45 Taiwanese foods we can't live without

45 Taiwanese foods we can't live without

From mountains of flavored shaved ice to chicken cutlets as big as your face, Taiwanese eating always comes with superlatives
Taiwanese food
Taipei travel essentials: passport, cash, extra stomach.

CNN's 2015 selection of the top 40 Taiwanese foods is now up here.

Small eats, and a lot of them, are the big thing in Taiwan.

The culinary philosophy here is eat often and eat well.

Sure, there's the internationally accepted three-meals-a-day dining format, but why be so limited when you can make like the Taiwanese and indulge in gourmet snacking at any time of the day? 

The Taiwanese capital, Taipei, has around 20 streets dedicated to snacking.

Every time you think you've found the best streetside bao, the most incredible stinky tofu or mind-blowing beef noodle soup, there's always another Taiwanese food shop that surpasses it. 

The island's food is a mash-up of the cuisine of the Min Nan, Teochew and Hokkien Chinese communities, along with Japanese cooking.

It's a culinary love-in with diversely delicious offspring.

Arguments about the best food on Taiwan risk ruining relationships and lifelong friendships.

Food: it's serious, it's respected, it's all excellent in Taiwan.

Taiwanese food"Where there's a wisp of smoke, there's braised fatty pork with rice."

1. Braised pork rice (滷肉飯)

"Where there's a wisp of smoke from the kitchen chimney, there will be lurou fan [braised pork with rice]," goes the Taiwanese saying. 

The popularity of this humble dish cannot be overstated. 

"Lurou fan" is almost synonymous with Taiwanese food.

The Taipei city government launched a "braised pork rice is ours" campaign last year after Michelin’s "Green Guide Taiwan" claimed the dish was from Shandong Province in mainland China.

A good bowl of lurou fan comprises finely chopped, not quite minced, pork belly, slow-cooked in aromatic soy sauce with five spices.

There should be an ample amount of fattiness, in which lies the magic.

The meat is spooned over hot rice.  

A little sweet, a little salty, braised pork rice is comfort food perfected.

Jin Feng Lu Rou Fan (金峰滷肉飯), 10 Roosevelt Road, Section 1, Jhongjheng District, Taipei City; +886 2 2396 0808

Taiwanese foodNothing like a good Taiwanese food debate centering around beef noodles.

2. Beef noodle (牛肉麵)

You know a food is an obsession when it gets its own festival.

Beef noodle soup inspires competitiveness and innovation in chefs. Everyone wants to claim the title of beef noodle king.

From visiting Niu Ba Ba for one of the most expensive bowls of beef noodle soup in the world (TW$10,000, or US$334) to a serendipitous foray into the first makeshift noodle shack you spot, it's almost impossible to have a bad beef noodle experience in Taiwan.

Lin Dong Fang's beef shanks with al dente noodles in herbal soup are a perennial favorite. The streetside eatery’s secret weapon is the dollop of homemade chili-butter added last.

Lin Dong Fang (林東芳), 274 Bade Road, Section 2, Jhongshan District, Taipei City; +886 2 2752 2556; Niu Ba Ba (牛爸爸), No. 16, Alley 27, Lane 216, Section 4 Zhongxiao Donglu, Da'an District, Taipei City; +886 2 2778 3075/ +886 2 8771 5358 

Taiwanese foodThe oyster omelet: Taiwan's quintessential snack.

3. Oyster omelet (蚵仔煎)

Here's a snack that really showcases the fat of the land in Taiwan. You've got something from the sea and something from the soil.

The eggs are the perfect foil for the little oysters easily found around the island, while sweet potato starch is added to give the whole thing a gooey chewiness -- a signature Taiwan food texture.

No wonder the soup was voted best snack to represent Taiwan in a poll of 1,000 Taiwanese by Global Views Monthly a few years back.

Lai's Egg Oyster Omelet (賴記雞蛋蚵仔煎), Ningxia Road Night Market; +886 2 2558 6177

Taiwanese foodChewy and refreshing: bubble tea.

