After travelling around Taiwan for about one month in June, I fell in love with the scenery, the culture, the people and of course, the food! Taiwan is an extremely underrated Asian country for tourism!
Night markets are busy, messy, pungent, crowded & loud, but they’re always 100% tasty & vibrant. One thing I loved about Taiwan is the abundance of night markets throughout the week, in any city! They are a must whenever you visit Taiwan. And part of that fun is trying out something you absolutely have no idea about. Night markets are a treasure trove of street food, cheap goods and culinary fare!
I do practice a vegan lifestyle back at home but whenever I travel, I do allow myself to be pescatarian (vegetarian that eats seafood). Many Asian cultures, in particular, is very fish-based and Taiwan was no exception. While it is very vegetarian-/vegan-friendly in Taiwan (due to the adherence to the Buddhist tradition), seafood is also a predominant staple in many Taiwanese households. Thus, most of the things I ate are vegetarian, vegan or pescatarian.
Without further ado, in no particular order, here are…
25 things to eat in Taiwanese night markets!
1. Stinky tofu. Arguably THE MOST famous Taiwanese street food, stinky tofu is pungent but very delicious! These are a definite staple in any night market. If you just get past the smell, you’ll be amazed by the taste of this amazing fermented treat!
2. Shaved ice (especially mango shaved ice). Shaved ice is excellent on a very hot summer day. There are a number of various kinds, but my favourite, especially in June/July when they’re in season, are mango shaved ice.
3. Freshly sliced fruit. If you come from a (predominantly) winter country like I do, it’s always a nice treat to have freshly sliced tropical fruits. Taiwan is very lush and abundant in fresh fruits and vegetables due to its location near the equator. Enjoy some fresh mango, or the infamous wax apples.
4. Bubble tea or boba or pearl milk tea. Bubble tea/boba/pearl milk tea (or however you call it) originates from Taiwan, NOT Japan. As such, Taiwan offers excellent pearl milk teas (and teas) with a number of local and chain stores selling them.
5. Barbecued/grilled and deep fried squid. Another staple in night markets are squid. They can be served in a number of ways, but my favourite is just freshly grilled and seasoned squid.
6. Oyster omelette. These omelettes aren’t your traditional omelettes; they contain eggs, glutinous rice flour, scallions and oysters, drizzled with a sweet sauce. The glutinous rice flour makes it chewy and very fun to eat (if you like that texture)!
7. Taiwanese roll (ice cream, cilantro and peanut brittle in a paper thin crepe) or Runbing. The combination may sound strange, but it really works together! The ice cream makes the peanut brittle chewier, and the cilantro with ice cream is very refreshing on a hot day!
8. Fresh sugarcane juice. Sugarcane (sugar) played a role in Taiwan’s development back in the day, so it’s no surprise that they have an abundance of sugarcane in the country. When freshly squeezed, sugarcane juice is not as sweet as you may think; it’s earthy with just the right amount of sweetness!
9. Deep fried soft-shelled crab. Battered and deep fried crab…how can you go wrong with that? When deep fried, the shell of these crabs become edible crispy goodness.
10. Dou hua or Soft tofu with syrup. Tofu is usually considered a “savoury” food in the West, but in Asia, it is used in a number of desserts. Dou hua uses fresh soft tofu, and is eaten with a sweet syrup and toppings such as beans, barley, taro, etc.
11. Imagawayaki or filled crispy pancakes. Taiwan has adopted some of Japan’s culture into its own, and thus, it is reflected in their food. Imagawayaki are thin waffles filled with red bean, custard or black sesame paste.
12. Takoyaki. Another Japanese creation, the Taiwanese made takoyaki their own. Taiwanese takoyaki are a little bit sweeter and more oily than their Japanese counterparts.
13. Quail egg takoyaki. Takoyaki with a sliced quail egg in the middle. A very unique and very tasty night market creation.
14. Frog’s egg juice or basil seed juice. The basil seeds in this drink oddly looks like frog’s eggs, thus the aptly named “frog’s egg” juice. This drink is sweet, and the basil seeds adds a bit of chew and squish.
15. Fresh watermelon juice. If you ever thought of drinking watermelon, Taiwan is the place to go. Eating watermelons are so overrated. However, don’t drink it all at once, or you’ll have a nasty stomach ache while walking through the night market.
16. Deep fried taro balls. The Taiwanese have a sort-of obsession with chewy food, which they coin “Q.” These deep fried taro balls look like donut holes, but they are very chewy balls of heaven.
17. Oyster noodles/oyster thin noodles (vermicelli). A very unique and tasty street food, oysters (and seafood in general) add some chew to these soft noodles. There was a stall in Keelung that sold vegetarian oyster noodles, which was still delicious!
18. Aiyu jelly drink. Aiyu jelly is unique to Taiwan, which is a translucent jelly with a yellow hue, is made from a variety of fig. Aiyu jelly is often drank in cold lemonade, a refreshing treat under the hot Taiwanese sun.
19. Fish balls. Fish balls are very popular in Asia, from China to Thailand. In Taiwan, fish balls are braised, deep fried, or skewered & grilled, and have a variety of flavours. They can be eaten in a number of ways, but all are delicious!
20. Deep fried mushrooms. Deep fried chicken popcorn is very popular in night markets, but these are the vegetarian version of said chicken. Juicy, crispy and well-seasoned!
21. Green onion pancake. Green onion (scallions) in a bread dough, then baked or deep fried. Simple and a tasty snack on the go.
22. Ba wan or clear steamed dumplings. Made with potato starch and cornstarch, ba wan is a dumpling filled with various fillings. When steamed, the dough becomes translucent. They can be filled with pork or mushrooms and/or scallions, and topped with a sweet & savoury sauce.
23. Fruit “milks.” In Taiwan, they call fruit milkshakes “fruit milks” because it is fruit with milk. There are a number of different fruit milks from mango to papaya to wintermelon.
24. Baozi or steamed buns. These Chinese snacks are a steamed bun filled with delicious fillings from mushroom vegetarian to the infamous barbecue pork. Look out for huge bamboo steamers to find these!
25. Mochi. In the east coast of Taiwan, there are variations of mochi from the Hakka and Hoklo people called tauchi which is a grilled sticky rice dough covered with red bean, sesame or other coatings (sweet and savoury).
Pastries! Taiwan, like Japan, have many good bakeries, both European-style and Asian-style!
An Underrated Destination
Taiwan is HIGHLY underrated, and I think more people should visit this beautiful country!