wake up hungry



There are two kinds of cultures in the world. There are the ones that value breakfast. And the ones that care more about the other meals. Taiwan is solidly in the first bucket (although every meal, and all the snacks in between, are just as cherished).

Whereas some countries like Japan tend to relegate breakfast to be a meal for home, breakfast in Taiwan is a part of your daily routine, seamlessly integrated into the way you move through your day, something that is so convenient and price-accessible, there’s really no reason to skip it.

In Taiwan, breakfast is a given. And most of the time, breakfast is something you buy either on your way to work or school, or get in the neighborhood. Whether you’re in a small town or big city, you’ll never be too far from a breakfast joint. These specialty no-fuss hole-in-wall eateries are a genre of food establishment that is unique to Taiwan.

These come in a variety of shapes and sizes but look for these green flags:

  • A name that includes the words dou jiang (豆漿) or soymilk
  • No door, just an open kitchen at the storefront where the ordering and the cooking happens. and piles of you tiao waiting to be stuffed into shaobing or fantuan
  • Some tables with plastic stools out front (usually covered so it works rain or shine), often some tables inside too – if you’re lucky there’s AC, but usually it’s just a fan
  • Coated paper boxes secured with rubber bands, often with vaguely floral pastel prints
  • Coated paper cups with plastic sealed tops, often with weird cartoon-y characters
  • Lots of plastic – things will come in plastic bags of every size
  • A menu that includes a lot of iterations on the same few things (and a lot of people ordering variations that aren’t on the menu)
  • Cash only, and prices low enough to pay with only coins
  • Busy in the early morning, but many also stay open into the night as well.

There are also street vendors that specialize in certain breakfast-y items and only open in the morning (usually sold out by like 10-11am), selling things like fan tuan or scallion pancakes or bao zi or specific pastries like xie ke huang.

Rice Balls | Fan Tuan 飯糰

aka Taiwan’s answer to a breakfast burrito

What it is: probably the most portable balanced meal you can get in a bag

Typical ingredients: glutinous rice (white or purple), you tiao (aka fried “crullers,” double fried for extra crunch), pork floss (aka shredded pork jerky), preserved dried radish (aka 菜埔 cai bo spicy is better), pickled mustard green (literally “sour vegetables”)

How to order:


  1. pick your rice (if they have a choice between white or purple)
  2. of the basic ingredients note which ones you don’t want or if you want more or less of something
  3. add an egg (most places do fried eggs, but some places also have braised egg)

Radish Cake | Luo Bo Gao 蘿蔔糕

aka Taiwan’s breakfast iteration of the popular dim sum dish

What it is: a savory pan fried “cake” that is definitely not a cake

Typical ingredients: radish and rice flour made into a “cake” and then sliced and pan fried and topped with soy paste (generally does not include pork or shrimp like the dim sum kind)

How to order:


  1. decide how many orders you want (literally you just order by the serving – there’s really no customization here)
  2. top with soy paste and chili sauce to taste

Egg Pancake | Dan Bing 蛋餅

aka a crepe-like egg roll-up

What it is: a thin crepe-like pancake that is layered with egg and then rolled up

Typical ingredients: flour and corn starch based crepe, eggs, scallions, topped with soy paste; often with customizable toppings and fillings like ham and corn and cheese

How to order:


  1. Depending on where you are, these can come in so many different forms. There are some places that specialize in dan bing and have dozens of different combinations, so you just pick what sounds good.
  2. Top with soy paste and chili sauce to taste

Shao Bing You Tiao 燒餅油條

aka crunchy carbs sandwiched in crispy carbs

What it is: a you tiao (aka fried cruller) sandwiched inside a shao bing (an oven baked pastry pocket)

Typical ingredients: literally flour and oil in two forms

How to order:


  1. You can order the full deal (the shao bing and the you tiao) or you can just get either one.
  2. A popular combo is getting hot sweet soy milk and you tiao on the side for dipping,
  3. Another popular more portable option is shaobing with scallion scrambled egg in more of a sandwich form.

Scallion Pancake | Cong You Bing 蔥油餅

aka Taiwanese “roti” (ha)

What it is: a flakey savory onion-forward pastry flatbread (aka not a pancake)

Typical ingredients: flour, oil, scallions, salt (seriously, that’s it)

How to order:


  1. Order a serving (some places have these giant ones and they cut it into quarters per service)
  2. Decide whether you want and egg on it (you do).
  3. Decide whether you want it sauced up (soy paste and chili paste usually)

Savory Soy Pudding | Xian Dou Jian 鹹豆漿

aka a savory tofu pudding

What it is: warm curdled (aka thickened w vinegar) soy milk “soup” with savory toppings

Typical ingredients: soy milk, pickled vegetables, dried shrimp, crunchy you tiao, scallions, vinegar, soy sauce, chili oil

