Food & Drinks in Taiwan
Taiwanese cuisine is highly valued by other East Asians and ethnic Chinese in Southeast Asia, and for many of them, eating is the main (and often only) reason for visiting Taiwan.
Taiwanese cuisine is mostly drawn from mainland Chinese cuisines. Because the majority of Taiwanese trace their lineage to Fujian, it is not surprising that most of Taiwanese food is derived from Fujian cuisine. Because many renowned chefs from the mainland fled to Taiwan following the communist triumph in 1949, it is also possible to find Szechuan food, Hunan food, Dongbei food, Cantonese food, and virtually every other Chinese cuisine on the island. However, owing to 50 years of Japanese colonial control, Taiwanese cuisine has absorbed major indigenous influences as well as significant Japanese influences, giving it a distinct flavor that differentiates it from its mainland Chinese equivalents. Taiwanese people are likewise madly in love with eggs and seafood. Fruits are another well-known component of Taiwanese cuisine. Local fruit stores and stations sell a broad variety of fruits. The subtropical environment promotes the growth of a variety of fruits.
Taiwan also offers a plethora of regional specialities. Among those discovered on the island are:
- Beef noodles (牛肉麵 niúròu miàn), Noodle soup with pieces of meltingly soft cooked beef and a splash of pickles (niru miàn).
- Oyster omelet (蚵仔煎 ó āh jiān – this is the Taiwanese term since the Chinese word only exists in letters and not in aural Mandarin), prepared with eggs, oysters, and the leaves of a native chrysanthemum, topped with sweet red sauce.
- Aiyu jelly (愛玉 àiyù), produced from the seeds of a local fig and traditionally served over ice – sweet, cold, and pleasant on a hot day.
- Taiwan Sausage (香腸 xiāngcháng), Taiwan Sausage ( xingcháng), typically prepared from pork, is a modified form of Cantonese laap cheong that has been emulsified and has a considerably sweeter flavor. Unlike laap cheong, which is nearly always eaten with rice, Taiwanese xiangchang is often eaten alone with some garlic.
- Taiwanese Orange (柳丁 liŭdīng) is a citrus fruit that is identical to regular oranges except that the peel and flesh are more yellowish, comparable to lemon. In contrast to lemon, it is typically very sweet.
- Taiwanese Porridge (粥 zhōu in Mandarin, 糜 beh in Taiwanese) is a sweet potato-based rice porridge. It is typically served with a variety of other meals.
Because of the Taiwanese love for cuisine and influences from many other nations, most cities and towns in Taiwan are renowned for unique dishes. Ilan is well-known for its mochi, a sticky rice snack typically flavored with sesame, peanuts, or other flavorings. Yonghe, a Taipei suburb, is well-known for its freshly produced soy milk and morning dishes. Taichung is well-known for its sun cakes (tàiyáng bng), a kind of sweet filled pastry, and the finest location to get some is probably Taiyang Tang along Freedom Road, where the delicacy is said to have been created. Square cookies, also known as cubic pastry, are crunchy multilayer pastries cut into squares and generously strewn with sesame seeds in Chiayi. Tainan is especially well-known among Taiwanese for its availability of excellent cuisine and should be visited by all gourmands. The coffin bread is probably the most renowned dish. Almost every city has its own renowned specialities; many Taiwanese visitors would go to other towns on the island just to sample the native cuisine before returning home.
Taiwan also offers some of the best pastry products in the world. Most specialize on sweet Chinese pastries or Western pastries that have been adapted to local tastes, but search for We Care bakeries that also offer Western alternatives such whole wheat loaves, sour breads, and ciabatta.
Vegetarians are better provided for in terms of diversity and variation in restaurants than in most other nations.
Places to eat
If you’re on a tight budget, the cheapest cuisine may be found at back alley noodle businesses and night market booths, where a full bowl of noodles costs about NT$35-70.
Taiwanese people like snacking, and many eateries promote xiaochi, literally “little nibbles,” the Taiwanese counterpart of Cantonese dim sum. There are also fast food restaurants like as McDonalds (a basic Big Mac Meal costs NT$115), KFC, and MOS Burger. There are also a significant number of convenience shops (such as 7-Eleven) that offer items such as tea eggs, sandwiches, bento boxes and beverages.
Night markets are also a great opportunity to sample some delectable Taiwanese cuisine at reasonable rates. The Shilin Night Market in Taipei and the Liouho Night Market () in Kaohsiung, for example, both have their own unique delicacies that should not be missed.
Taiwanese cuisine, like Chinese cuisine abroad, is usually eaten with chopsticks and served on big platters placed in the middle of the table. Typically, a serving spoon or pair of chopsticks (gongkuai) is provided with the meals, and guests do not use their own chopsticks to move food to their plates.
In Taiwan, the same traditional Chinese taboos about eating with chopsticks apply. Do not, for example, put your chopsticks straight up or into your bowl of rice. This is similar to burning incense in a temple and has implications of wishing death on people around you. Place your chopsticks on the supplied porcelain chopstick rest (at nicer places) or rest them over the top of your dish. Also, do not spear your food or move bowls and platters with your chopsticks.
Although there are small variations in etiquette between Taiwanese and mainland Chinese, most of traditional Chinese table manners apply to Taiwan as well.
