A vegetarian’s guide to local Taiwanese cuisine

Keelung Miaokou night market is famous for its large selection of affordable food.
Image courtesy: ©Yevgen Belich/Shutterstock

I stepped into Taiwan thinking I’ll be gorging on all kinds of meats and won’t even see greens on my plate during my stay, but I was in for a huge surprise. If you thought that being a vegetarian in Taiwan is impossible, here’s some good news for you. While locals thrive on meat, there are plenty and delicious vegetarian options as well. Take a look at these interesting dishes.

Steamed buns: These delicious babies – soft fluffy bao are usually filled with pork, but at a few places you can also find then with vegetables or tofu. Steamed scallion buns are popular as a breakfast item.

Also read: A perfect itinerary to discover Taiwan


Stinky tofu is a national favourite snack.
Image courtesy: Pallavi Pasricha

Stinky tofu: You can smell this national favourite snack from miles. Though not always vegetarian, you’ll find this version too at a few places. The street stalls mostly make it deep fried. But it is not as bad as it smells. If you can persuade yourself to take a bite, you’ll actually enjoy the taste. It is made after soaking the tofu in fermented milk, vegetables or meat.

Bubble tea: Surprisingly, you almost have to eat this tea since it’s dunked with tapioca balls. Tasting more like black tea, but with milk, this interesting combination is available at most street markets. The name comes from the tapioca balls that form a bubble in the tea.

Sweet potato balls are easily available at night markets.
Image courtesy: Pallavi Pasricha

Sweet potato balls: I never thought deep fried, sweet potatoes could taste so good, but one bite of this crunchy snack changed my opinion. Crisp outside and soft and fluffy inside, they are perfect, specially when the cold weather makes you long for something hot.

Baked wheat cake: This popular Taiwanese breakfast item is made just as it sounds, with wheat that’s first baked and then stuffed with eggs. Healthy and delicious, it is the perfect way to start the day on a guilt free note for all calorie watchers.

High angled view of cooked dumplings inside of bamboo steamer with lip partially off.
Dumplings are always a good bet.
Image courtesy: ©tab62/Shutterstock

Dumplings: Although pork is the most popular stuffing, don’t get discouraged — vegetarian dumplings are not hard to come by. The fillings include spring onion, cabbage and tofu. Dumpling soup is very popular and a nice wholesome dish. The dipping sauce made with soya sauce, chillis and vinegar makes for a good accompaniment.

Sun cake: This delicious pastry belongs to Taichung and looks more like a cookie. Soft and crumbly, it has a filling of malt sugar and is best had when dipped with tea to bring out the malt flavour. It got this name thanks to its interesting shape.

Pineapple cake is a great option for dessert or a quick time snack.

Pineapple cake: I could have had this super-soft cake that just melts in your mouth for all three meals. It has a crumbly, buttery crust and a delicious pineapple jam filling inside. It is easily available in many places.

Deep fried mushroom: As you can clearly see, this nation is obsessed with deep fried food (to a certain extent) so definitely try these mushrooms. They are usually fried with basil to add that extra crunch and flavour and then sprinkled with salt and pepper before serving.

AUTHOR'S BIO: A traveller and foodie at heart, Pallavi Pasricha has explored many destinations across the world. But that never seems to be enough and she’s always ready to hit the road again. Her obsession for travel is combined with a love for photography. She is working as the Digital and Community Editor at Lonely Planet India.