4. Bubble tea (珍珠奶茶)

Bubble tea represents the "QQ" food texture that Taiwanese love.

The phrase refers to something that is especially chewy, like the tapioca balls forming the "bubbles" in bubble tea.

It's said this unusual drink was invented out of boredom.

Liu Han-Chieh threw some sweetened tapioca pudding into her iced Assam tea on one fateful day in 1988, and a great Taiwanese culinary export was born.

Variations on the theme include taro-flavored tea, jasmine tea and coffee, served cold or hot.

Chun Shui Tang teahouse (春水堂), 48 Yi-shu St., Longjing, Taichung County; +886 4 2652 8288

More on CNNGo: Who invented bubble tea?

Amateur fish eaters should watch out for the bones.

5. Milkfish (虱目魚)

How popular is milkfish in Taiwan?

So popular that it has its own themed museum in Anping and there's a milkfish cultural festival in Kaohsiung.

The bony fish might pose a challenge for amateurs, but it’s loved for its tender meat and economical price tag.

Milkfish is prepared in numerous ways -- in a congee porridge, pan-fried, as fish ball soup or braised.

For home-style preparation, retro Izakaya-style restaurant James Kitchen serves pan-fried milkfish with lime.

A bowl of scallion lard rice is a great complement.

James Kitchen (小隱私廚), 65 Yongkang St., Da’an District, Taipei; +886 2 2342 2275

Taiwanese foodThankfully, we no longer have to wait for the slack season to eat this.

6. Slack Season danzai noodles (擔仔麵)

You've gotta love a place called Slack Season, and it should be one of the first pit stops on any culinary trip to Taiwan.

The iconic eatery originated in Tainan about a century ago. A fisherman sold noodles during the slack fishing season and the joint became so successful he quit his original trade altogether. 

The signature bowl of Slack Season noodles is served in shrimp soup with bean sprouts, coriander, minced pork and fresh shrimps.

The bowl of comforting flavors is so addictive that a man from Tainan supposedly ate 18 bowls in a row at the restaurant.

Slack Season Tainan Main Store (度小月), 16 Jhongjheng Road, Tainan City; +886 6 223 1744;, see website for details of other locations.

Taiwanese foodPan-fried buns, bigger and better in Taiwan.

7. Pan-fried bun (生煎包)

Like the fluffiness of cake and the crunchiness of potato chips? The pan-fried bun gives you the best of both worlds.

The buns are made with spongy white Chinese bread that is pan-fried on the bottom. Break one open to reveal the moist porky filling. 

A Shanghainese staple, the Taiwanese version differs in two ways: it's slightly bigger in size and it hits the pan upside-down. 

Hsu Ji (許記), Shida Night Market, Taan District, Taipei City; +886 9 3085 9646

Taiwanese foodDear Gua Bao, you're the Big Mac of our eye.

8. Gua bao (割包)

It's a hamburger, Taiwan-style.

A steamed bun sandwiches a hearty filling of braised pork belly, pickled Chinese cabbage and powdered peanuts.

The filling is chopped into small pieces and mixed together so there's a bit of everything in every bite. Western hamburgers might benefit from the same treatment.

Take a big mouthful and enjoy the salty, sour and sweet flavors and the greasy pork swimming in your mouth.

Shida Night Market, Shida Road, Neihu District, Taipei

Taiwanese foodUrban legend says you can play ping-pong with iron eggs.

9. Iron egg (鐵蛋)

It's called "iron egg" because it's so tough. These chewy eggs little eggs dyed black from long-braising in soy sauce are a highly addictive Taiwanese food.

Often made from quails' eggs, the protein balls are cooked for hours in soy sauce then air-dried. The process is repeated over several days until the snacks become tough and acquire the desired amount of chewiness.

Seaside A-Po (海邊阿婆), 151-1, Jhongjheng Road, Tamshui; A-Po (阿婆), 135-1,  Jhongjheng Road, Tamshui

Pineapple cakePineapple cake: take it home with you.

