Food in Taiwan is an essential part of Taiwanese culture and if you really want to get to the heart of this mysterious country, you must be prepared to dig in. Happily, there are many engaging and thrilling ways to experience food in Taiwan. From visiting a traditional tea house to indulging in the best street food that the country has to offer, you’ll never get hungry or thirsty in this Asian gem.

Here are just a few of the quintessential Taiwanese culinary experiences to have:

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Experience Taiwan’s Largest Night Market

Night markets are Taiwan food staples. And ground zero is Taipei. There, along the Keelung River, you’ll find the Shilin Night Market housed in the old Shilin Market building where the food court can be found. Around its periphery, you’ll find stalls and stands from which local vendors hawk their wares. The best part is that you can do all the shopping and imbibing after the sun goes down for a late night adventure!

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The National Palace Museum’s Silk Palace

One can’t-miss attraction in Taipei is the National Palace Museum. A few hours there are sure to wear you out, though; what better way to rejuvenate yourself than with a feast at the on-site Silk Palace? This sumptuously designed restaurant was designed by renowned Taiwanese architect Yao Ren-xi and interior designer Hashimoto Yukio. Vast expanses of glass - including “cracked-ice” style glass - will make you feel like you’re inside an exquisite artifact. Better still, the food is presented in a truly elegant way and includes all of the country’s most celebrated dishes.

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Have a Street Food Adventure

For many, Taiwanese cuisine is exemplified by its street food. On the surface, “street food” probably doesn’t sound all that appealing; but when you wander through Tainan, the capital of Taiwanese street food, you’ll be singing a different tune. Every imaginable type of Taiwanese food can be found here, from meats sticks to tofu pudding. The sheer volume of options is truly staggering; it’s one place that every visitor to Taiwan should experience.

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Try a Traditional Kaseki-Style Meal

Nestled in the shadow of a mountain about 15 miles outside of Taipei is the Shi-Yang Culture Restaurant. The trip out of the city is well worth it, since it offers up some of the most tempting traditional, multi-course Japanese-style kaseki cuisine in the region. Beyond the food, the ambiance of the restaurant - which includes butterfly gardens and is comprised of several small houses - is absolutely unbeatable.

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Sip Tea at a Maokong Tea House

Tea is an integral part of the culture of Taiwan. Just outside Taipei, the suburb of Maokong is awash in traditional Taiwanese tea houses. For the short journey out of the urban paradise, you’ll be rewarded with exceptional views of the city as you relax in a serene and blissful tea house. The vistas from this area, situated at the edge of a basin, cannot be explained adequately in words; it is a true adventure that must be experienced.

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Indulge in an Aboriginal Feast

In the language of Taiwanese indigenous people, the word “taroko” means “beautiful and magnificent” and the Taroko Gorge is a lush part of the country well deserving of a visit. While you’re there, stop in a local indigenous restaurant like the Leader Village Taroko. There, native tribal people will serve up a sumptuous feast that include mountain vegetables, rice that’s been steamed in bamboo tubes and wild pig marinated in an exotic barbecue sauce.

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Discover Taiwan’s Best Cuisine

You can try a bit of everything at the A-Xia Restaurant in Tainan. Traditional food is served banquet-style with immense portions that are encouraged to be shared. This is a nice place to visit after the hustle and bustle of the street vendors to sample a variety of local delicacies without breaking the bank.

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Dig Into Seafood on Cijin Island

Splurge on a brief ferry ride across the Kaohsiung harbor to get to Cijin Island. Best known for its refreshing ocean breezes and ubiquitous rickshaws, it’s also a prime place to enjoy some truly delectable Taiwanese seafood. You choose the fish and watch as it’s prepared fresh in front of your eyes.

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Discover the Joys of Xiaolongbao

In Taiwanese, “xiaolongbao” literally means “small steaming basket bun.” Ask any local resident, though, and their eyes will light up at the mention of this popular culinary tradition of dumplings served in bamboo baskets. If you only have time to try it once, do so at the highly-regarded Din Tai Fung restaurant in Taipei for the real deal.