You may not immediately think of Taiwan when it comes to sweets and desserts, but believe us, you should! Tropical fruits and rich spices play a key part in creating delicious Taiwanese desserts. Different from European delicacies, the influence of Chinese food means that Taiwan’s desserts are like no other. Let’s take a look at some of the must-try sweet treats from this underrated nation!
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Taiwanese Sweets And Desserts To Eat In Taiwan
Due to Taiwan’s time under Japanese rule and heavy Chinese influence, the country’s desserts are a unique and delicious way to explore the gastronomical scene. Many Taiwanese cakes and desserts are made for a warmer climate. They feature plenty of sugar added to replenish and satisfy. Ingredients like tofu, grass jelly, and condensed milk are commonly used to create tasty and sometimes unusual textures and flavors – like nothing you’ve ever tried before!
While the best way to immerse yourself in a new culture is through the food, sometimes it can be overwhelming to decide where to start! Here is a list of 9 delicious Taiwanese desserts to sample during your trip.
Taiwanese Pineapple Cake
Known as pineapple shortcake, Taiwanese pineapple cake is one dessert you definitely shouldn’t miss! The sweet acidity of the pineapple perfectly offsets the sugary flavor of the shortbread and makes for the perfect mid-afternoon snack. Taiwanese pineapple cake may be more popular in the north, but you can find it in bakeries and markets all around the country. If you don’t get a chance to try it, you can also make your own at home using pineapple slices. Be warned – it’s highly addictive!
Taiwanese Ice Cream
Though the name brings to mind rich, creamy cold treats served in cones, Taiwanese ice cream is far different from its Western counterpart! Originating in mainland China, this dairy-free Taiwanese food is made using a sugar syrup heated over an open flame, which is then combined with ingredients like peanuts and coconut cream to give it its delicious creamy texture. The mix is poured onto a long, flat surface and scraped into something resembling rolls or shavings and often comes topped with fruit or chocolate syrups. Luckily for you, this Taiwanese dessert is found everywhere, from street markets to restaurants in cities and towns.
Red Bean Cakes
For a more unusual flavor experience, try red bean cakes! These sticky, glutinous cakes are enjoyed across the country, and most vendors stick to the traditional Chinese recipe. A rice-based batter is filled with a grainy, sugary red bean paste, then fried or steamed and served piping hot! Sometimes known as wheel cakes, red bean cakes are most commonly found in Taiwanese night markets, where they sit side by side with mochi and taro cakes and buns.
Squidgy (Taiwanese Stuffed Pancakes)
Many Taiwanese desserts can be eaten sweet or savory, and squidgy, or Taiwanese stuffed pancakes, are no exception! These versatile Taiwanese pancakes are made from a simple flour-based batter filled with various ingredients like fruit, chocolate, and nuts. However, it’s pretty common to find variations with scallions, mushrooms, or even pulled meats! Squidgy is an easy, on-the-go breakfast for many Taiwanese natives, which is why you’ll see plenty of street vendors peddling the hot, fresh treats in markets during the week.
Douhua, sometimes known as douhufua, is a soft tofu pudding commonly found in mainland China. Because of tofu’s mild flavor, douhua can be eaten sweet, savory, or spicy – however, it has to be said that most Taiwanese locals prefer the sweetened version! This versatile dessert has a similar texture to a liquid pannacotta and is often flavored with tropical fruits like mango and pineapple, or even honey. Keep an eye out for douhua at Taiwanese night markets or in cafés and restaurants in larger cities – every venue has its spin on the dessert, so no two versions are the same!
Many Taiwanese desserts have roots in Chinese cuisine, with glutinous rice and warming broths the cornerstones of the sweet foods. Tang yuan, a type of rice ball served in a sweet liquid, is a typical dessert served around Chinese New Year. Chewy, slippery, and decadent, these delicious Taiwanese foods are the height of comfort and hold special meaning for locals who associate them with family and celebration. Bite through the glutinous rice dough, and you’ll find a sweet, nutty filling that melts in the mouth.
Xian Cao (Grass Jelly)
Xian Cao, also known as grass jelly, is a minty, jelly-like Taiwanese dessert perfect for hot days! Grass jelly is commonly enjoyed around Southeast Asia, with nations like Thailand, China, and the Philippines having their own variations. This traditional Taiwanese drink is usually served with shaved ice or added to boba, and can also be melted and served with toppings like taro balls and tapioca. While the slightly bitter taste isn’t for everyone, it is undoubtedly refreshing – keep an eye out at Taiwanese night markets and in inner-city cafes during your visit!
Due to the warm climate in Taiwan, many traditional desserts are served cold. Bao Bing was first introduced to the country during the Japanese occupation. It’s a shaved ice dessert found across Taiwan and is a great way to cool down during summer. Drenched in condensed milk and covered with toppings like chopped nuts, fresh fruit, and adzuki beans, Bao Bing is a favorite with locals and visitors and can be found at any Taiwanese market. Grab yourself a cup of this sticky-sweet treat on a hot afternoon, then enjoy it as you wander through the winding city streets. Bao Bing can also be topped with ice cream if you feel like a double dose of sugar – now that’s sweet!
Sun Cakes (Taiyang Bing)
Originating in the city of Taichung, Taiwan, sun cakes are as addictive as they are sweet – you won’t be able to stop at one!
Flaky golden pastry in the shape of the sun is filled with chewy maltose syrup. It’s then packaged and sold at specialty stores for tourists and locals during particular times of the year. Many Taiwanese natives associate these golden desserts with childhood memories. This is part of the reason for their popularity! Want to track them down? Look for specialty bakeries with golden suns on their signs. A word of advice, it’s best to get in quick. Some of the best bakeries, like the famous Lavender Bakery in Taichung, can have lines of hungry customers snaking out the door!
Sweet Taiwanese Desserts for all occasions!
Whether you prefer fruity, starchy, or syrupy flavors, there is a Taiwan dessert for you! While many of these desserts make not be what you’re used to, take a walk on the wild side and try something new during your visit.
FAQs – Taiwanese Desserts
Some of the most famous desserts from Taiwan include tofu pudding, Taiwanese shaved iced, and Oden. These are just some of the many popular desserts you will find across Taiwan.
Sun cakes are very popular in Taiwan. They are traditionally enjoyed with a pot of Chinese tea. Many people like to dip the sun cake into a warm glass of almond milk.