5. Fish ball soup in Jiufen
Sampling the famous snacks on Jishan Street is an essential part of any visit to Jiufen, with fish ball soup, taro balls and roasted mushrooms the most celebrated. Make time, too, for a trip to one of the atmospheric teahouses – Jiufen Teahouse is one of the best, occupying a gorgeous old mining bureau’s headquarters dating back over 100 years (though the teashop opened in 1991). Make sure you get a wooden booth with a view, or have your tea outside on the terrace.
Fish ball soup by kumby/ CC BY-ND 2.0
6. “Shrimp monkeys” in Lugang
Lugang, one of Taiwan’s oldest port towns, specializes in xiǎochī. Favourites include oyster omelettes (é a jiān) and “shrimp monkeys” (xiāhóuzi) – mud shrimp fried with basil. Try them at the stalls and restaurants in front of Tianhou Temple then move on to a cakeshop or bakery for an ox-tongue biscuit (niúshébǐng), a sweet flat pastry that vaguely resembles a tongue
7. Suncakes in Taichung
Taichung is an excellent place to gorge on Taiwanese food and the night markets offer a good introduction to the local specialities. As well as excellent savoury dishes, travellers with a penchant for something sweeter won’t be disappointed, with Ziyou, Zhongzheng and Minquan roads crammed with cake shops selling suncakes (tàiyáng bǐng) – flat, crumbly pastries filled with sweet wheatgerm, honey or taro paste.
Delicious brown sugar sun cake by Connie Ma / CC BY-SA 2.0
8. Danzi noodles in Tainan
Taiwan’s former capital is home to some of the country’s best street food and many of its dishes are favourites that are famous island-wide. Dānzǐmiàn (or “peddler’s noodles” with pork, egg and shrimp) is probably the best-known dish, created in 1895 by hawker Hong Yu Tou – the name recalls the shoulder poles he used to carry the noodles to market, while the brand he created, “Slack Season”, is a reference to the slow season for fishermen, when his noodles were a way to make food last. The the city’s other snack foods are equally renowned and include milkfish, eel noodles, oyster omelettes, shrimp rolls and “coffin bread”, hollowed-out thick toast filled with a creamy mix of vegetables and seafood.
9. Biǎnshí in Hualien
Hualien is known throughout Taiwan for muaji – cakes made of sticky, glutinous rice and stuffed with sweet fillings – and biǎnshí, a type of wanton or dumplings in soup, filled with pork and shrimp. Its night markets are great places to try these and other dishes – the most central is the small but diverse Ziqiang Rd Nightmarket, while Nanbin Night Market is bigger but harder to get to.
Hualien Night Market by Tomás Fano / CC BY-SA 2.0
10. Pigs’ blood soup in Taitung
Not one for the finicky, pigs’ blood soup (zhūxiě tāng), a thick broth filled with diced cubes of congealed pig’s blood, is one of Taitung’s specialities – try it at the lively Sunday night Siwei Rd Night Market. Taitung is also known for its amazing variety of fruit, most famously the custard apple (shìjiā), which you can buy at the “Fruit Market”, on the long stretch of Zhengqi Road between Zhongshan and Boai roads.
Explore more of Taiwan with the Rough Guide to Taiwan. Compare flights, find tours, book hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.