10. Pineapple cake (鳳梨酥)

This iconic Taiwanese pastry -- mini-pies filled with candied pineapple -- is one of Taiwan's best food souvenirs.

For one of the best pineapple cake experiences, try SunnyHills, which uses only local pineapples. The result is a darker filling, rougher texture and a sourer taste. 

The pies at other shops are filled with a mix of pineapple and chewable bits of winter melon. They have a fruity sweetness and a golden casing of crumbly, buttery pastry.

Stores that replace pineapple completely with winter melon to cut costs are committing a big no-no.

SunnyHills (微熱山丘), 1/F, No. 1, Alley 4, Lane 36, Section 5, Minsheng East Riad, Songshan District, Taipei City; +886 49 229 2767 

Taiwanese foodYou can add soup to the scraps and slurp it up.

11. Tian bu la (甜不辣)

Tian bu la refers to fish paste that's been molded into various shapes and sizes, deep-fried, then boiled in a broth. Before eating, the pieces of solid fish paste are taken from the broth and smothered in brown sauce.

Doesn't sound like much, but tian bu la delivers plenty of sweet flavors and chewy textures, making it a beloved Taiwanese food.

The food is basically a Taiwanese take on Japanese oden, with more sugariness, tougher fish cakes and a signature sauce. 

When you finish the bits of fish cake, there's more to come. Get some soup from the vendor and add it to the remaining sauce in the bowl.

Mix and drink the resulting flavor bomb.   

Simon Tian Bu La (賽門甜不辣), 95 Xining South Road, Wanhua District, Taipei City; +886 2 2331 2481

Taiwanese foodBa wan: dumplings for giants.

12. Ba wan (肉圓)

Ba wan is a Taiwanese mega-dumpling.

Made with a dough of rice flour, corn starch and sweet potato starch, it looks almost translucent after cooking.

Pork, veggies and sometimes eggs are stuffed inside and gravy poured on top. 

It's believed ba wan was invented during times of scarcity. The simple pork dumpling became a luxurious snack enjoyed only during the Lunar New Year festival. 

Tonghua Bawan (通化肉圓), No. 7, Alley 39, Tonghua Street, Da'an District, Taipei City; +886 2 2707 8562

Taiwanese foodGreat Taiwanese street food: boneless and bite-sized.

13. Fried chicken (鹽酥雞)

Taiwan deserves a special place in the fried chicken hall of fame. Not only has it made the giant fried chicken cutlet (No. 35 on this list) a cult classic, but its popcorn chicken is dangerously addictive.

The chicken is chopped into bite-sized pieces, marinated, dipped in batter and deep-fried. A generous sprinkling of salt and pepper complete the morish morsels.

It's a ubiquitous snack on the city streets.

Taiwan's First Popcorn Chicken Store(台灣第一家鹽酥雞創始總店), No. 530-1, Bei'an Road, Zhongshan District, Taipei City

Taiwanese foodTaiwan's food porn queen.

14. Flaky scallion pancake (蔥抓餅)

There are few things more appetizing than the sight of a flaky scallion pancake being slowly torn apart. 

Add cheese and egg fillings to maximize the visuals.

Devour this night-market staple in a few bites to ensure it stays steaming hot and chewy.

Shida Night Market, Shida Road, Neihu District, Taipei

Taiwanese foodOyster vermicelli: taste of the sea.

15. Oyster vermicelli (蚵仔麵線)

A bowl of great oyster vermicelli should have a thick, flavorful soup base while the thin rice noodles and oysters retain their distinct texture.  

Some people add chopped intestines for a funky dimension to the soup.

It's a gooey, slurpable dish with an intense briny taste.

Ay-Chung (阿宗), 8-1 Emei St., Wanhua District, Taipei City; +886 2 2620 9989

Taiwanese foodYou need two hands to eat this Taiwanese food -- one to hold your nose.

