This article seeks to provide a basic glossary of words for people who have no Chinese experience whatsoever. The words and translations below are designed to serve as a survival guide when looking at things in Taiwan which are about food yet have no English on them.
Most people by now know that Chinese consists of four tones which change the meaning of any given sound. This list has a hanyu pinyin transliteration of the Chinese words which DOES NOT contain sound markers. As a visitor, saying the words right under pressure is hard enough, and even students of Chinese often get it wrong. If you speak clearly with the wrong tone the store owner will repeat back the correct words to you to confirm the order. If it sounds like what you just said, you can nod your head, say "yes" in English, or 對 "dui" in Chinese.
餃/餃子 – jiao/ jiaozi - The ubiquitous marker for dumplings.
餛飩 – huntun - Dumplings, which are often called by their Cantonese name - “wonton” in the west.
鍋貼 - guotie - Potstickers, or fried dumplings, usually elongated in shape.
水餃 - shuijiao - Rounded dumplings boiled in water.
小籠包 – xiaolongbao - Smallish steamed dumplings with a thicker shell which traps the meat juices inside the dumpling.
水煎包 – shuijianbao – Water boiled/steamed dumpling with a ball of meat larger than xiaolongbao.
胡椒餅 – hujiaobing – Baked in a brick oven, larger than a shuijianbao with a hard outer shell and juicy interior. Be careful of running juice when eating this.
麵 – mian - The ubiquitous marker for noodles.
湯麵 – tangmian - Noodles with soup.
乾麵 – ganmian - Dry noodles, usually with a sauce or paste for flavoring.
炒麵 – chaomian - fried noodles.
拉麵 – lamian – Ramen, usually similar in appearance to (or actually is) the dry-packed snack noodles.
麵線 - mianxian - Vermicelli usually served in a thick oyster broth with garlic filled intestine.
飯 – fan - The ubiquitous marker for rice.
炒飯 – chaofan - fried rice.
魯肉飯 -luroufan - rice with diced pork and a brown sauce over the top. Usually eaten with a spoon.
雞絲飯 – jisifan – rice with shredded chicken, often with a slightly sweet sauce.
粥 / 稀飯 – zhou / xifan - congee, rice porridge, or watery rice soup.
便當 - biandang - Lunchbox, or set “box” meal containing rice, meat, and vegetables or other variations.
定食 - dingshi - a set meal, usually served in nicer restaurants as a dine-in boxed set.
肉 - rou– the ubiquitous marker for meat, eg 牛肉 肉絲 etc etc.
牛 – niu – beef
羊 – yang – lamb/mutton
雞 – ji – chicken
豬 – zhu – pork
鴨 – ya – duck
鵝 – e – goose
蛇 – she – snake
培根 - peigen - bacon
火腿 - huotui - ham
肉絲 – rousi – shredded meat.
肉鬆 – rousong – a shredded pork product which is dry, flaky, and reddish in color.
空肉 - kongrou - this is pig fat broiled in a soysauce and sugar stew. Best served with rice.
雞排 - jipai - fried chicken breast, with the bone attached at the bottom.
雞塊 - jikuai – chicken nuggets
牛排 – niupai - steak
豬排 - zhupai – pork, often boneless, served generally in sandwiches. Porkchop.
排骨 – paigu - pork, usually fried, one side of which has a bone.
豬腳 - zhujiao - pig foot, especially the knuckles. Famously from PingDong county.
海鮮 – haixian - seafood
魚 – yu – fish
蝦 – xia – shrimp
蛤 – ge – clam
牡蠣 – muli – oyster. Often pronounced “e'a” in Taiwan.
螃蟹 – pangxie – crab
龍蝦 – longxia - lobster
魷魚 – youyu – squid
章魚 – zhangyu - octopus
魚丸 – yuwan - fishballs
鰻魚 - manyu - eel. Especially famous in Tainan.
豆腐 – doufu – tofu
豆乾 – dougan – dried tofu usually served with some variety of brown sauce
油豆腐 – youdoufu – soft tofu, slightly fried or cooked with a oily, sometimes spicy, sauce
臭豆腐 - choudoufu - taiwan's stinky tofu rendition. served fried or boiled.
馬辣豆腐 - maladoufu - spicy hot sauce with tofu
三明治 – sanmingzhi – sandwiches
漢堡 – hanbao – hamburger, or something served on a hamburger bun
蛋餅 – danbing – a crepe with an egg cracked on top, meat can be added
饅頭 – mantou – a steamed bun which can be served with eggs or meat
油條 – youtiao – Taiwan's fried dough, served in a long stick and REALLY oily.
