13 popular Taiwan snacks to bring back to Singapore

Make space in your luggage for these goodies

13 popular Taiwan snacks to bring back to Singapore
13 popular Taiwan snacks to bring back to Singapore
14 May 2018

13 popular Taiwan snacks to bring back to Singapore

So you've eaten your way through Taiwan and possibly gained a KG or two along the way -- understandable, in the land of mouthwatering lu rou fan, beef noodles, and the original ombre bubble tea -- but now it's time to pack up and head back to the Little Red Dot. Don't leave without buying these 13 popular Taiwan snacks for yourself and your loved ones. From delicate cakes and sweets to a rather pungent (but game-changing) condiment and the slam-dunk souvenir that would please any boss, we've got you covered. 

Photos: Instagram/@parishayeh, Jenny Tai, tai-yangtang.com

Suncake
Suncake
14 May 2018

Suncake

Suncake, or tai yang bing, is to Taiwan what pandan cake is to Singapore. A traditional Taiwanese dessert that originated in Taichung, Taiwan, suncake is a flat and round pastry shaped like the sun, filled with soft, sticky maltose (condensed malt sugar), which bears a similar texture to caramel. The outside of the pastry is encased with delicate, paper-thin layers of dough that flake off with each bite. The dryness of these flakes, which taste faintly of fragrant butter, contrasts deliciously with the chewy, moist malt sugar sitting on the inside of the pastry. Its honey-sweetness is comforting and pairs well with a cup of tea.  

Some stores in Taiwan are able to survive by making suncakes for a living, so you can imagine how popular this dessert is. In the city of Taichung, it's not uncommon to see tai yang bing storefronts with traditional red lettering, all lined up in a row. Tip: Eat your suncake on a napkin or plate to prevent your lap from being showered with flakes. Also, since these pastries are quite fragile, you might want to hand carry them back home.  

Bring them back for: Any relatives who love xiang bing, because suncake is basically a softer and sweeter version of xiang bing without the salty shallots. 

Photo: tai-yangtang.com

Beef and pork jerky
Beef and pork jerky
14 May 2018

Beef and pork jerky

Taiwanese beef and pork jerky are different than American jerky and Singapore bak kwa. For one thing, it feels less "processed" because of the meat's thickness and cut (some even contain strips of tendon). Imagine braised Sichuan sliced beef, in jerky form, with double the flavour. Spice-lovers will enjoy the jerky's fragrant, nose-prickling chilli and pepper flavours blended with Chinese sauces. Some jerky strips are also laced with Taiwan's kaoliang liquor.

Don't be fooled by how "dry" the exterior looks; the meat is tender, moist and juicy with a bite. You can find packets of beef and pork jerky in the basement levels of big department stores in Taiwan, but one of our favourite brands is Kow Kun, established in 1973. 

Bring them back for: Anyone with reasonably strong teeth, because even the most tender jerky requires some tearing into. 

Photo: Kow Kun Food

Sachima (caramelised fritter cake)
Sachima (caramelised fritter cake)
14 May 2018

Sachima (caramelised fritter cake)

Think of the Asian version of Rice Krispies treats, and you've got sachima. The texture is sublime. It's crispy on the outside, fluffy and "QQ" on the inside. Strands of puffed fried batter are stuck together and coated in caramelised sugar, dusted with white sesame seeds and emitting a sweet, eggy aroma. There are different variations, with taro or brown sugar flavours and raisins, but we recommend going with the original. Why veer away from the time-tested recipes of old-school snacks?

Yes, you can find sachima in Singapore on RedMart and Qoo10, but they're imported from Taiwan anyway and sold cheaper and fresher there. Although you can buy them in Carrefour and generic supermarkets in Taiwan, we recommend getting the best tasting sachima from specialty bakery gift shops (look for places that sell wedding gift box pastries.) Freshly baked sachima can't be beat. 

Bring them back for: Everyone, including yourself, as a light and fluffy treat.

Photo: Jenny Tai

Fermented beancurd cubes
Fermented beancurd cubes
14 May 2018

Fermented beancurd cubes

We know that it doesn't sound great, but fermented beancurd packs so much flavour that it's one of our favourite secret ingredients. It adds a kick to any dish, and is an excellent seasoning for kang kong and slow-cooked ribs. Making soya sauce chicken wings? Crush several cubes of fermented beancurd in the marinade for a spicy, multidimensional taste. Feel free to use a small clump of it in stir fry, fried rice, and even instant noodles. The easiest way to enjoy fermented beancurd, as the Taiwanese typically do, is as a condiment with porridge. 

In Taiwan's supermarkets, fermented beancurd brands abound, and while most are bathed in chilli, we were delighted to come across one that's fermented in pineapple, which tastes less salty and pungent. 

Bring them back for: Any loved ones who enjoy cooking and experimenting with different flavours.

