Taiwan’s street food plays an outsize role in its cultural identity, showcasing just how creativity, community, and enterprise come together in each dish.
Taiwan has a phenomenal amount of street food for an island roughly the size of Maryland. Do you drink boba, or bubble tea? This world-famous drink came from Taichung city in Taiwan. Tried oyster omelette or pork buns? Yep, they’re common Taiwan street snacks too. If you’re traveling to Taiwan, trying its street food is a must – and this guide will share everything you need to know. We’ve even got a street food checklist you can download!
Why does Taiwan have so much street food?
On my first visit to Taiwan, I received a set of poker cards with photos of local Taiwanese food on the back of each one. Assuming you consume 5 varieties of street food each day, it would take at least ten days to try everything (followed by a lot of remorseful dieting).
Do Taiwanese street snacks really taste that good?
Since I had only 4 days to literally stuff my face, here are some tips to help you plan your street food quest.
Go From Light to Heavy
The best way to get as many different kinds of food into your stomach is to, of course, start from smaller and less filling dishes. An example “menu”:
- Stinky tofu
- Fried chicken cutlet
- Stuffed sausages
- Mango shaved ice
…you get the drift. Remember, starchy foods and liquids make you feel full more quickly than meat and small sugary treats.
If you’re traveling in a group with friends and family, a potluck-style street food jaunt at a night market will be much more rewarding than going it alone, especially if you’re a girl and/or a small eater like me. Takoyaki, sushi, waffles, sweet potato fries, oyster omelette, etc. are easy to portion out and share.
So much good food, so little time. To get more time for eating, plan ahead by researching on what you want to eat. If you find stinky tofu absolutely vile or believe that peanut brittle ice cream is a must-try compared to chicken cutlet (because it’s commonly found in Singapore as well), then forget about the convention that desserts only come after a main course. Above all, don’t go into a night market asking each other “What shall we start with?”
Don’t Read Reviews
This seems contradictory to the above, but it really isn’t. Thanks to food bloggers, Instagram, and social networks (even TripAdvisor), everyone’s trying to find the “best” beef noodle soup or bear paw buns. I discourage this for 2 reasons: firstly, you may end up spending a lot of time traveling out of the way and queuing at these famous establishments, and secondly, most local food will be tasty enough for your inexperienced palate anyway.
Of course, you can still check out where to eat if you plan to be visiting a specific area. Check out A Hungry Girl’s Guide to Taipei – it’s a little messy but full of reviews on cafes, restaurants, and street food stalls in the capital city.
Finally, the best way to enjoy Taiwanese delicacies if you don’t have enough time or tummy space: buy it for later enjoyment in the comfort of your hotel/hostel room. In fact, my first street food experience came from a friendly airport limo driver who made a detour to buy me some red bean cakes – gratis – before dropping me off at the hotel! Your snacks will be less fresh, but you’ll be able to sit down and much with a good book or movie.
Taiwan really has some of the most amazing street food around (not to mention restaurant cuisine and tea) and it’s worth gaining a little weight to enjoy all the delectable snacks on virtually every street. At least you’ll probably be doing a bit of walking while eating.
Is Taiwan street food safe to eat?
Where to find Taiwan street food
These are, in my opinion, the best night markets in Taiwan that you should visit.
Taipei: My favorite night market in Taipei is Raohe Night market, for the simple fact that it’s much smaller and easier to navigate than tourist traps like Shilin Night Market. It’s also close to the Wufenpu garment wholesale market and right next to a traditional temple, and I was very lucky to witness a temple procession during my visit!
Taichung: Fengjia Night Market, located next to Fengjia University, claims to be the largest night market in Taiwan. Indeed, it seems to occupy
Kaohsiung: Ruifeng Night Market is the largest night market in Kaoshiung, but roughly half of the night market is dedicated to non-food stalls (clothing, accessories, carnival games, and so on.)
Historical old streets
Jiufen Old Street in New Taipei City, for instance, is known for its yuyuan (taro balls), while Anping Old Street in Tainan is famous for its air-popped prawn/shrimp crackers.
Download your free Taiwan street food checklist