Taiwan is undoubtedly popular to foodies for their night markets, quirky cafés, and the unique delights within, however when you’re on-the-go and exploring all the sights this small but marvelous country has to offer, you find that there is little time to shove your way into a night market crowd or wait half an hour for instagrammable, yet expensive food just to satisfy your caveman appetite.
Enter, the convenience store. While memories of late-night junk food runs and ungodly soda slush combinations might surface upon the mere mention of convenience stores, Taiwan has decided to take the word “convenience” to heart. It is not uncommon to find ATM machines, toilets, and blood pressure machines in Taiwan’s most popular convenience store chains (Hi-Life, OK Mart, 7-11, Family Mart), so when it comes to a quick, bang-for-your-buck meal for a caveman in between destinations, these convenience stores do not disappoint. Here are some of our favorite convenience store picks:
1. Rice Rolls
These tasty handfuls of rice come in a multitude of flavors, fillings, and sizes, and are among the cheapest meals you can find in a convenience store. They’re perfect for when you’re craving a small rice meal, but can’t afford to sit down and take out cutlery and find a flat, stable spot to eat. Just chuck any of these rice rolls in your bag and simply unwrap them as you sit back and take in the sights, or as you’re shuffling between two sightseeing spots.
No kidding, Taiwanese convenience stores have some pretty tasty eggs, which also makes sense health-wise as they are packed with nutrients that every caveman needs to fuel his daily adventures.
There are tea eggs, which you can find bobbing and simmering in a hot marinade that you could smell from about a block away, as well as vacuum-sealed, pre-peeled soy eggs with silky-smooth yolks that are perfect for putting in your bag without having to worry about egg shells and marinade getting all over the place (or if you just can’t trouble yourself to peel an egg on the go).
3. Instant noodles
Ah, a beloved convenience store (and college dorm) staple. It doesn’t get any simpler than this: pick a pack, fill it with hot water, and wait for the satisfying deliciousness. What raises the stakes here is that there are dozens of instant noodles to choose from: you have your classic flavors like chicken, beef, or kimchi, but you’ll be bound to find more exotic flavors such as spicy beef short rib, as well as collaborations with actual ramen restaurants that will give you restaurant-quality ramen at a fraction of the cost and time it takes to serve.
4. Packed Meals
We guarantee that won’t ever have the same sad, microwaved meal in any Taiwanese convenience store. Choices range from rice meals with meats and vegetables, to pasta dishes, to instant congees for the under-the-weather traveler, to small side dishes such as steamed savory custards. You can definitely put together a unique meal every time, at any time. One of our favorites is this glorious cheesy confection with rice and breaded pork.
There are just some days when you want nothing more than mouthful after mouthful of meaty dumplings. Treat yo’self with dumplings of all shapes, sizes, and flavors from any Taiwanese convenience stores!
You can also have delicious soup dumplings at any Taiwanese convenience store in a quarter of the time it takes to stand in line for a table at Din Tai Fung. You get to fulfill your soup dumpling craving and have time to go exploring, which is always a win in our book.
6. ALL THE DRINKS
Taiwan is also known as the birthplace of milk tea, so for those who need to have their milk-tea fix on a daily basis, a Taiwanese convenience store is heaven. The packaging of these drinks are mad aesthetic goals too.
You would be hard-pressed to find sodas here, but don’t fret–there are so many drink varieties, you will forget about sodas. There are yogurt drinks, a variety of flavored milk, chocolate and coffee drinks, sweet teas, sugar-free teas, apple cider, unusual juices…we could go on, but it’s up to you to quench your thirst with all these refreshing possibilities. Here are some of the drinks that we tried, and the meals we paired them with:
With the sheer variety of food items, every trip into any Taiwanese convenience store will be a new adventure on its own every time.
Bonus pick: Yams
And you thought only your grandma boiled yams. Now you can access that mid-afternoon warmth, comfort, and fibrous goodness any time. They also make for pretty good hand warmers in the cold.
What are your favorite convenience store picks from your travels? Tell us in the comments!
Article cover courtesy of Charline Jao
Header image courtesy of GoCurryCracker