Photo: Jenny Tai

Nougats
Nougats
14 May 2018

Nougats

Sugar & Spice French nougats are a popular souvenir from Taiwan. Nutty, chewy, milky and sweet, these nougats come in assorted flavours including the creamy original, matcha, toffee and strawberry (with freeze dried strawberry chunks instead of the usual crunchy California almond slivers).

They use natural, unsalted butter from the Normandy region of France which sounds pretty fancy, but which may also be the reason why their nougats have that delectable, refreshing milky fragrance and creaminess. Who knows? All we can say is, we could easily eat a handful of these nougats in one sitting. Bonus points for not containing any additives and preservatives, and for being individually wrapped.

Bring them back for: Your boss or anyone else you want to impress, because these tasty babies come in a decorative gift box that says "Legit." 

Photo: Facebook/Sugar & Spice

Wei Li Men instant noodles
Wei Li Men instant noodles
14 May 2018

Wei Li Men instant noodles

With multitudes of Taiwanese instant noodles to choose from, Wei Li Men is a must-try, especially if you like zha jiang mian (black soybean sauce noodles). It comes in two bowls stacked together -- one for the noodles, which are eaten dry, and one for the soup. This genius combination of zha jiang mian and light, onion-garlicky soup really hits the spot.

The zha jiang sauce is so delicious that Wei Li also sells it in jars, widely available in Taiwan's supermarkets. For a healthier 10-minute meal at home, we like to scoop a mound of the sauce and mix it with plain pot-boiled Asian noodles, then toss some julienned raw cucumbers for added crunch. 

Still, the ease of conveniently packaged instant noodles can't be topped. Blame our penchant for instant gratification. 

Bring them back for: Yourself. For others, you usually want to pick something more "gift-worthy" or highly regarded than cheapo instant noodles, no matter how bomb the instant noodles are. That said, you know the one or two friends who you're 100% comfortable around ("sister-/brother-from-another-mother" type of close)? Feel free to sneak them a pack especially if they live alone. 

Photo: Jenny Tai

Beef instant noodles with actual tender beef chunks
Beef instant noodles with actual tender beef chunks
14 May 2018

Beef instant noodles with actual tender beef chunks

We're not talking about the shrivelled tiny cubes of dehydrated mystery meat you might find in other instant noodles. Emulating Taiwan's famous beef noodles, these instant noodles are thicker and come with a packet of cooked, marinated beef chunks that actually taste like real beef. The hearty hong shao beef broth is pretty spot-on with all the spices. When you're back in Singapore and craving a bowl of Taiwanese beef noodles, this might tide you over. 

Bring them back for: Yourself and those aforementioned BFFs. 

Photo: Jenny Tai

Egg rolls
Egg rolls
14 May 2018

Egg rolls

These are not the typical nyonya coconut egg rolls or Chinese New Year "love letters" we eat in Singapore. Love letters shatter into crispy thin shards when you bite into them; Taiwanese egg rolls crumble. Thicker, longer, with a more wholesome taste and feel, Taiwanese egg rolls are available in flavours such as sesame (our favourite because of its fragrance), butter, coffee, and original. We also like that they're not too sweet. In Singapore, the closest we have found is Hong Kong Wing Wa Butter Egg Rolls at Tangs, selling for S$18.80 for a gift box of 20 egg rolls. But in Taiwan, you can buy 20 I Mei egg rolls for S$6.05. Granted, it doesn't come in a fancy gift box, but it doesn't fall short on taste and crunchiness. 

Bring them back for: Yourself when need a mid-day pick-me-up, because even the slowest afternoon slumps are more bearable when you treat yourself to a Taiwan-style egg roll while sipping coffee. 

Photo: Jenny Tai

Mung bean cake
Mung bean cake
14 May 2018

Mung bean cake

If you like ang ku kueh mung bean fillings, you will love Taiwanese mung bean cake -- which is essentially mung bean paste in bite-sized cake form. Dense, moist and extremely fine, the richly flavoured mung bean paste instantly dissolves and melts in your mouth. That's how smooth it is. Some cakes are made purely of mung bean paste while others have a mung bean outer shell with a filling of red bean, dates, or lotus seed paste. They are usually shaped in a similar mould as moon cakes.

Green beans have cooling properties, which is why mung bean cake is a perfect dessert to bring back to sunny Singapore. If you like, you can enjoy them chilled. 

Bring them back for: Anyone who likes ang ku kueh, moon cake, or green bean soup. It will definitely appeal to those who favour old-school desserts.

Photos: Instagram/@3sselect, @brezza_c

Taiwan tea
Taiwan tea
14 May 2018

Taiwan tea

Oolong tea, Oriental Beauty, Ruby Red #18, sweet osthmanthus green tea, jin xuan tea, tie guan ying--take your pick. If you go to Taiwan without bringing back some tea, you’re missing out. Going to Sun Moon Lake? Get Assam black tea. Shopping at Dihua street in Taipei? Look out for pu-er tea. Headed to Alishan for some breathtaking mountain scenery? Buy Alishan high mountain tea.

