Taiwan Snacks and
Fast Food Guide

Check out pictures of the most popular fast food and snacks found at night markets and street food stalls around Taiwan!

taiwan fast foodBBQ Squid - popular street food all over the island

In Taiwan, most of people's time is spent around two things: eating, and talking about the next meal or next snack. 

The little snack culture (小吃) in Taiwan may be difficult to understand for first-time visitors. The amount of restaurants and food stalls found in big cities like Taipei, Taichung, and Kaohsiung, as well as tourist spots like Sun Moon Lake and Lukang is simply mind-boggling. Everywhere you look there are sings boasting the best noodles / chicken / BBQ on the island, and on every street you walk you are sure to be surrounded by smells of tofu, soy sauce, spices, and some hard-to-identify odors.

Food stall at Miaokou Night Market in KeelungFood stall at Miaokou Night Market in Keelung

Taiwan Fast Food vs. Western Fast Food

In western countries, when we think of fast food, we think burgers and pizza, McDonalds and Pizza Hut kind of chain stores. In Taiwan, there are also thousands of fast food and tea chain stores, both local and foreign brands. However, Taiwan has its own very unique home-grown type of fast food which is more accurately labeled street food or "little eats" as Taiwanese like to call them. In Mandarin Chinese this kind of snack is called "xiao chi, 小吃".

taiwanese pork sausagePork sausage on a stick - a national favorite!

10 Most Popular Taiwanese Snacks

  1. stinky tofu, 臭豆腐
  2. beef noodles, 牛肉麵
  3. braised pork rice, 滷肉飯
  4. oyster omelette 
  5. danbing (Taiwanese egg crepe), 蛋餅
  6. fried chicken, 鹹酥雞
  7. luwei, 滷味
  8. BBQ squid on a stick, 烤魷魚
  9. sausage, 香腸
  10. steamed bun, 小籠包

Where can you find Taiwanese fast food?

As I wrote earlier, fast food, or xiao chi, is found everywhere in Taiwan, but there are places where the concentration of stalls or small eateries is much higher. Night Markets are packed with them, and for most people, taking a stroll at a night market means eating different dishes and sipping tea more than shopping. 

Taiwanese fast foodFood stall worker at Miaokou Night Market, Keelung

Tourist destinations and many towns in the countryside have "old streets, 老街" which are lined with stalls that sell basically the same kind of food you'd see at night markets. Some places have their own specialty, like Kenting Street is popular for seafood, Shenkeng (in Taipei) specializes in stinky tofu, and Lukang is famous for its oyster omelettes.

Influence from other cuisine

More and more, you can see night market foods from other countries such as falafel, pizza, sushi, Mongolian BBQ, and Mexican tacos. One reason why these street snacks are finding their ways on the Taiwan food scene, is the ever growing number of foreigners living here.

Taiwan Fast Food dimsumDimsum originated in Southern China - It's a Hong Kong and Guangdong typical food, but it has made its way to Taiwan in recent years

Snake Snacks

Throughout Taiwan, there are also more "special" or "exotic" kinds of food sold at traditional markets and old streets, which definitely don't fall in the fast food category. A good example is Snake Alley in Taipei, which sells, you probably guessed it, snake! These days, food like snake is exotic and strange even for normal Taiwanese. It's no longer part of the everyday culture to snack on snake flesh or drink its blood. For the younger generation, it is consumed for the thrill of the experience, and the photo opp.

Taiwan snake medicine food on snake alley in TaipeiA not-so-common food: snake! One of the most popular places where snake is sold (to eat) in Taiwan, is on snake alley in Taipei.
Chinese tea in TaiwanA special kind of sweet tea, turned into jelly
Taiwanese duck head snack sold at night marketDuck head sold at Luodong Night Market, on the east coast
Chinese steamed bun in Lukang, Taiwan - 台灣小籠包A man sells Chinese steamed bun (小籠包) in Lukang
Taiwanese spicy seashellsThese tiny seashells are super spicy and are traditionally enjoyed while drinking beer. It's the nastiest thing I've ever tried in Taiwan!
Clams sold at Miaokou Night Market in KeelungClams sold at Miaokou Night Market - my wife's favorites!

Aboriginal Taiwanese Fast Food

In mountainous areas and along the East Coast of Taiwan where aboriginal culture is still strong, you'll find different kinds of street food. 

aboriginal food in taiwan, wulaiWulai Old Street, south of Taipei City

By far the most popular kind of snack you can get is barbecued meat - more specifically pork. Mountain pigs, or wild boars, are still hunted in the traditional ways in some indigenous communities. 

Typical Taiwanese aboriginal street food sold at a night marketTypical Taiwanese aboriginal street food sold at Kenting night market
aboriginal indigenous Taiwanese mountain foodA man from an aboriginal mountain tribe proudly sells slabs of pork on Kenting Street

Healthy Fast Food in Taiwan?

In the west, when we think of fast food, we usually assume it's unhealthy, deep fried, or filled with fattening ingredients, and wisely choose to eat it only once in a while. On the contrary, in Taiwan, there is a wide selection of healthy snacks, often vegetarian, which are not deep fried, but are instead steamed or boiled, such as corn, beans, and rice wrapped in bamboo leaves. 

Taiwan 5 Spice Edamame beans - 台灣毛豆Edamame beans - 毛豆
Taiwan Zongzi, rice wrapped in bamboo leaves - 台灣粽子Zong Zi, rice wrapped in bamboo leaves - 粽子
Taiwan wild corn - 台灣玉米Wild corn - 玉米
Taichung Street Food, TaiwanPeople eat on the sidewalk just outside Second Market in Taichung
Cooking meat with a blowtorch at a night market in TaiwanCooking meat with a blowtorch is not an unusual sight in Taiwan

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