vendors and served on a stick. Or, served in a bag along with whole, raw garlic cloves—a great complement.
Gua Bao (Taiwanese Pork Buns)
The classic Taiwanese bao is an open-style bun with a red-braised slab of pork belly, showered with crushed peanuts, cilantro, and pickled mustard greens. It's an intense few bites of joy, and it's nickname is "Tiger Bites Pig" because its shape resembles a tiger biting into a meaty piece of swine.
O A Jian (Oyster Omelet)
A classic street food that has roots in China, this pancake includes oysters as well as starchy water that's poured into the pan, creating a clear jelly swirled in between the egg and oysters. It's topped off with sweet-and-savory tomato-based sauce.
O A Mi Suan (Thin Noodles with Oysters)
This delicious noodle soup has very fine wheat noodles that, when combined with broth, create a viscous texture in the soup. It's commonly served with oysters or tripe, and classic garnish include white pepper, black vinegar and cilantro.
Dan Bing (Scallion Pancake with Egg)
A popular snack or breakfast food served up at street food stands in Taiwan, a scallion pancake is cooked with a fried egg attached to it on a griddle. The whole thing is rolled up and sliced, usually served with sauce on the side.
Zong ZI (Bamboo Tamale) [Bah-Tsang]
These packets of sticky rice are wrapped in large leaves such as that of the lotus, and they can be stuffed with an assortment of sweet or savory fillings, such as minced pork. It is a traditional dish of the Chinese holiday Duanwu Festival, or the Dragon Boat Festival.[Bah-Tsang]
These jade-green treats are made from glutinous starches and a leafy herb known as the Japanese Mugwort. It's considered a popular spring treat, and has sweet fillings such as red bean paste.
Red Tortoise Cake
These festive little cakes can be found throughout China, Southeast Asia and Taiwan. Made of a sticky rice starch skin and a sweet filling (such as peanut or bean paste), they're similar to mochi. But they're elaborately molded to resemble a tortoise's shell to signify longevity.
Lu Rou Fan (Minced Pork Sauce Over Rice)
This classic comfort food might be thought of as the Taiwanese equivalent to ragu sauce—a long-simmered stew of minced pork with soy sauce and five-spice that's served over rice.
Wai Gui (Savory Rice Pudding)
These bowls of solidified sticky rice flour are seasoned and topped with savory goodies like minced pork, egg and/or mushrooms. It's also known as a Rice Bowl Cake.
Ba Wan (Pork and Bamboo Dumplings)
This classic snack has a translucent dough made of sweet potato starch, and is stuffed with a savory minced pork and bamboo shoot filling. It can be fried or steamed, and is served with plenty of sauce. It's an example of old-fashioned Taiwanese street food, before wheat-based dumplings were introduced by mainlanders in the last century.
Blood Pudding Cake
This popular street food is made of a block of pig's blood pudding, which might sound intense, but is actually very mild in flavor. It's covered all over with crushed peanut powder and cilantro, and served on a stick, like a popsicle.
This street food tradition involves a bubbling broth to which any number of meats, veggies, noodles, tofu, fish balls and more are braised in nets. The broth is deeply flavorful from having braised so many things, ensuring that every morsel is delicious in short time.
Possibly Taiwan's most popular culinary export, Boba (or Bubble) Tea was invented in Taiwan in the 1980s and has quickly spread around the globe. It starts with bouncy tapioca balls that are dropped into the tea to slurp up with a big straw. Iced sweetened black tea with milk is classic, but the teas or juices that can be enjoyed with boba are limitless.
Hakka Green Tea
This tasty beverage is a popular specialty in Taiwan that originated from its Hakka population. Comprised of roasted peanuts, sesame seeds, puffed rice and matcha green tea powder that are typically crushed in a mortar and pestle right before brewing, it's practically as satisfying as a protein shake.
This refreshing cold jelly is made from the seeds of a plant known as the awkeotsang creeping fig. It's lightly sweetened and popularly served with lime.
Ice Cream Crepe with Peanuts & Cilantro
Ice cream is rolled up into a freshly griddled pancake, or crepe, and topped with lots of crushed peanut powder and cilantro. It's a delicious dessert popularized at night market stands around Taiwan.
Bao Bing (Shaved Ice Dessert)
Patrons can choose their own topping combinations, including fresh fruit, sweetened red beans, tapioca pears, and sweet dumplings made of taro or sweet potato, to go with a bowl of shaved ice and a drizzle of sweetened condensed milk. It's Taiwan's version of a sundae.
This popular dessert is a relic of the Japanese occupation. Best enjoyed warm off the iron, cake batter is poured in a hot iron mold, similar to a Belgian waffle-maker, and filled with a sweet filling—often red bean paste or vanilla custard. In Japan, these cakes are known as imagawayaki, but in Taiwanese, they translate to "wheel cake."
Food description provided by Cathy Erway. She is the author of The Food of Taiwan and has written for publications such as Saveur, PAPER magazine, and Serious Eats. She is the host of Heritage Radio Network’s “Eat Your Words” and co-founded the Hapa Kitchen Supper Club.