To explore quality tea of different varieties and price range, check out Lin Mao Sen Tea Co and Wistaria Tea House in Taipei. Their knowledgeable staff speak English too. If you're frankly just not a die-hard tea person but you still want excellent tea (in pyramid tea bags no less), we recommend AWAS tea. 

Bring them back for: Your in-laws.

Photo: Instagram/@teamind2005

I-Mei Gummy Choco Ball
I-Mei Gummy Choco Ball
14 May 2018

I-Mei Gummy Choco Ball

First of all, let us preface by saying that Taiwan's convenience stores are at a whole 'nother level. You can buy packed meals such as braised meat rice (lu rou fan), Taiwanese bento (bian dang), curry rice and noodles, have it heated up on the spot for you, and then dine in while using free wifi. That's not all. You can pay your bills, use the printer and photocopying machine, and buy tickets for concerts and trains. But hands down, the best thing about Taiwan's convenience stores is its staggering selection of snacks. 

We could wax poetic about all the must-try Taiwanese 7-11 goodies, but we'll simply start with one of our favourites: I-Mei Gummy Choco Balls. I-Mei is a household name in Taiwan--having started as a traditional confectionary in 1937 and expanded to one of the biggest food companies in the country--and these delicious chocolate "QQ" balls are just one of the best loved snacks from them. The chocolate-covered gummies come in flavours such as grape (our favourite), mango and strawberry, while the chocolate-covered almonds are similar to Meiji's, but cheaper and no less addictive. 

Bring them back for: Kids and adults alike. They make nice airplane snacks too, so tuck one into your bag for a mid-flight treat. 

Photo: Jenny Tai

Milk caramel candy
Milk caramel candy
14 May 2018

Milk caramel candy

There are several different brands of milk caramel candy, including I-Mei (Taiwanese brand) and Morinaga (Japanese brand made in Taiwan), available in convenience stores and supermarkets all over the island. What we like about the Morinaga brand is its small, iconic yellow rectangular box with a slide-out tray holding 12 individually wrapped cubes of caramel. In Taiwan, everyone and their mums probably have nostalgic memories of eating these sweets growing up. They are deliciously creamy, soft (yet slightly firm) and stick-to-your-teeth chewy. We're willing to bet that even those who aren't crazy about milky candies would fall under its spell. It's been a best selling snack since 1913 -- need we say more? 

While bags of Morinaga caramels can be found in Singapore, we have not come across them in the nifty palm-sized, slide-out rectangular boxes. If you're a sucker for brilliant packaging like us, pack a few boxes in your suitcase.

Bring them back for: Fans of White Rabbit Creamy Candy. Also, anyone who you need to do some last minute shopping for, because you could easily pop into a 7-11 to nab these treats before your flight. 

Photo: Jenny Tai

KiKi noodles
KiKi noodles
14 May 2018

KiKi noodles

By now you would have probably heard about Taiwan's popular KiKi noodles which, to many Singaporeans' delight, became available here this year in two flavours, Aromatic Scallion and Sichuan Pepper. The delightfully chewy "QQ" noodles, which are sun-dried instead of fried, feel like a healthier alternative to instant noodles, while the sauce is wonderfully robust and flavourful.

In Singapore, KiKi noodles retail for a steep S$13.70 for a packet of five, while in Taiwan they are about S$10. Not a huge price difference, but still cheaper and available in more flavours including Light Vinegar and Spicy Vinegar. 

Bring them back for: Your super busy roommate or close colleagues, or yourself for those nights when you're too tired to feed yourself but still have to. 

Photo: Jenny Tai

Bonus: Chips
Bonus: Chips
14 May 2018

Bonus: Chips

This is one of those "suitcase stuffer" snacks, where you feel obligated to stuff something in that awkward empty space between your clothes and shoes and toiletries. Got to take full advantage of luggage room, right? Simply park yourself at any of the chips aisles in supermarkets and convenience stores, and have a go at the giddily large selection of choices. 

Options range from the Taiwanese classic Pea Crackers (which taste so much better than it sounds) to the more unconventional Lonely God "Taiwanese Oyster Omelette Flavour." One of our favourite finds is the Vegetable Cracker (a most unfortunate name, printed on an unsightly green bag with a uniform-wearing parrot on it), which against all odds, is extremely appetising. Potato chips aside, there are also taro chips and savoury or brown sugar puffed barley (akin to popcorn, without the teeth-cracking kernels). 

Bring them back for: Any pesky siblings who always mooch off your movie snacks stash. 

Photo: Jenny Tai 

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