Taiwan is a food lover’s paradise, with a rich culinary culture that spans centuries. From savoury snacks to sweet desserts, Taiwan has it all. If you’re planning a trip to Taiwan and want to bring home some of the country’s delicious food offerings as souvenirs, this guide is for you. In this post, we’ll share our recommendations on what to buy from Taiwan.
Traditional and Local Snacks
Taiwanese culture places a high value on food, and traditional snacks are a big part of that culture. Here are some of the most popular traditional Taiwanese snacks you should try and bring back as souvenirs:
Pineapple Cakes 鳳梨酥
A popular Taiwanese pastry known for its buttery and crumbly crust, and sweet and tangy pineapple filling. It is available in various flavours and can be made with additional ingredients such as egg yolks, macadamia nuts, or cranberries.
Sun Cakes 太陽餅
Also known as tai yang bing, a classic Taiwanese pastry originating from Taichung. These sweet pastries filled with maltose are crispy and flaky on the outside, and soft and chewy on the inside.
A chewy and soft treat typically made from glutinous rice flour and filled with sweet red bean paste or other sweet fillings such as taro, peanut, or sesame. It can be found in various shapes and forms, including plain or coated with peanut powder, shredded coconut, or sesame seeds.
Lemon Cakes 檸檬蛋糕
A popular Taiwanese snack known for its refreshing lemony flavor. These small lemon-shaped cakes are soft and fluffy, with a refreshing sweet and tangy flavor. The outside is typically coated in lemon white chocolate or lemon frosting.
Traditional Chinese Pastries
Traditional pastries, such as mung bean cakes, wife cakes and mooncakes, are also popular food gifts to buy in Taiwan. These pastries are not only delicious, but they also represent an important part of Chinese culinary heritage and culture.
Nougat Candy 牛軋糖
The Taiwanese version of nougat is unique due to its chewy texture and strong milk fragrance.
Nougat Crackers 牛軋餅
Sweet and chewy nougat sandwiched between 2 crunchy scallion-flavoured crackers, the combination of sweet and savory flavors is heavenly.
Rou Gan 肉乾
Typically made of pork (but also available in beef), comes in a few variations depending on its thickness, and may come in various flavours like Honey, Black Pepper, Garlic, Mala, and more. Before buying meat products, make sure your country permits their import.
Iron Eggs 鐵蛋
A Taiwanese specialty that consists of hard-boiled quail or chicken eggs that have been repeatedly cooked in soy sauce and spices until they turn dark and chewy.
Taiwan is known for its delicious dried fruits, such as mango, pineapple, and guava. They’re a healthy and tasty snack that’s perfect for on-the-go.
Vegetable snacks, such as mushroom chips, okra chips, taro chips, are a healthier alternative to traditional potato chips. They are often seasoned with savoury spices and make a great snack.
Nuts & Seeds
Nuts and seeds, such as sunflower seeds, peanuts, almonds, and pumpkin seeds, are a popular snack option in Taiwan. They are often roasted and seasoned with unique flavours, making them a great snack.
Dried Beancurd 豆干
A vegetarian snack option that is often braised with savoury spices. It’s high in protein and low in calories.
Sesame Rice Cookie
Sesame rice cookies are a type of crunchy cookies that resemble mini ‘jian dui’. Very rich sesame aroma.
Preserved Radish Crackers 菜脯餅
This has a similar texture to the pok chui crackers used in yu sheng, but it has a stronger and more delightful aroma.
Chips with Local Flavours
Chips with local flavours, such as Taiwanese sausage, mala hotpot, and fried chicken, are great snacks to share with family and friends as they are unique and cannot be found elsewhere.
Other Food Gifts to Buy
Here are some recommendations for food gifts to bring back from Taiwan, which are a great way to share the taste of Taiwan with friends and family:
High Mountain Tea 高山茶
Taiwan is renowned for its tea, particularly oolong tea, which is cultivated in the high mountain areas. High mountain tea is known for its unique aroma and sweet flavour.
