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Fried Chicken and Stinky Tofu: The Magic of Street Food in Taiwan

Two women at a street food stall

One of the best parts about traveling is trying the cuisine of other countries. From the cafés of France and Italy, to fish markets in Japan and dim sum in China, the possibilities are endless.

Across Asia, one of the best ways to explore food culture is through the street food found at night markets and roadside stalls. Iconic dishes of each country and city can be found throughout these markets, and Taiwan is no exception to this. Many have written about Taiwan’s food culture being a “snacking culture,” and the prevalence of night markets is proof of this. Food stalls are often open all day, but they come alive at night as people descend on them to grab their favorite fried snacks or pick up a meal to take home.

Here are some of the iconic foods you might find at a Taiwanese night market:

Boba tea: Also know as bubble tea or pearl milk tea, boba tea is a staple of Taiwanese food culture. Created in Taiwan, it is characterized by the tapioca pearls, which are mixed with black tea and milk. It can also come in a variety of different flavors, like brown sugar, taro, and even cheese.

Fried chicken: You may think you know fried chicken, but you haven’t tried Taiwan’s take on the popular dish. Taiwanese fried chicken options range from popcorn chicken to fried cutlets and is deep fried twice. What really makes it unique is the seasoning: it “is typically tossed with salt, pepper, and basil leaves, and is dusted with five-spice powder.”

Zhua bing: These are the Taiwanese take on scallion pancakes. Tasty on their own, they can also be eaten as a kind of sandwich, “wrapped around eggs, basil leaves, cheese, seared beef, ham, corn, and more.”

Stinky tofu: This dish may be stinky, but the Taiwanese prefer it that way—the smellier, the tastier. What makes stinky tofu, either steamed or fried, so smelly? It is “fermented in a brine that usually includes Chinese herbs, dried fish or shrimp, bamboo, mustard, and amaranth greens.”

Aiyu jelly: Served with lemon juice over ice, this jelly—from a creeping fig plant native to Taiwan and East Asia—is especially enjoyed during the hot, humid summer months. Because it isn’t found outside of East Asia, it’s a must-try for anyone visiting Taiwan.

Oyster omelet: Another popular street food dish would be the oyster omelet made with sweet potato starch instead of eggs, and typically topped with a sweet chili sauce or sweet and sour sauce. Of course each vendor will have their own take on the dish: they may include greens or veggies in the omelet, or use a different sauce.

Ice cream burritos: Street food is about more than just fried food. Desserts are a big hit, too. One of the most popular desserts are ice cream burritos. Ice cream, shaved peanuts, and cilantro are rolled up into a flour tortilla and served as, well, a burrito. It’s an interesting mix of flavors that many might not think to put together, but it’s more proof of the unique flavors that you can find at a night market.

There is so much more to learn about and try when it comes to Taiwanese street food. Want to explore more of the night market food scene? There are countless videos on YouTube to check out. Let us know on Twitter or Facebook what foods you want to try the most.


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