Anyone who has talked to me about Taiwan knows that though I thoroughly enjoyed the many beautiful views, I am now mildly obsessed with the local cuisine. I've regaled anyone who will listen (and some who won't) with anecdotes about the unique flavors, massive variety, and amazing affordability of Taiwanese street food. There wasn't a single dish I didn't like, and I am now nursing a torrid love affair with Taiwanese cuisine. Below you'll find the dishes I relished most in my travels throughout Taiwan, but this is by no means an exhaustive list. If you're planning a trip there soon, I vehemently suggest you find the nearest night market and go buck-wild. Most dishes are between $1-3 USD, so if you don't like what you bought, just try something else!
Black Pepper Bun - Stuffed with soft onions, sweet scallions, savory marinated pork, and then doused with toasted sesame seeds, this quick eat might take the crown for my favorite Taiwanese street food. The buns are cooked in a clay oven, which creates a rich and dynamic depth of flavor (and also makes them hot as hell). This delicious bundle of goodness costs less than $2 USD. Be careful! They hand you your bun literally fresh out of the oven, so make sure to let it cool first!
Street Squid - I was never really a fan of squid when I lived in Colorado, but Southeast Asia has turned that around. I think many restaurants in the U.S. simply don't know how to prepare it correctly. As Taiwan is an island, the seafood game is on point, and the squid was no exception. Always cooked fresh on request, all the squid we tried was rich, tender, and bursting with flavor. Get the small size for the perfect quick snack, or the large one for a full meal. Each night market had numerous squid vendors, all of whom prepared it differently: battered and fried, seared with soy sauce, or steamed and salted. We ate squid almost every day, but with all the delicious variety, it never got old.
Sweet Sausage with Rice Bun - I heard this referred to several times as 'small sausage inside large sausage', and having seen the vendors make it, I can see why. It's essentially the Taiwanese version of a hot dog... except it tastes a million times better! The sausage is sweet and flavorful, and the "bun" is made from a grilled rice sausage. They split the rice sausage, garnish with garlic, onions, peppers, chili paste, and then tuck in the sweet sausage. The vendor wraps it tight in wax paper so you don't lose pieces, and voila! This was my snack of choice when, due to a credit card malfunction, I started running out of money at the end - bold and dynamic flavor, super filling on account of the rice bun, and only about $2 USD.
Beef Noodle Soup - With wholesome, aromatic broth, thick noodles, and a generous helping of mouth watering, tender beef - the beef noodle soup was unbelievably good. We found this gem at a little hole-in-the-wall when wandering the backstreets of Taipei. There were plenty of locals and the owners did not speak any English - both of which are good signs when it comes to finding authentic local food. As with everything else we ate in Taiwan, I left feeling full, satisfied, and wishing I had more room in my stomach so I eat more (and more and more).
Scallion Pancake - This dish was my first taste of Taiwanese food, and like everything else to follow - it did not disappoint. There were actually two of these stands right next to each other in the shopping district of Kaohsiung, and we tried one from both (the second was better). Made with fresh batter, chopped scallions, a fried egg, and then smothered in a sauce of your choice - this is the perfect streetside snack. I enjoyed several as I wandered through various cities, and each one was equally delicious. Simple, satisfying, and oh-so cheap.
Create Your Own Soup - I don't know the name of this dish, but after the black pepper bun it was my favorite food of the trip - high praise, considering that I loved everything. It was simple, but delightfully delicious and wholly satisfying. Essentially, there was a huge vat of broth in which a large array of various ingredients bubbled merrily: meatballs, fish cake, stinky tofu, fried tofu, mushrooms, broccoli, and numerous others I didn't recognize. Grab a bowl, some tongs, and then start plucking out the items you want. The attendant chops them up, fills the bowl with the broth everything was boiling in, and seconds later you're chowing down. Though this was one of the more expensive meals we had (around $8 USD) I wish I had gotten the chance to eat it at least once more.
Ever been to Taiwan? What was your favorite dish? Tag me in a picture of it on IG (abeautifulview0) and I'll give you a shout out. Click the buttons below to share the food love with your friends, or you can also find me on Facebook and Twitter. Happy eating friends!
Enjoy the beautiful view!