Taiwan’s cuisine is famous for its sauces, and there are many gourmet sauce brands available to buy. Chilli sauce, shacha sauce, sesame paste, sweet bean sauce and soy sauce are just some examples of sauces which make great souvenirs.
Peeled Chilli Peppers 剝皮辣椒
Peeled chili peppers are green peppers that have been peeled, fried, and then pickled. They can be eaten as a side dish or used in rice and noodle dishes, soups, or stir-fries, making them quite versatile.
Taiwan offers a variety of noodles, including rice vermicelli, egg noodles, sliced noodles, wheat noodles, and more. Purchasing a few packages of these noodles can allow you to cook up a taste of Taiwan at home.
Similar to Japan and Korea, Taiwan also has a wide selection of instant noodles that showcase local flavours such as Taiwanese beef noodles, sesame chicken noodles, Huadiao chicken noodles, Zha Jiang Mian, and more. Keep an eye out for brands like Wei Lih (維力), TTL (台酒), Man Han Da Can (滿漢大餐), and Prince Instant Snack Noodles.
Where to Shop for Snacks and Food Gifts
To ensure that you purchase snacks and gifts of the highest quality, it is important to buy from reputable sellers. Here are some suggestions for finding the best traditional snacks and food gifts in Taiwan:
Day & Night Markets
Taiwan’s local markets are an excellent place to find traditional snacks and try local street food. They offer a great atmosphere and a wide variety of food options at reasonable prices.
Souvenir shops often have a good selection of traditional snacks and food gifts. These are convenient for tourists who want to bring a taste of Taiwan home but do not have time to visit the local markets or specialty food shops.
Many department stores in Taiwan have food halls that provide a range of traditional snacks and food gifts. These stores are useful if you are already shopping in the area and want to pick up a quick souvenir.
Specialty Food Shops
For the ultimate foodie experience, visit specialty food shops that offer a wide variety of traditional Taiwanese snacks and gourmet food gifts. These shops are typically located in major cities such as Taipei, Taichung and Kaohsiung.
Convenience Stores & Supermarkets
Convenience stores and supermarkets in Taiwan are also great places to purchase traditional snacks and food gifts. These stores offer a wide range of packaged snacks and sweets that are easy to grab and go. Some popular items to look out for include mochi, dried fruits, and packaged teas. Although the selection may not be as extensive as specialty food shops, convenience stores and supermarkets are a convenient option for those who are short on time or looking for a quick and easy souvenir.
Tips for Buying Traditional Snacks and Food Gifts in Taiwan
When buying traditional snacks and food gifts in Taiwan, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure you’re getting the best quality products:
- Look for Freshness – It’s important to check the expiration date on any food products you’re purchasing, and avoid products that are close to their expiration date. This is especially important for products like pastries and baked goods, which may spoil quickly if not consumed in a timely manner.
- Check for Authenticity – Some food products may be imitations, so make sure to purchase from reputable sellers. Look for products that are made in Taiwan and are labelled with the country of origin to ensure that you’re getting an authentic product.
- Consider Packaging – Traditional snacks and food gifts in Taiwan often come in beautiful packaging, making them great gifts for friends and family back home. However, it’s important to also consider the practicality of the packaging. Look for products that are well-sealed and can withstand travel, as some products may be fragile and prone to damage during transit.
- Try Before You Buy – Many sellers offer samples, so don’t be afraid to try before you buy to ensure you’re getting a product you’ll love. This is especially important for products like teas and sauces, which may have varying levels of sweetness or spiciness.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Haggle – In traditional markets and smaller shops, it’s common to haggle over prices. Don’t be afraid to negotiate with sellers, but also be respectful and mindful of the value of their products.
Taiwan is a food lover’s paradise, and its traditional snacks and food gifts are a must-try for anyone visiting the country. From pineapple cakes to gourmet sauces, there are so many delicious options to choose from. By following the tips and recommendations in this guide, you’ll be able to bring home a taste of Taiwan to share with your loved ones. Happy snacking!