13 Traditional Taiwanese Dishes You Should Try

Taiwanese cuisine is fascinating and rich with different flavors. There’s a little bit of everything from fried dishes to noodles and plenty of delicious street food. 

Taiwanese braised pork over rice with boiled egg and pak choi

Many of the most popular dishes in Taiwanese culture date back decades and even centuries. The fact they’ve stayed so popular throughout the years should be a testament to how delicious the most popular foods are. 

The food in Taiwan is rich and somehow both complex and straightforward.

So whether you’re heading to Taiwan or hitting up a new Taiwanese restaurant in town, these are the most popular Taiwanese foods worth trying. 

Beef Noodle Soup

There’s nothing that screams Taiwanese food more than beef noodle soup.

This classic Taiwanese dish is not only delicious and famous; it’s the national dish of Taiwan, despite having origins in China.

You’ll see people who make this dish simmering the beef bones in stock for days to get that hearty broth it’s famous for. 

Even though the dish originates in China, what Taiwanese people have done to make the meal their own is add pickled mustard greens and a unique spice blend.

The blend includes cloves, Chinese cinnamon, anise, fennel seeds, and Sichuan pepper. You can’t go to Taiwan without trying this dish. It’s so popular that they have a beef noodle soup festival annually. 

Gua Bao

Gua bao is pork belly buns that are so incredibly delicious.

Often called a Taiwanese hamburger, this dish comes from the country’s northern area but is prevalent throughout Taiwan and America.

You’ll find pork belly buns throughout many Asian countries, but like everything, Taiwan has its own way of making this dish. 

Everyone makes gau bao a little different, but overall, it’s the same concept. People use puffy mantou buns to steam.

The filling is excellent. You’ll see gau bao stuffed with fatty pork belly that’s been braised in soy sauce, rice wine, and plenty of Chinese spices.

Besides the pork belly, the best parts of this dish are the cilantro and pickled mustard greens. 

Stinky Tofu

If you’re wondering if you read the title of this dish correctly, you did.

There are plenty of stinky foods that are beloved throughout the world, and in Taiwan, people love their stinky tofu.

The tofu’s fermentation process before people eat it makes it smelly. Even though it’s a little stinky, it’s not worth turning away. 

Stinky tofu is moist, tender, and tasty. If you love pickled foods, then there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy this dish.

People place the tofu in brine with mustard, bamboo, amaranth greens, shrimp or dried fish, and plenty of Chinese herbs. The stinkier for this dish, but I promise it tastes better than it smells. 

Braised Pork Rice (Lu Rou fan)

Every country and culture has what they consider comfort foods.

In Taiwan, braised pork rice is the most comforting food. It helps ease homesickness, makes you feel better when you’re not feeling well, and will put a smile on your face.

The best part about this dish is that it’s not fancy or complicated to make. 

Braised pork rice is pork belly that they braise in soy sauce and herbs. Once the meat is cooked and perfectly braised, it’s served over steamed white rice.

While it is pretty simple, it’s one of the tastiest dishes. You can eat the braised pork belly and rice as a meal or add several Taiwanese side dishes to add more variety. 

Oyster Omelet

While you can walk around Taiwan looking for all the excellent restaurants, you can’t forget to try some of their best street food.

One of the best street foods available is an oyster omelet. Most people have several oyster omelets when they visit because it’s so good that they want to eat them all the time. 

An oyster omelet is pretty much exactly what you think it is. Chefs make the dish with several eggs, oysters, starch, flour, and other toppings to create a tasty dish.

You can dip it in soy sauce, top it with cilantro or green onions, or eat it as is, but it’s most popular to have a light gray poured over it. You have to try it with a spicy chili sauce at least once. 

Shaved Ice

Not all popular Taiwanese foods are savory. They have a handful of great desserts or sweet treats for you to try.

Shaved ice is one of the most common desserts in shops around Taiwan. This dish is perfect for cooling off on a hot day or when your sweet tooth won’t calm down. 

People use machines to make shaved ice and then serve it in snow powder or ribbony sheets. The toppings are what make shaved ice so famous.

People topped it with fresh fruit, mung beans, taro, grass jelly, and tapioca balls. There’s sweetened condensed milk or ginger syrup on top too.

Three-Cup Chicken

Three-cup chicken, also known as San Bei Ji, is a delicious chicken dish that’s not only popular in Taiwan but also in China.

