Tastes of Taiwan: 10 Best Snacks in Taipei - The Escape Life
Welcome to the second installment of the Tastes of Taiwan series. In the first post, I shared the 5 Must-Try Restaurants in Taipei. Today, I’ll be sharing 10 of the best snacks in Taipei. Taiwan has always been known to have some of the best food in the world. If you ask Taiwanese Americans what they miss most from Taiwan (if they’ve ever visited), I’d be shocked if not every single one of them answered food. Taiwanese cuisine will always have a special place in my heart, and I want to share with everyone what Taiwan has to offer. So with that, let’s jump into the 10 best snacks that everyone visiting Taiwan should try. 1. Boba/Pearl/Tapioca Milk Tea (珍珠奶茶) This drink has so many names but I often refer to it as boba. Boba originated from Taichung (台中), the center of Taiwan, but has since become an international favorite dessert or snack. You will find many variations in terms of flavors and toppings but the original drink is made of milk, tea, sugar, and tapioca balls. There are dozens of different brands with hundreds of shops in Taipei alone. Some of the biggest names in the game are 50嵐, ShareTea, Gongcha, Happy Lemon, and Coco. You can test out each of these brands because each one of them makes theirs differently. My favorite is 50嵐. 2. Taiwanese Shaved Ice (刨冰 or 剉冰) Taiwanese shaved ice (刨冰 or 剉冰) is one of the most popular desserts in Taiwan. Taiwan is a tropical island that gets incredibly hot and humid. The perfect solution to that is to hit up the nearest shaved ice shop. Luckily, there are many in Taipei including big chain shops like Smoothie King and Ice Monster. But my favorite is an immensely popular, local spot across from National Taiwan University, Taiyi Milk King (臺一牛奶大王). There are plenty of options on their menu but you are also free to customize your own. I recommend trying their red bean (it’s the best), mochi, and fruit (depending on the season) toppings. 3. Stinky Tofu (臭豆腐) Not sure if this is famous or infamous, but stinky tofu is one of the most well-known dishes in Taiwan. It’s one of the few foods that famous TV personality, Andrew Zimmern, couldn’t eat on his show. I’m probably not selling this…BUT stinky tofu is one of the most authentic Chinese dishes you’ll ever eat. There are two versions of the dish: boiled or fried. If you’ve never experienced stinky tofu before, you should definitely try the fried one first. The boiled one is way stinkier and less appetizing than the fried one. I’m quite picky about the stinky tofu I eat because there are so many bad ones out there. I recommend visiting the corner stand at Rao He Night Market (饒河夜市), you’ll know when you see it because it is busy. One last tip, ALWAYS eat the tofu with the sauce and pickled cabbage. 4. Green Onion Pancake (蔥油餅) You are probably familiar with this dish as it is a staple menu item in most Chinese restaurants but each place makes it differently. When my friends visited me in Taiwan, they showed me the perfect green onion pancake stall off Yong Kang Street (永康街) in Taipei. Their dough recipe and cooking technique make the green onion pancakes super fluffy. If you find yourself on Yong Kang Street, definitely try it! 5. Myowa Japanese Sweets Cafe (和茗甘味處) When you’re done browsing around Yong Kang Street, head over to Myowa Japanese Sweets Cafe. It’s a few blocks from the main street but is a popular cafe that gets busy during peak times. Myowa specializes in matcha desserts and has a wide range of options for you to choose from. The downside is that they have a complicated ordering system. To eat at the cafe you have to order a minimum dollar amount, which isn’t difficult if everyone orders something. It took a few tries for us to get it right, so be patient. 6. Chia Te Bakery Chia Te Bakery is the most famous bakery in Taiwan. There is only one location and lucky for us, it’s in Taipei. If for any reason you can’t visit the actual bakery, you can place an order online and receive it the next day if the shipping destination is within Taipei. Most visitors will buy a few boxes of pineapple cakes and other pastries to bring back home. My family can easily spend a couple hundred US dollars here. Try to avoid weekends and after work hours because it gets crazy here. Both locals and visitors are trying to get the goods. If you manage to work your way to Chia Te or place an order online, definitely get the original pineapple cake (鳳梨酥), moon cake (月餅), sun cake (太陽餅), wife cake (老婆餅), and egg tart (蛋撻). 7. The Waffle Stand at National Taiwan University in Taipei This suggestion is actually one of the best-kept secrets of National Taiwan University (國立臺灣大學). The only reason I know about this is because I studied at NTU for a year in 2014. They serve hot, cold, sweet, and salty waffle sandwiches. Basically, you have plenty of options and they are all really cheap. Try to avoid peak lunch time because there will be at least a 30-minute wait to get your waffle. Wait for all of the students to be in class 🙂 8. Mochi or Tang Yuan One time my supervisor was telling me how she loved eating the ice cream mochi from Trader Joes, and all I could think was how she’s only had fake mochi. The term mochi is Japanese and is known as muwa-ji in Chinese. I’m not sure about the origins of mochi but it is a popular dessert option in Taiwan. There are plain ones that are often eaten as a topping on shaved ice and others that are filled with flavored pastes like peanuts, red bean, or sesame. They are all delicious. Tang yuan is filled mochi that you get in dessert soups. 9. Pan-Fried Pork Dumpling a.k.a. Shui Jian Bao (水煎包) I don’t even know how many times I ate this while I was living in Taiwan. There were a few great pan-fried pork dumpling stalls outside of the international student dormitory. If you are craving something but don’t want a full-on meal, this is the perfect option for you. It’s a pan-fried bun stuffed with either beef, pork, or veggies. 10. Java Apple (蓮霧) or Guava (芭樂) I’m super picky when it comes to what I eat. I don’t eat a lot of fruits or veggies. When I first tried java apple and guava in Taiwan, I wasn’t that into it but they are my sister’s favorite. After seeing her macking down on the fruits, I decided to give it another try and ended getting hooked on them too…especially the java apple. The best java apple you can get is in Taiwan because the conditions are perfect for the fruit. You won’t be able to get a better one anywhere else in the world. I hope you like the second part of the Tastes of Taiwan series. I’d love to hear if you’ve tried any of the snacks I’ve recommended and your thoughts on them. For more travel tips, check out my other blog posts: 7 of the Best Experiences in London 5 Tips for Visiting Barbados How to Spend 2 Days in Singapore The Best Day in Karuizawa, Japan The Perfect Day in Pacific Grove