蛋 - dan - egg
醬油 - jiangyou - soy sauce
番茄醬 - fanqiejiang - ketchup
醋 - cu - vinegar
黑/白醋 - hei/baicu - black/white vinegar
辣醬 - lajiang - hot sauce/chilli sauce
花生醬 - huashengjiang - peanut butter
芥末 – jiemo – mustard
咖哩 – gali – curry
紅燒 - hongshao - traditional brown sauce for braising beef. Savory and rich.
三杯 - sanbei - Derived from soy sauce, seasame oil, and rice wine. Usually served with basil.
炸 – zha – one of the ways to say to fry, specifically deep fry.
炒 – chao – another way to say fry, used for fried rice etc, usually in a pan.
薯條 - shutiao - french fries
Fuits and Vegetables:
水果 - shuiguo - fruits
蔬菜 - shucai - vegetables
蘋果 - pingguo - apple
葡萄 - putao - grape
西瓜 - xigua - watermelon
南瓜 - nangua - pumpkin
絲瓜 - sigua - loofa
苦瓜 - kugua - bitter melon
冬瓜 - donggua - winter melon
草莓 - caomei- strawberry
鳳梨 - fengli - pineapple. Called boluo on the mainland
李子 - lizi - plum
梨 - li - pear
荔枝 - lizhi - lychee
芒果- mangguo - mango
木瓜 - mugua - papaya
桃子 - taozi - peach
香蕉 - xiangjiao - banana
椰子 - yezi - coconut
櫻桃 - yingtao - cherry
白香果 - baixiangguo - passion fruit
火龍果 - huolongguo - dragon fruit
菠菜 - bocai - spinach
生菜 - shengcai - lettuce
番茄 - fanqie - tomato
紅蘿蔔 - hongluobo - carrot
黃瓜 - huanggua - cucumber
辣椒 - lajiao - hot pepper
青椒 - tianjiao - sweet pepper also called 甜椒 tianjiao
嘿胡椒 - heihujiao - black pepper
玉米 - yumi - corn
地瓜 - digua - sweet potato / yam can also be called hongshu on the mainland
竹筍 - zhusun - bamboo shoots
蓮花 – lianhua – lotus
木耳 - muer - wood ear
海帶 - haidai - seaweed, also for nori paper
汽水 – qishui – carbonated water (soda pop)
可口可樂 – kekoukele – Coca Cola (use just 可樂 kele for the generic idea of cola)
百事可樂 – baishikele – Pepsi
雪碧 – xuebi - Sprite
果汁 – guozhi – fruit juice (see fruits for things to make juice out of)
咖啡 - kafei - coffee
拿鐵 - natie - latte
茶 - cha - tea
綠 紅 烏龍 (茶) - lv hong wulong (cha) - green, black, oolong, tea
仙草茶 - xiancaocha - Mesona, or grass jelly tea. It's black, medicinal, and not to everyone's taste.
奶茶 - naicha - milk tea (either fresh milk of coffee mate)
冰沙 - bingsha - a watery smoothy of blended ice and whatever flavor. Minimal to no milk or yogurt.
舒跑 - shupao - an Taiwanese energy drink like Pocari Sweat with a sweeter flavor.
啤酒 – pijiu - Beer
葡萄酒 – putaojiu – wine (grape wine)
米酒 – mijiu – rice wine
梅酒 - meijiu – plum wine
紅酒 – hongjiu – red wine
威士忌酒 – weishijijiu – whiskey (using english is ok)
高梁酒 - gaoliangjiu - Gaoliang is a must try, but the sorghum based liquor is rarely a favorite.
粉腸湯 - fenchangtang - rice sausage soup (likely contains some meat for flavor)
豬心湯 - zhuxintang - pig heart soup
豬舌湯 - zhushetang - pig tounge soup
大腸湯 - dachangtang - tripe soup
青菜湯 - qingcaitang - vegetable soup (each day might have a different green veggie)
豆腐湯 - doufutang - boiled tofu soup
蛋花湯 - douhuatang - egg drop soup
骨仔湯 - guzitang - meat bones in soup broth - meat content varies
味噌湯 - weicengtang - miso soup
起司 – qisi – cheese
土司 – tusi – sliced bread (toast)
麵包 – mianbao – bread
冰淇淋 – bingqilin – ice cream
魯蛋/滷蛋 - ludan - a tea boiled egg
皮蛋 - pidan - a tea boiled egg until the white part is black/transparent
鐵蛋 - tiedan - "steel egg" mainly in DanShui township. Harder/drier than a 滷蛋 with more sauce flavors.