In respect to the Buddha’s teachings of nonviolence and compassion, all Mahayana Buddhists, who constitute the majority of followers in Taiwan, strive to be pure vegetarians. As a result, vegetarian restaurants (called su-shi tsan-ting in Mandarin and typically identifiable with the sign) abound all across the island, ranging from inexpensive buffet style to gourmet and organic. Buffet-style restaurants (known as, which means “Serve Yourself Restaurant”) are common in almost every neighborhood in large cities, and unlike ‘all-you-can-eat’ buffets (which charge a set price, usually ranging from $250-350 including dessert and coffee/tea), the cost is estimated by the weight of the food on your plate. Rice (typically brown or white) is paid individually, but soup or cold tea is free and may be refilled as many times as you like. A good-sized, healthy dinner will cost you between $90-$120.
Don’t worry if you can’t locate a vegetarian restaurant. Taiwanese people are extremely adaptable, and most eateries would gladly make you anything to your specifications. The following Mandarin phrases may be useful: (Wo chi su) – I am a vegetarian; (Wo bu chi rou) – I do not consume meat. However, since Mandarin is a tonal language, you may need to speak both, as well as develop your acting abilities, to be understood. Best wishes! NB: Do not press the issue if a restaurant rejects your order. The explanation will not be a refusal to fulfill your request, but rather because the fundamental components of their meals may contain chicken broth or pig fat.
Taiwanese vegetarianism is more than just vegetarianism; there is a sense of “plainness” about it. It usually eliminates ingredients like onion, ginger, and garlic. These things are considered “un-plain” by Buddhists and Taoists because they may generate bodily excitation, which may interfere with the meditation practice. When serving meals to a devout vegetarian, keep in mind that they will not consume anything containing onion, ginger, or garlic.
Although vegetarian restaurants in Taiwan do not strive to vegan ideals, nearly all non-dessert meals in Chinese style veggie restaurants are vegan because Taiwanese do not have a dairy-eating heritage. However, be certain that your meal does not include eggs.
Drinks in Taiwan
Because Taiwan is a subtropical island with a tropical south, it can’t harm to drink a lot, particularly during the summer. Drink vending machines may be found almost everywhere and are stocked with a variety of juices, tea and coffee beverages, soy milk, and mineral water.
The legal drinking age in Taiwan is 18 years old. Minors who are found drinking risk penalties ranging from $100,000 to $500,000. Traditional Taiwanese alcoholic beverages are very potent. The most well-known alcoholic beverage is kaoliang. It is a distilled grain liquor that is very powerful, typically 140 percent or more, and is often drank directly.
Taiwan also produces a kind of Shaoxing, rice wine, which many believe to be among the finest in the world.
Taiwanese folks love iced beer. A large range of foreign beers are available, but Taiwan Beer, manufactured by a former government monopoly, remains the standard. It is made using fragrant penglai rice and barley, which gives it a unique taste. The beer is served chilled and is often regarded as an excellent accompaniment to Taiwanese and Japanese cuisine, particularly seafood dishes like as sushi and sashimi. Taiwan Beer has received many international accolades, including the International Monde Selection in 1977 and the Brewing Industry International Awards in 2002.
In Taiwan, beer on tap is rare, and most establishments offer beer in bottles. Ask for the Taiwan Draft Beer, which comes in a simple green bottle, for an unique and uncommon treat. Because it has a 2-week expiry date, it can only be obtained at breweries (there are a few dispersed throughout Taiwan) or at certain shops and restaurants in the area.
Tea and coffee
High Mountain Oolong (, Gao-shan wulong) – a fragrant, light tea – and Tie Guan-yin – a dark, rich brew – are Taiwan’s speciality teas. This tea, served in the traditional manner with a very little teapot and tiny cups, is an experience not to be missed. This method of drinking tea is known as lao ren cha – ‘old people’s tea,’ and it gets its name from the fact that only the elderly have historically had the luxury of leisure to relax and enjoy tea in this manner. When visiting a traditional tea shop, read the fine print: in addition to the tea, you may be charged a cover (, meaning “tea-water fee”) for the complex procedure of making it as well as any snacks provided on the side.
Lei cha (; léi chá) is a delicious and nutritious Hakka Chinese tea-based beverage made from crushed tea leaves and grain. Some shops specialize in this item and enable customers to grind their own lei cha.
Chinese teas in Taiwan, like Chinese teas worldwide, are usually drank straight, with no milk or sugar added. Taiwan, on the other hand, is the origin of pearl milk tea, which is made with sugar and milk.
Pearl milk tea (zhnzh nichá), also known as “bubble tea” or “boba tea,” is a milky tea with chewy tapioca balls added and sipped via an over-sized straw. It was invented in Taiwan in the early 1980s and became a major Asia-wide fad in the 1990s. It isn’t as popular as it once was but can still be found at almost any coffee/tea store. Look for a store that sells it fresh.
Cafe culture has taken hold in Taiwan, and in addition to a plethora of privately owned cafes, all major chains, such as Starbucks, have a plethora of branches across major towns and cities.
Taiwan is a fantastic destination for fruit drinks. Small fruit-juice bars produce them fresh on-the-spot and are masters at making fruit-juice drinks (non-alcoholic, of course). Mu-gwa niou-nai is iced papaya milk, and zong-he (mixed) is typically a sweet and sour mixture. If you don’t want ice (which is quite safe in Taiwan, even at roadside sellers), say chu bing and no sugar – wu tang.
Soy milk, often known as doujiang, is a delicious delicacy. Try it both hot and cold. A typical Taiwanese morning meal is savory soy milk. Because vinegar is used to curdle the milk, it is something of an acquired taste. Soy milk, both sweet and salty, is often requested with you-tiao, or deep-fried dough crullers.
Pseudo-health beverages abound in Taiwanese supermarkets and convenience shops. Asparagus juice and lavender milk tea, for example, should be avoided.