16. Stinky tofu (臭豆腐)

This could be the world's premier love-it-or-hate-it snack and Taiwan does it just right. 

The "fragrant" cube of bean curd is deep-fried and draped with sweet and spicy sauce. It you hold your nose, it looks and tastes just like a plain ol' piece of fried tofu, with a crisp casing and soft center like pudding.

But what's the fun in eating that? Inhale deeply and relish the stench, the smellier, the better.

Raohe night market, north end of Kee Lung Road, Taipei

17. It’s golden. It’s in the shape of Taiwan. What’s not to like about sweet potatoes?

17. Sweet potato (地瓜)

Leaving taste, smell and nutritional value aside, the sweet potato stands out for a one particular reason among Taiwanese food -- it's shaped a bit like the island.

Taiwan-grown sweet potatoes are added to soup with ginger, roasted by street vendors in ovens converted from oil-drums, ground to a flour and added to other dishes to give texture, or fried into sweet potato chips.

As long as the beloved root vegetable is in it, Taiwanese love it.

Sweet potato congee at Shin Yeh (欣葉), 85/F, Taipei 101, 7 Xinyi Road, Section 5, Xinyi District, Taipei City; +886 2 8101 0185, see other locations at www.shinyeh.com.tw

Also on CNNGo: Be a Taipei Sweet Potato Mama for a day

Taiwanese foodTaiwan's summer blockbuster is the shaved ice mountain.

18. Shaved ice mountain (刨冰山)

One good thing about the hot, humid and stormy Taiwan summers is the excuse to eat shaved ice mountain.

A pile of shaved ice is heaped with fresh fruit and flavorings, such as mango pieces, juice and sweet condensed milk. The result is super-appealing just by looks alone. 

A more traditional take uses freshly made mini rice balls.

Feast on mango shaved ice at Yong Kang 15 (永康15), 15 Yong-kang St., Taipei City; +886 2 2321 3367; For classics go to Tai Yi Milk King (臺一牛奶大王), 82 Xin Sheng South Road, Section 3; +886 2 2363 4341

Taiwanese foodSo good that we ate half of it before remembering to take a photo.

19. Pepper cakes (胡椒餅)

A must-try at Rao He night market, pepper cakes are crispy pastry pockets filled with juicy pork that's infused with the aromatic bite of black pepper.

Baked on the wall of a clay oven, the pies are a delicious ode to the pepper plant.

Eat more than one, or you'll only you have to wait again in the long queue for more.

Raohe night market, north end of Kee Lung Road, Taipei

Taiwanese foodDin Tai Fung: gasps are heard with each squirt of soup.

20. Dumplings at Din Tai Fung Dumpling House (鼎泰豐小籠包)

Xiaolongbao may be a Shanghainese delicacy, but some argue the Taiwanese perfected it.

Taiwanese restaurant Din Tai Fung does its Shanghai comrades proud with its succulent pork-soup dumplings. 

Din Tai Fung’s bite-sized xiaolongbao have a consistently high quality. Their paper-thin wrappings hold rich hot broth and tender pork meatballs.

Gasps can be heard intermittently at Din Tai Fung as diners brave the scalding hot soup that squirts out upon biting the dumpling. 

Din Tai Fung Dumpling House (鼎泰豐), 192 Xinyi Road, Section 2, Taipei City; +886 2 2321 8929

Fishballs. Round things are just fun to eat.

21. Fish ball soup (魚丸湯)

What's better than fresh seafood? Balls of fresh seafood, of course.

Look for handmade fish balls in Taiwan -- they tend to have more air in the ball, thus allowing more broth to be soaked up.

They also have a bouncier chew.

Jiaxing Fish Ball (佳興魚丸), No. 21, Lane 210, Section 2, Yanping North Road, Datong District, Taipei City; +886 2 2553 6470


Taiwanese foodMedicinal herbs: a healthy excuse to feast on ribs.


22. Ribs stewed in medicinal herbs (藥燉排骨)

This is the Taiwanese version of bak kut the, the Chinese meat soup that's also popular in Singapore and Malaysia.  

