Being a vegetarian or a not-very-big-meat-eater definitely presents its challenges in Asia. I’m more the latter of the two; I don’t mind some meat dishes but I just can’t eat anything that resembles a corpse of some kind! Nor can I eat something if someone’s not able to tell me what type of meat it is…! (Forever paranoid I’ll end up eating a cat or snake or something horrifying).
But fear not, Taiwan has many mystery-meat-free yummy snacks!
1. Bubble tea
Hands down my favourite Taiwanese snack. Holy moly, life has not been the same since I discovered bubble tea. The possible combinations are literally endless. What kind of tea do you want? (Milky, Jasmine, Green, Black, Rooibos, Matcha?). Maybe a flavour too? (Some kind of fruit or taro?). Any toppings? (Chewy tapioca bubbles, jelly, pudding, chia seeds?). Less sugar or more ice? Too many choices. My mouth is watering.
2. Shaved mango ice
Another sweet favourite and perfect for a sweltering tropical day. Basically, it’s a mango flavoured meal: a generous portion of sweetened shaved ice, fresh mango pieces and mango ice cream. You’re welcome. On recommendation from a local tour guide, I got mine from Smoothie House and I sure wasn’t disappointed. Monster Ice are meant to have good shaved mango ice too.
3. Sweet potato balls
No real explanation needed. They’re like a veggie-friendly version of fish balls. Balls of sweet potato that are fried. Delicious. (And somewhat healthy as there’s a vegetable involved…?). Make sure you look out for stools selling them in street markets!
4. Pineapple cake
You’ve sussed me. I’ve definitely got a sweet tooth. (My dentist already knows…). Pineapple cakes were another addiction of mine in Taiwan. I got mine from Chia Te bakery but there are other good places too (but which is truly the best divides the Taiwanese!). Pineapple cakes are basically finger-sized rectangle shortbread-pastries with a chewy pineapple filling inside. They are other flavours too, like strawberry and cherry, but pineapple is definitely the best. I’m slightly ashamed (and slightly impressed) to say that after falling in love with them, I bought a box of 20 to keep me going, which I carried in my luggage to Malaysia and then onto Singapore… It was a sad, sad day when I ate my last one.
5. Stinky tofu
I can’t lie, this is the one thing on the list I didn’t personally try but I had to include it. The infamous stinky tofu. A Taiwanese speciality. You’ll either love it or truly hate it. The clue’s in the name really. If you can get past the smell, the tofu itself is meant to taste really good! I’ll let you decide.
6. Din Tai Fung dumplings
Although famous across Asia, Australia and the USA, Din Tai Fung actually originated from Taipei and for most, it’s the holy grail of soup dumplings (xialongbao). Technically, they don’t have many veggie-friendly options but I couldn’t help sneaking this onto the list for those like me who don’t mind a bit of meat. I personally love the chicken and pork flavoured xiaolongbao. The broth in the xiaolongbao is to die for! I first discovered them in Shanghai and I honestly still crave them to this day. I should not be writing this blog post with a rumbling stomach!
What local snacks did you become addicted to in Asia? Are you a sweet or savoury person? Tell me in the comments below!