While most people think of Taiwanese food as a predominantly “Chinese”, their local food culture is actually pretty diverse. Aside from the traditional Chinese influences brought about by their political history, 5 decades of Japanese colonisation, the local aboriginal cultures along with other outside influences has integrated Taiwan’s food culture into what we call the modern Taiwanese cuisine.
A big part of Taiwan’s culture is their food — with choices so diverse, you are never going to stomach everything especially if you are still a Taiwanese food novice. This article however, will summarise and give you a guide on everything you need to try. Bonus: You can even get a few authentic Taiwanese dishes in Singapore!
Taiwan And Their Street Food Culture
Street food and night markets are very closely linked to Taiwan’s food culture. The small eateries you can find along the streets are often the places where you can get the most affordable, delicious and authentic Taiwanese food. Night markets in particular, also offers some of the most quintessential gastronomic experiences in Taiwan. Expect huge varieties of Taiwanese dishes spread over a few streets, with yummy food that are priced affordably with some food stalls even making it into the Taipei Michelin Guide. Taiwan is such a foodie paradise that you can find street food and tourist night markets at almost any districts throughout the country.
Famous Taiwanese Dishes
When we discuss Taiwanese cuisine, a few famous dishes pop up — beef noodles, braised pork rice, Din Tai Fung’s famous xiao long bao, stinky tofu, oyster mee sua, hot pot… and the list goes on.
Braised Pork Rice (Lu Rou Fan 滷肉飯)
If you can only try one Taiwanese dish, we’d say it’s the Braised Pork Rice, not because it is super fancy but it is the simplicity of this dish that spells amazing. Lu rou fan, a simple bowl of rice topped with fragrant pieces of pork braised skin on — the end product is a gooey braised sauce rich in lard and collagen that gets poured over a bowl of rice. This is a sinfully good dish.
Egg Crepe (Dan Bing 蛋餅)
Taiwanese also love their breakfasts. It is very common to see a lot of “breakfast eateries” (zao can dian 早餐店) in the wee hours on the streets of Taiwan selling breakfast items like egg crepe (dan bing 蛋餅), rice balls (fan tuan 飯糰), sandwiches and pan-fried radish cakes (luo bo gao 蘿蔔糕). These dishes from the local eateries are really simple and comforting and they usually cater to the working crowd, where they usually grab a simple sandwich and a beverage to go. If it is your first time trying out Taiwanese breakfast items, we’d recommend getting the egg crepe. It’s a simple thin crepe layer made with flour and water, then rolled with an egg with an assortment of fillings. Popular egg crepe fillings include tuna, cheese and pork floss.
Gua Bao is a popular dish among the locals — somewhat like the Taiwanese version of Mexican tacos, it’s a fluffy white steamed lotus bun stuffed with a piece of fatty, tender pork belly along with pickled mustard greens, fresh parsley and finally sprinkled with powdered peanuts. The parsley and pickled mustard offset and neutralises the fatty taste of the pork belly. One bite of a good Gua Bao is definitely going to get you wanting more.
Shredded Chicken Rice (ji rou fan 雞肉飯)
Taiwanese chicken rice is very different from our local Hainanese chicken rice. Taiwan’s version, is even simpler — a bowl of white rice topped with some shredded chicken and a sauce usually made from a combination of chicken oil and soy sauce. Simple as it might sound, a good bowl of chicken rice can be surprisingly mind-blowing.
What is up with Taiwan and their Bubble Tea?
Bubble Tea or Boba Tea (or shou yao yin 手搖飲 like what Taiwanese calls it) was invented during the 1980s in Taichung by Chun Tsui Tang. The combination of tea, milk and tapioca balls got so popular that it is now Taiwan’s national beverage that plays a huge part in their food culture. Businesses have also come up with lots of creative bubble tea variations consisting of blends made with different types of teas and ingredients. Globalisation trends have made bubble tea even more popular than before, with stores and franchises expanding internationally. The market is so big, it is estimated to reach $4.3 billion (USD) by 2027.
Taiwan is definitely a foodie’s destination but with our travel plans now put on hold, it is pretty much impossible to travel all the way to Taiwan for a holiday. But the good news? Aside from our favourite Din Tai Fung, there are now more Taiwanese restaurants popping up all over Singapore. There are a few really high rated ones on the UrbanFindr delivery platform as well — including Eat 3 Bowls, Hey Long Cha (International Plaza Outlet, Changi City Point Outlet), Abundance and GATAO. If you are craving for some authentic Taiwanese cuisine, you totally have to check them out!