Forget cleanliness. In Taiwan, food and food preparation is much closer to godliness. This island offers a massive variety of all sorts of delicious/disgusting treats for the foodie. In addition to the millions of restaurants, there are small snack stalls and food stands peppered all over the island. This makes it very difficult to stick to a square 3 meals a day because the options for snacking are so varied and so commonplace. You can barely walk a block without seeing a street vendor hawking some sort of edible product. And that’s why I’m still getting fat.
To list all of the available snacks would be an impossible task, and probably take up all my storage space on WordPress. In addition, you would probably have grandkids by the time you read to the end, so here are a FEW samplings of some of my favourite and not-so-favourite Taiwanese snacks or “small eats” (小吃 – xiao chi).
Grilled pork and sausage
- Average cost: 60 -80 NT (US $2 – $2.66)
What you see here is grilled strips of pork and sizzling sausage. A lot of times, the pork is actually wild boar – one of the delectable treats hunted and eaten by the aboriginal people of Taiwan. You can get either just pork, just sausage or a combo of both. It’s cut up and mixed together on the grill with onions, chillies, garlic and sometimes corriander. Artery clogging, but oh-so-satisfying. Usually present at nightmarkets, tourist destinations (especially in the mountains where the aboriginals dwell) and special events (fairs, carnivals etc.)
- Average cost: 40 – 50 NT (US $1.33 – $1.66)
This egg and oyster wonder is a staple at all nightmarkets. It’s cooked up right before you, usually with generous helpings of oysters. Fresh basil is thrown into the mix and it’s topped off with a slightly sweet red sauce. I have no idea what the sauce is, but it’s delicious. Sometimes the texture of the dish (which can be a bit gummy) turns people off, but it’s a good eat in my books.
Green onion pancake
- Average cost: 15 – 25 NT (US $0.50 – $0.83)
Onion leek pancakes are heavily flavoured bready delights. Cooked on a flat top grill they have a soft, fluffy texture with a strong taste of cooked leeks. Enjoy them on their own or rolled up with pork, chicken, kim chi – any number of mouth-watering things. Available on roadside stands, restaurants and nightmarkets. Nom nom nom.
- Average cost: 20 – 30 NT (US $0.66 – $1)
Wrapped in leaves to add flavour, these little packets of heaven have a very unique flavour. The glutinous rice is mixed with mushrooms, spices and tender pork to give an explosion of flavour on the tongue. These are generally eaten during the dragon boat festival, to commemorate the life (and death) of Qu Yuan, a historical figure from ancient China. Unwrapped they look like this:
- Average cost – 15 – 25 NT (US $0.50 – $0.83)
Large juicy mushrooms over a fire, topped off with salt/spices and the delicious Taiwanese bbq sauce. These delights are tender, juicy and flavourful. These can be found at any nightmarket, and bbq stands that are all over the streets. Definitely one of my favourites.
Taiwanese hotdog / pogo stick
- Average price 40 – 60 NT (US $1.33 – $2.00)
This is Taiwans adaption to the hotdog. Like a pogostick, the hotdog is covered with a bready, crunchy coating. The bread is slightly sweet, but goes well with the meat. I usually get one of these when I’m craving some western junk food. Can be found in nightmarkets and roadside food stalls.
- Average cost: I can’t remember.
This is a rarity. I’ve only spotted it twice in my whole time here. Chewey milk cubes on a stick, deep fried. I have no idea what they use to solidify the milk, but it’s a nice dessert treat. Sweet, but not overly so, this tastes like a milky pudding – creamy and rich.
So those are a few of the foody delights one can find on the island. Of course, not a comprehensive list, but something to give you a taste of what can be enjoyed here. I’m still surprised at how Taiwanese people manage to stay so skinny!