Traditionally, when you order three-cup chicken at a restaurant, servers bring the meal to your table in an earthenware pot so you can still hear and see the chicken sizzling.  

When making three-cup chicken, people will make it in three equal parts: soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice wine.

This braising liquid is what makes the chicken taste so good. If you’ve had this meal in China, you’ll notice that the Taiwanese version is a little sweeter.

The basil on top makes it look nice and accentuates the flavor.

Taiwanese Fried Chicken

Who doesn’t love fried chicken? Even in Taiwan, fried chicken is a special meal that tourists and locals alike enjoy.

What makes Taiwanese fried chicken so delicious is that they fry the chicken in oil not only one but two times to get that extra crispy shell. 

The shell of the chicken is crispy and crunchy, but it’s also very thin. Unlike American fried chicken with thick skin, the skin on Tawainese fried chicken is as delicate as tempura.

People toss the chicken in salt, pepper, and basil before dusting that traditional five-spice blend. You can find it in chicken cutlets, popcorn chicken, and other forms. 

Xiao Long Bao

Soup dumplings are famous throughout Asia, so it shouldn’t be surprising that Taiwan has its own version, xiao long bao.

These pork dumplings are so delicious, but you must be careful when they arrive at your table.

If you pop it in your mouth too quickly, that soup burst will surely burn your mouth. 

Xiao long bao is delicious, and you can enjoy a great quick meal or something at a higher-end restaurant in Taiwan.

The filling is usually pork and a pork broth, but depending on where you get them from, there might be other things inside the dumpling in addition to the pork.

Tian Bu La

If you love oden, then you’ll love tian bu la. Tian bu la is a traditional Taiwanese take on oden.

People in Taiwan make tian bu la by molding fish paste into different shapes and sizes before deep frying them in oil.

Once the fish paste pieces are perfectly crispy, they add them to a broth to boil them for a few minutes. 

What sets the Taiwanese version of this dish apart from Japanese oden is that it’s sweeter, the fish cakes are tougher, and they have a signature sauce.

The sauce is brown and has a sweet and savory flavor profile. To eat this dish, remove the fish paste pieces from the broth and slather them in the brown sauce. 

Oyster Vermicelli (o-a-mi-suann)

If you’re looking for a great soup to try that’s a traditional Taiwanese dish besides beef noodle soup, you can’t go wrong with oyster vermicelli.

People make oyster vermicelli with a thick stock made with starch. The thick stock gives it a slimy and smooth texture. A slimy texture might be a little off-putting, but it’s delicious.

Large oyster chunks and pig intestine complement the slimy broth. The soup is warm and comforting, and you’ll see people garnishing the dish with cilantro.

Adding a spoonful of vinegar is common if you love an acidic bite. This dish is more common near coastal towns in Taiwan, but you can still find it inland. 

Pineapple Cake

Taiwan has a long history of growing pineapples. In fact, more than 90 varieties of fruit are grown on the island nation.

Since pineapples are so prevalent, it’s no surprise they have an excellent dessert revolving around the fruit.

Pineapple cakes are small shortbread tarts filled with pineapple and are only the size of your palm. 

Sometimes, you’ll see these pineapple cakes filled with sweet winter melon paste too, but usually, it’s only pineapple.

People take pineapple and pineapple cakes so seriously in Taiwan that you’ll often see traditional families judging a potential suitor for their children based on how well they make pineapple cakes. 

Bubble Tea (Pearl Milk Tea)

Last, it wouldn’t be a list of the best Taiwanese foods without mentioning bubble tea.

Also known as pearl milk tea, this beverage is popular in Taiwan and Asia.

It’s the perfect drink to wash down any other popular Taiwanese foods or when you just want something refreshing to enjoy while you walk around. 

Bubble tea is a milk tea that they can add different flavors to. What makes this bubble tea is the little balls they add.

The balls are made with jelly, flour, and sometimes fruits. They’re delicious and make this drink unique. 

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Written by Brian Nagele

Brian attended West Virginia University, then started his career in the IT industry before following his passion for marketing and hospitality. He has over 20 years experience in the restaurant and bar industry.

As a former restaurant owner, he knows about running a food business and loves to eat and enjoy cocktails on a regular basis. He constantly travels to new cities tasting and reviewing the most popular spots.

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