In Taiwan, the soup is slow-cooked in Chinese medicine, extracting the essence from pork bones and more than 14 nutritious herbs, roots and dried fruits.

It's yummy and good for you, too, especially for keeping warm in winter.

There isn't much meat on the lean bones, but the point of the dish is the soup.

Don’t be shy to pick the bones up and suck the juice off.

You might even be considered strange if you don't.

Nanya Night Market, Nanya East Road, Taipei City

Taiwanese foodThe whole goose and nothing but the goose on Taiwan's best tables.

23. Goose (鵝肉)

Geese, bred on Taiwan farms, are never wasted. From the skin to the blood, they're made into delicious dishes.

Salted and smoked geese in Hou Yi are revelatory. Every bite of the juicy goose meat with slightly smoked skin tastes like a pure celebration of poultry. 

Or you could try one of Bistro Le Pont's bowls of steamed rice topped with goose, chili oil and x.o. sauce. The rice grains rice are an ideal vehicle for goose fat and flavor.

Ya rou zhen (鴨肉珍), 231-2 Sinyue St., Yancheng District, Kaohsiung, +886 7 531 4630; Bistro Le Pont (樂朋小館), 176 Chaozhou St., Taipei City; +886 2 2396 5677

Ding bian cuoPainting the wok with rice slurry to make ding bian cuo.

24. Ding bian cuo (鐤邊趖)

Ding bian cuo is a bowl of slippery rice-flour pasta.

Rice flour batter is poured along the side of a huge heated wok, sliding and spreading along the hot metal and forming slices of rice flour noodle.

When dried, the sheets are cut into smaller pieces that become very thin and very chewy noodles when cooked as ding bian cuo.

Wu Jia ding bian cuo is a century-old family business. Its ding bian cuo is served with handmade pork cakes, shrimp cakes, cabbage, daylily and bamboo shoots.

Wu Jia ding bian cuo (百年吳家鼎邊趖), Keelung Temple Street Night Market, Taipei City

Taiwanese foodTaiwanese hot dogs are made with sticky rice buns and cured sausages.

25. Taiwanese sausage with sticky rice (大腸包小腸)

Taiwanese pork sausage alone is a superstar at night markets, but when served as a snack translated as "little sausage inside big sausage" it's possibly unbeatable.

It's like a hot dog, but instead of a bun, sticky rice is stuffed inside sausage casing to make an oversized rice sausage.

That's then slit open to stuff in a pork sausage.

So it's a little sausage inside a big one. Get it?

Fengjia Night Market, Taichung County

Taiwanese foodMobile mochi: get your chewy fix any time of the day.

26. Mochi (麻糬)

These glutinous rice balls are soft as marshmallows and filled with sweet or salty things. 

The most traditional mochi are filled with red bean paste and rolled in peanut powder.

But in recent years, strawberry jam, sesame paste, green tea jam and peanut paste have become popular fillings.

You can learn how to make mochi at the Royal Taiwan Mochi Museum (around US$5 per person). 

Royal Taiwan Mochi Museum(台灣麻糬主題館), No. 3, Tzu Qiang 3rd Road, Nantou County; +886 49 225 7644, see the class schedule at www.taiwanmochi.com.tw (in Chinese only)

Taiwanese foodLantern Lu Wei doesn't worry about your schedule, only good flavor.

27. Lantern soy sauce braised food (燈籠滷味)

No matter what you choose from the Lantern Lu Wei food stall, it'll take on the taste of the signature five-spice soy sauce.

It's a little sweet, not too salty and very aromatic with cloves, star anise, cinnamon and other spices.

Pick your preferred ingredients and the chef will cook it in the pot of special sauce. It's a perfect light meal before a big night out.

You should expect to wait in line as the chef never rushes -- he takes his time to allow the the food to absorb the sauce.

