Taiwan has a pretty solid reputation as an island of culinary delights. From seafood to delectable desserts, going out for dinner in Taiwan is a joy for gastronomes. But what about breakfast and lunch? What does a local’s daily diet look like?
To say you’re spoilt for choice would be a complete understatement. Taiwanese treat the first meal of the day with the respect it deserves, and breakfast choices range from simple grab-and-go sandwiches to full-on meals. Perhaps the most common choice though, and one that many expats have taken to with gusto, is the thin egg-filled pancake known as dan bing.
Head for any breakfast store (you simply can’t miss them) and order one. Usually, you get a pancake with egg and then opt for a filling of your choice. You can have tuna, corn, bacon or pretty much whatever takes your fancy. It’s then rolled up and cut into convenient bite size pieces and served with a sticky soy sauce or a spicy sauce.
Locals that don’t fancy dan bing might opt for congee, a breakfast burger, scallion pancakes, or fried dough sticks on bread. And all of this is usually washed down with milk tea, goat’s milk, or soybean milk.
While you can a find breakfast store on most streets, one of the most famous is Yong He Dou Jiang. They serve a myriad of breakfast items and are open 24 hours a day.
Yes, you’re full, but that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying some fresh fruit at some point in the morning. After all, it’s good for you! Fresh watermelon, pineapple, strawberries, kiwis; Taiwan has some incredible fruit stores. And if you can’t find any, even the local 7-Eleven has boxes of fresh fruit delivered daily.
After such a big breakfast and some fruit, you’d be forgiven for thinking that most locals might take it easy at lunchtime, but you’d be wrong. A typical Taiwanese lunch, particularly for those that work would be a large bowl of noodles or a lunchbox from a local restaurant.
In Taiwan, food is a way of life, and just as you can find breakfast stores on every street, the same can be said of small restaurants open for lunch and dinner. Lunchboxes are typically rice, vegetables, perhaps some tofu, and a chicken leg or pork chop. Noodles, on the other hand, could be anything from cold noodles with peanut sauce to the world-famous Taiwanese beef noodles.
While you might ordinarily consider a noodle dish a light meal, Beef noodles are anything but. A large bowl filled with tasty soup, vegetables, noodles, and of course some succulent pieces of beef will see you through to the evening meal and then some.
Snacks in Taiwan are a big thing, and they’re not exclusively for the afternoon. Mid-morning, afternoon, evening, even late-night, if you’re feeling peckish, just go for it. A good light afternoon snack though is a cup of pearl milk tea. Yes, a drink doesn’t sound like much of a snack, but pearl milk tea is no ordinary tea.
Packed with small tapioca balls and available in a wide variety of flavors such as mango and even honeydew melon, pearl milk tea is one of the most popular drinks in the country. In fact, walk into any office in Taipei, and you’re likely to find a cup on each desk.
There are many tea shops throughout the city, but the Chun Shui Tang (originally from Taichung) is said to be the original.
As we’re talking about the typical daily diet of the average Taiwanese person, we won’t suggest heading out for a slap-up meal at the local seafood restaurant. Nights out eating seafood are usually reserved for the weekend when you can enjoy a few drinks, too. So on a typical day, if locals aren’t dining at home, they’ll often head for the local buffet restaurant.
These restaurants offer an incredible array of freshly cooked food at affordable prices. They are hugely popular, and once again, every neighborhood will have at least one. You can choose anything front sweet and sour pork to grilled fish, and there are simply too many vegetables to list.
Don’t think that a large dinner means no late-night snacks. In Taiwan, it’s quite common to take a walk to the local night market in search of something sweet or salty before bed. Custard-filled cakes, read bean soup, and any kind of meat you can imagine on a stick; it can all be found at the night market.