Last week we discussed ways to eat gluten free in Taiwanese restaurants. This week, we’ll move onto snacks and street food.
Barbecue, mentioned in last week’s article bears mentioning here as well, since meat on a stick is found everywhere. The same rules apply on the street as in a sit-down restaurant. Just say I am allergic to soy sauce (我對醬油過敏 / Wǒ duì jiàngyóu guòmǐn), perhaps adding Don’t add sauce (不要加醬Bùyào jiā jiàng), as wheat is sometimes used as a thickening agent for sauces. (Chicken ass on a stick is surprisingly tasty, and unless it’s been marinated in soy sauce, wheat free.)
Stinky Tofu / 臭豆腐 / Chòu dòufu
The king of Taiwanese night market foods, this dish made from a block of fermented tofu that’s been chopped up, deep fried to a golden brown and served with hot sauce and pickled cabbage is admittedly not everyone’s cup of tea. But it is gluten free, and as a Westerner you’ll gain instant Taiwan street cred for eating it.
Fried Sweet Potato Balls / 地瓜球 /Digua qiú
Fried balls of dough that are gluten free? It seems counter-intuitive, but the ones we’ve had at every Taiwanese night market we’ve visited are made from wheat free sweet potato flour. Some vendors sell a version that has a sweet pudding center.
Black Sugar Cake / 黑糖糕 / Hēitáng gāo
Another we can’t believe it’s not wheat dish, heitong gao is made of sticky rice flour, not wheat flour. As with any food, there may be local variants made with wheat flour (though we’ve yet to encounter any), so just to be on the safe side, let the vendor know that you are allergic to wheat with the phrase Wǒ duì xiǎomài guòmǐn (我對小麥過敏). If their version doesn’t use sticky rice flour, they’ll let you know.
Pearl Milk Tea / 珍珠奶茶 / Zhēnzhū nǎichá
AKA bubble tea, this Invented in Taiwan beverage is now popular worldwide. The bubbles are made from tapioca and have a chewy texture that so many gluten free treats try (and fail) to emulate. Served cold or warm, the chewy pearls that make pearl milk tea have a glutinous texture but are absolutely gluten free.
(Read more: Bubble Milk Tea and Beyond in Taiwan (part one))
Grass Jelly Soup / 艾玉果凍 / Ài yù guǒdòng
AKA grass jelly soup, this sweet drink is made from local seeds not easily found outside east Asia and creates a jelly like texture which is often served with lime. It’s found in any night market, and is especially refreshing on a warm evening.
Glutinous Rice Dumplings 粽子/ Zòngzi
Though served throughout the year, these dumplings are especially popular during the Dragon Boat Festival. They’re usually filled with either pork, salted duck egg yolk, dried mushrooms and more. But despite having glutinous in their name, they’re gluten free.
Mochi / 麻糬 / Máshǔ
Japanese rice cakes made from sticky rice flour. While you can find prepackaged versions in the grocery store the best kind are made fresh The balls have a variety of centers ranging from red bean to peanut paste. (Please note: While mochi are wheat free, they are so glutinous as to be considered a choking hazard. Consume with caution!)
Pudding / 布丁/ Bùdīng
This yellow pudding with caramel is easily found in convenience stores, supermarkets, and in the refrigerator cases of most bakeries. Street vendors around the island often sell their own homemade versions.
Spiral Potato Chips
No Chinese translation necessarily for this one, you’ll know it when you see it: It’s exactly what it sounds like, a whole potato cut into a single spiral and deep fried on a stick. Though only found at certain night markets (as of this writing there’s a lady selling them in Tamsui and another in Shilin), these spiral chips are fun to eat, tasty, and definitely gluten free. You can get them spiced in a number of flavors from cheesy to seaweed. Can’t decide how to spice it? Get half and half for an interesting palette experience
Quick Language Key
I am allergic to wheat
我對小麥過敏/ Wǒ duì xiǎomài guòmǐn
I am allergic to soy sauce
我對醬油過敏 / Wǒ duì jiàngyóu guòmǐn
Don’t add sauce (any sauce)
不要加醬Bùyào jiā jiàng
Don’t add soy sauce
不要加醬油 / Bùyào jiā jiàngyóu
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