Lantern Lu Wei (燈籠滷味), Shida Night Market, Shida Road, Neihu District, Taipei

28. Sun cakes (太陽餅)

Originating in Taichung, the suncake is just a flakey pastry filled with maltose.

And yet this sweet nothing has come to represent Taichung City and is a souvenir sought out by visitors.

Countless sun cake shops flourish in Taichung, all claiming to be the original store.

But maybe it's time for them to shine. The genuine original sun cake store, Tai Yang Bakery, closed down when the 68-year-old boss decided to retire. 

Along Tze Yo Street, Zhongzheng District, Taichung County

Taiwanese foodSticky rice pudding; turnip sauce obligatory.

29. Tube rice pudding (筒仔米糕)

Sticky rice and Chinese mushrooms are fried with seasoning and stuffed into a bamboo tube together with pork and egg. The tube of rice is steamed again to further soften the texture until it becomes a cylindrical pudding.

Da Qiao Tou started making its rice pudding in a stall under a bridge more than four decades ago.

The business has since expanded but the rice pudding stays the same.

You should be sure to add the homemade turnip-laced sweet spicy sauce to the tasty.

Da Qiao Tou (大橋頭老牌筒仔米糕), 41 Yanping North Road, Section 3, Datong District, Taipei City; +886 2 2594 4685

Taiwanese breakfastNothing like fried bread wrapped with roast bread to fuel a morning.

30. Taiwanese breakfast (燒餅夾油條)

Three elements to start a day right with Taiwanese food include sesame flat bread, deep-fried Chinese donut and soymilk. 

Blogger Joan H from A Hungry Girl’s Guide to Taipei says her favorite breakfast is from Fu Hang.

“I love the thick sesame flat bread at Fu Hang because it has a slight sweetness, a thin crispy layer and soft center from coming straight out of the hot metal barrel.

"Many sesame flat breads are dry and flaky but Fu Hang's shows why there's often a half-hour wait there on the weekends.” 

Fu Hang Dou Jiang (阜杭豆漿), 2/F Hua Shan Market, 108 Zhongxiao East Road, Section 1, Taipei City; +886 2 2392 2175

Mm. Congealed pig's blood on a stick.

31. Pig’s blood rice pudding (豬血米糕)

This mix of pig's blood and sticky rice is stuck on the end of a stick like a lollipop. For the final Taiwanese touch, the pudding is coated in a sweet peanut powder.

Basketball star Jeremy Lin Shu-How named pig’s blood rice cake as one of his favorite snacks on his recent visit to Taiwan.

If it's good enough for Lin, it's good enough for us.

Xiao Li (小李), No. 1-3, Lane 136, Section 4, Roosevelt Road, Taipei City; +886 2 2368 3417

Signature Taiwanese food: three-cup chicken.

32. Three-cup chicken (三杯雞)

Three-cup chicken is cooked in a cup of rice wine, a cup of oil and a cup of soy sauce. To this Taiwanese culinary triumvirate is added fresh basil, chilies and garlic for an irresistible combination.

Some kitchens have a different definition of three-cup chicken, involving a cup of wine, a cup of sesame oil and a cup of sugar.

Shin Yeh (欣葉), 85/F, Taipei 101, 7 Xinyi Road, Section 5, Xinyi District, Taipei City; +886 2 8101 0185

Taiwanese foodAgei, an edible purse full of goodness.

33. Tamsui Agei (阿給)

Agei comes from the Japanese "aburaage," which are deep-fried tofu pockets. 

Taiwanese agei are stuffed with mung bean noodles and sealed off with fish paste. A typical, sweet-spicy sauce completes the snack. 

The tofu soaks up the soup it's cooked in, so each bite bursts with broth. 

Paired with a soy milk, the agei makes a great savory breakfast.

Zhenli Street, Tamshui

Ban tiao: rustic taste, rabid following.

34. Ban tiao (粄條)

Ban tiao (flat rice noodles) has such a rabid following that many Taiwanese will drive long distances in search of the most authentic bowl.