How to order:


  1. Order a serving and note what toppings you want (or don’t want, they often have default ones)
  2. Handle with care (they fill it to the brim so it’s very easy to spill)

Sandwiches | San Ming Zi 三明治, Hou Bing Jia Dan 厚餅夾蛋

aka literally sandwiches ok it is what it is

What it is: white sandwich bread, usually triple stacked with thin amounts of filling, often pre made and cut (usually with crusts off and cut diagonally into triangles!) though there are some new specialty breakfast sandwich shops that make more involved sandwiches to order. And then there are other “sandwich” style foods, like the thick scallion breads (hou bing) with egg

Typical ingredients: there’s a few different kinds, some have ham and egg and mayo and American cheese, some have cucumber, some have grilled pork

How to order:


  1. The ones that are pre-made are usually already packaged so it’s the perfect grab and go
  2. The made to order sandwiches generally come in a bunch of different combos so you can take your pick. The hou bing or shao bing with eggs are also made to order, since you can generally get it with or without egg.
  3. The hou bing with eggs are usually simple with scallions + egg, but some places also make it fancy with other options.

Dumplings & Baos | Bao Zi 包子 Xiao Long Bao 小籠包 Guo Tie 鍋貼 Man Tou饅頭 Jiu Cai He 韭菜盒

aka things filled in bread or noodle

What it is: flour based wrappers with meat or veg or some combination filling, usually steamed or pan fried

Typical ingredients: pork, scallion, cabbage, mushroom, chives

A few different kinds you can get:


  1. Bao zi (steamed, more bread-y wrapper) is sold individually, usually they have pork ones, pork and vegetable ones, and vegetarian ones (usually cabbage-based). Sometimes sweet ones too (ie: with black sesame filling).
  2. Xiao long bao, aka soup dumplings (pork, steamed, more noodle-y wrapper) are usually sold by the “long” aka the bamboo steamer, and varies from 5-10 dumplings a “long” generally.
  3. Guo tie, aka potstickers (pork, pan fried, more noodle-y wrapper) are usually sold by the dumpling, so you just say how many you want, though some places also have designated orders.
  4. Man tou (steamed, bread) ok these are not dumplings so to speak, since they aren’t filled, but they generally are eaten with other things since they aren’t really flavored, and come in plain and brown sugar options.
  5. Jiu cai he zi, aka panfried chive pastry pockets, are also sold individually, and an easy portable snack.

Breakfast Pastries | Xie Ke Huang 蟹殼黃, Zhi Ma Bing 芝麻酥餅,Mi Tang Su Bing 蜜糖甜酥餅

aka sweet and savory handpie-like baked hors d’oeuvres

What it is: short crust pastry wrapped around sweet or savory fillings w dim sum vibes (as in, you can use this as an appetizer and eat something else too)

Typical ingredients: flour and fat (often lard, so double check if you’re vegetarian), savory fillings include scallion, radish, sweet fillings include black sesame, malt sugar

A few different kinds you can get:


  1. Xie ke huang, which literally translates to crab shell, are small, round two-bite savory pastries filled with scallions. Street vendors sell them individually or by the bag (you just tell them how many you want), while more “sit down” places may have it listed as a dish with 3-4 pastries dim sum style.
  2. Luo bo si bing aka daikon pastry, is a savory pastry filled with shredded daikon, scallion and dried shrimp. These are also round, bigger than a xie ke huang, and pretty dense. Also often sold individually, unless it’s more of a dim sum kind of place.
  3. Zhi Ma Su Bing and Mi Tang Su Bing are two of the most common sweet pastries. These tend to be a little flatter and longer. Whether black sesame paste or malt sugar, the fresh ones are a little warm and gooey, but once cooled there is a little crunch of the sugar which is also very satisfying. These are always sold individually (perfect to grab one in a paper bag ready to eat while you go off on your way).

Drinks | Dou Jiang 豆漿, Mi Jiang 米漿

aka non dairy milks that aren’t pretentious

What it is: soy milk and rice milk

Typical ingredients: soy, sugar, rice, peanuts (avoid rice milk if you have a nut allergy!)

How to order:


  1. Pick sweetened or unsweetened (they also usually have sugar on the side so you can add your own)
  2. Pick hot or cold, note that hot is usually served in a bowl, while cold ones are served in a cup with a straw

While we’re at it, it’s probably worth mentioning that even though Taiwan has a solid selection of generally accepted breakfast foods, nothing is sacred and anything goes. It’s just as acceptable to have braised pork rice for breakfast, or cold noodles, or spaghetti, or cake… anything your heart desires. So wake up hungry, and rest assured you’ll go to bed full. 

see also

a guide to taiwanese convenience

24 hours in taipei