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Breakfast in Taiwan

By Tina Schumacher

The English saying “Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, supper like a pauper” has a Taiwanese equivalent: “早頓食飽,中晝頓食巧,暗頓半枵飽”. Taiwan was primarily an agricultural society not too long ago and people had to eat a big breakfast to have enough energy for farming. This helped develop a diverse breakfast cuisine in Taiwan. Rice used to be the main food staple but we now have a diverse set of options for the modern Taiwanese breakfast.

Taiwan was a Japanese colony for a half century (1895-1945) and was deeply influenced by Japanese culture. The Japanese did not only bring Japanese food, but also coffee, milk, bread, and butter to Taiwan. The Japanese were forced out of Taiwan after World War II but their food culture stuck around and Taiwanese have sushi, rice balls, and congee with side dishes for breakfast. Nowadays, we use glutinous rice, glutinous purple rice, or multigrain rice, to fill up with dried daikon (蘿蔔乾; Hakka), braised egg (滷蛋; Taiwanese), dried shredded pork (肉鬆) and fried bread stick (油條; Northern China). If you go to one of the myriad of convenience stores (7-11, FamilyMart, etc), you’ll find rice balls and sushi all day long.

Glutinous Rice Ball wrapped with nori (海苔飯糰)

Glutinous Purple Rice Ball filled with Dried Daikon, Braised Egg, Dried Shredded Pork and Fried Bread Stick (紫米飯糰)

In 1949, Mao defeated Chiang Kai-Shek during the Chinese Civil War and Chiang Kai-Shek fled to Taiwan. A half million other Chinese followed him to Taiwan. They also brought dietetic cultures from Chinese border areas, inland areas, and northern areas to Taiwan. The Mainland Chinese (followers) in Taiwan started to sell items such as soybean milk (豆漿), rice & peanut milk (米漿), clay oven rolls (燒餅), fried bread stick (油條), pan-fried leek dumplings (韭菜盒子), steamed buns (饅頭), Cantonese porridge (廣東粥), steam-fried buns (水煎包), green onion pancake (蔥油餅), and Chinese egg wraps (中式蛋餅).


Clay Oven Roll with Fried Bread Stick (燒餅油條)



Steam-Fried Buns (水煎包)


Cantonese Porridge (廣東粥)



Deep-Fried Green Onion Pancake with egg (炸蛋餅)

(adapted from Pan-Fried Green Onion Pancake)

In 1984, McDonald’s came to Taipei to (among other factors) serve the American military as the US had bases in Taiwan during the Cold War (1951-1979). Americans brought burgers, sandwiches, and french fries to Taiwan and now American fast food chain stores are ubiquitous. Taiwanese also created their own western-style breakfast chain stores in the mold of McDonald’s. You can order daikon rice cake, Taiwanese egg crêpe, steam buns, milk tea, and soy milk in addition to hamburgers, sandwiches, and fries. In these Taiwanese sandwich shops we see the union of Western and Eastern breakfast specialties.


Sandwich and Coffee (三明治和咖啡)



Daikon Rice Cake (蘿蔔糕)



Taiwanese Egg Crêpe (台式軟Q蛋餅)

(adapted from Chinese Egg Wrap)


Oh! Do not forget Taiwanese Street Food! They play a very important part of Taiwanese dietetic culture. You shouldn’t miss all the street foods in small shops when you visit Taiwan. Those street food shops are generally family-owned and often stationed right outside the family’s front gate/rolling door. Some open as early as 6:00 am, it depends on where you are and what you can find. You can find most street foods stalls selling breakfast, but I do not think I will eat “Stinky Tofu” (臭豆腐) for breakfast. Haha!


Vermicelli (Wide) Soup with Daikon Cake (米粉湯)



Steamed Rice Cake in the Bowl (碗粿)



Vermicelli (Thin) Soup with Fish Ball (魚丸米粉湯)



ToHua (豆花)

(I always say this is ToFu’s younger sister when I explain to the foreigners.)



Pork Blood Cake Soup (豬血湯)



Red Vermicelli with Oysters and Intestine (蚵仔大腸麵線)



Pork Thick Noodle Soup (肉羹麵)


If you do not think these are enough choices most 4-5 star hotel offer a continental breakfast along with a combined Western and Eastern breakfast buffet. I know the Landis Taipei Hotel has a very good breakfast. If you stay there, you shouldn’t miss it.

What kind of breakfast do you want when you visit Taiwan? You name it… you can find it!


The original blog was first published here

Tina Schumacher began her culinary endeavors and photographic career shortly after migrating to the USA in 2005. Tina’s interest in Asian “food” was derived from necessity, as she was born and raised in Taiwan, where a multitude of culinary delights are found on street corners, family restaurants, and night markets. In the States, she found it hard to find high quality Asian food that hadn’t been “Americanized”. Tina’s photographic career morphed from personal photos to professional level after completing more than 15 college level courses in digital photography to supplement her own skills. She utilized her photos to document over 600 culinary delights, and continues to add to the fold weekly. Tina enjoys water skiing, snow skiing, and travel, when not working or practicing her favorite culinary skills.

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