The thick, flat, slippery noodles made from glutinous rice are part of the Hakka culinary tradition and best sampled in Kaohsiung’s Meinong district.

Stir-fried ban tiao with pork has a rustic taste and texture.

Many find the dish more comforting when served in hot soup.

Meixing Street, Meinong district, Kaohsiung

Taiwanese foodFood that's almost as big as your face.

35. Hot-star large fried chicken (豪大大雞排)

According to a Taipei Times’ report of 2011, Taiwanese devour more than 250,000 fried chicken cutlets a day.

Piled atop each other, that would make a chicken cutlet tower 10 times as tall as Taipei 101, the island’s tallest skyscraper at 508 meters.  

Go to Hot-star for the original oversized chicken cutlet. 

The enormous slice of meat, as big as your face, is very moist with a crispy crust. A generous coating of five-spice powder and pepper gives it a kick.

Starting as a small counter at Shilin night market, Hot-star is now a Taiwanese food franchise present in Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore.

Hot-star Large Fried Chicken (豪大大雞扒), Shilin Night Market, Jīhé Rd, Shilin District, Taipei City

Taiwanese foodFrom ocean to grill.

36. Anything with cuttlefish (花枝)

Taiwan gets a lot of cuttlefish, and grill stations spiked with cuttlefish skewers can be found everywhere in the southern tip of the island.

Although a thick cuttlefish soup with herbs and veggies is a typical Taiwanese winter-warmer, one of the best ways to enjoy the mollusks is fresh out of seawater, straight on to the charcoal grill. 

A smoky aroma, dark grill marks, glistening furled fish edges and dustings of salt and pepper make up the scene.

Fengjia Night Market, Taichung County

37. Aiyu jelly (愛玉冰)

Very wobbly and hardly tasting of anything, aiyu jelly takes on the flavor of whatever it's eaten with.

Add it to lemonade and shaved ice for a refreshing summer drink. The jelly gives the liquid a fun gloopy texture. 

Shida Night Market, Shida Road, Neihu District, Taipei City

Pidan tofu: love at second bite

38. Pidan tofu (皮蛋豆腐)

Black, white and seemingly bland pidan tofu isn’t a likely candidate for “love at first bite” fame.

But after a few tries it becomes a minor addiction for many eaters.

Pidan, or century egg, is a duck egg preserved in clay with seasonings. With time, the egg white turns into a translucent black jelly and the yolk develops a unique flavor.

It’s topped with sesame oil, vinegar, soy sauce, coriander, chopped spring onion and, sometimes, pork floss.

Mash it up and it’s ready to eat.

Widely available at local restaurants

39. Steamed spring roll (潤餅)

To describe it as the non-deep-fried version of a spring roll would be unfair, as "run bing" (steamed spring roll) was invented before the spring roll. 

Every Taiwanese household has its own recipe for run bing.

During festivals, families gather at the table to have a run bing wrapping party. Each person chooses their own fillings from a buffet and rolls their own run bing.

Besides serving delicious run bing, Shin Yeh at Taipei 101 also offers an incomparable view of the city.

Shin Yeh (欣葉), 85/F, Taipei 101, 7 Xinyi Road, Section 5, Xinyi District, Taipei City; +886 2 8101 0185

Taiwanese foodHot pot: gimmicky but good.

40. Spicy hotpot (麻辣火鍋)

Taiwanese are mad for spicy hot pot.

And who wouldn't be? The bubbling pots of broth are filled with all sorts of Chinese herbs and spices to create a rich flavor for all the raw, fresh ingredients that diners will dip into it.

New hot pot places pop up in Taiwan every day, each with a gimmick to attract insatiable hot pot diners.

There's all-you-can-eat hot pot and yakiniku served at the same table; there's bubble tea hotpot for the jaded. 

But it's ordinary spicy hot pot with quality ingredients that stands the test of time. While Taiwan's spice-levels don't come close to Chongqing's, they're pretty piquant.

Head to perennial hot pot favorite and celeb-magnet Taihodien for a glam Taiwanese hot pot experience.

Taihodien (太和殿麻辣火鍋) can be found across Taiwan, try bubble tea hotpot at Yue Yin Xuan (玥飲軒), 80 Wenzhou St., Ta'an District, Taipei City

Chicken in tiger’s clothing.

41. Tiger-striped chicken gua bao (虎皮軟燒雞割包)

At many places, tiger-striped chicken gua bao can be thought of as Taiwan’s answer to the Big Mac.

At Old New Restaurant in Kaohsiung, however, the humble dish gets an upscale treatment.

The restaurant uses pumpkin and edible bamboo charcoal powder to create a yellow-and-black striped bun, then fills it with deep-fried and braised chicken fillets in soy sauce and tomato sauce.

The result is a sweet and sour flavor that’s different from typical gua bao.

Old New Restaurant (老新台菜), 227 Jiou Ru 2nd 3077 Road, Sanmin District, Kaohsiung; +886 7 313 3077

Beware the chicken-wrapped rice craze.

42. Chicken wing rice roll (雞翅包飯)

The chicken wing rice roll makes the impossible possible -- eating chicken fried rice in a night market with one hand.

A boneless chicken wing is stuffed with fried rice and marinated in a heavenly combination of sesame oil and secret sauce.

It’s so good it started a chicken wrapped rice craze in Kaohsiung’s Ruifeng night market, with various fillings, such as kimchi fried rice and curry rice.

Ruifeng Night Market, Yucheng Rd., Zuoying District, Kaohsiung

White shirt not recommended when eating this one.

43. Giant pork balls soup (爆汁貢丸)

The best pork balls are made from fresh meat hand-ground and pounded with a mallet until it attains a doughy texture.

The giant pork balls in stock soup from Taipei’s Ningxia Night Market are as big as a baby’s fist.

Their size, as well as the air holes pumped in the meatballs during the pounding, locks in an amazing amount of juice and flavor.

The Chinese name illustrates the experience of eating one vividly -- the literal translation is “bursting-juice giant pork balls.”

Pork balls are sometimes mixed with ingredients such as Chinese mushrooms and cuttlefish to enrich texture and add flavor.

Ningxia Night Market, Ningxia Road, Taipei

Lychee-rose bread: the Rafael Nadal of baked goods.

44. Wu Pao Chun Bakery Breads (吳寶春麵包)

“Bread? In Taiwan? Seriously?” we hear you thinking -- but this isn’t just any bread we’re talking about.

It’s from Wu Pao-chun, a world baking champion with many award-winning loaves to its name.

The bread that won the international baking competition Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie in 2010 is the bakery's lychee-rose bread.

It’s made with mullet wine, lychee and rose petals.

Wu Pao-chun also won the Louis Lesaffre Cup in 2007 and a silver medal at the 2008 Bakery World Cup.

Another signature of the store is wine-longan bread with smoked longans, French wine and California walnuts.

Wu Pao Chun Bakery Kaohsiung (吳寶春麥方店),19, Siwei 3rd Lingya District, Kaohsiung City; +886 7 335 9593

Wu Pao Chun Bakery Taipei (吳寶春麥方店), 88 Yanchang Road, Xinyi District, Taipei City; +886 2 6636 5888

45. Love the convenience, hate the side dishes.

45. Biandang (便當)

A lot of Taiwanese have a love-hate relationship with Taiwanese biandang (bento), the takeaway lunchbox that packs rice with a main dish (usually a type of meat) and small, often unappealing side dishes such as fried and preserved vegetables.

It's a convenient, quick, cheap (less than $3) and generally decent way to eat.

Biandang isn't one of the most delicious foods in Taiwan, but it’s a staple for countless working parents and busy urbanites.

Bento with chicken cutlet is a good biandang choice.

Found at convenience stores and major high-speed rail stations around Taiwan.

Originally published June 2012. Updated January 28, 2014.

Hiufu Wong is CNN Travel's staff writer.

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