An introduction to the Taipei culinary experience
Heavily influenced by the Chinese, Dutch, Japanese, Portuguese and Spanish colonies of the past, Taiwan’s food scene is up there with the best in Asia. Way more than just beef noodles (not that we’re down talking beef noodles), the country’s incredible street food offerings are making Taiwan, and Taipei in particular, an increasingly popular destination with foodies. From affordable street eats to Michelin-recognized restaurants, Taipei is serving up quality food for any budget.
Ten foods to try in Taipei
As a first-time visitor to the Taiwanese capital, the vast selection of foods on offer may seem a bit daunting. Sure, you’ve probably heard of noodles, soup dumplings and bubble tea, but you have no idea what are the best types, how to order them properly, or where to get them. Well, there’s no need to worry, Taiwan Scene’s got your back. Here are ten must-try foods in Taipei and where to get them. (Read also: 8 Taiwanese foods that you don’t even know you need to try (yet)!)
Xiaolongbao (小籠包 xiǎolóngbāo)
Invented in Shanghai but arguably perfected in Taiwan (don’t let the Shanghainese hear you say that, though), xiaolongbao are delicious soup dumplings. There’s a trick to eating them that involves nipping the dumpling with your teeth and sucking out the soup, otherwise you’ll end up squirting the filling everywhere. The best place to get them in Tapei is the world famous Din Tai Fung. Their xiaolongbao come in a range of varieties, including pork, chicken, crab and truffle.
Beef noodles (牛肉麵 niúròumiàn)
You honestly cannot beat a good bowl of beef noodles. Whether from a small hole in the wall or a dedicated restaurant, you’ll struggle to find disappointing beef noodles in Taipei. As soon as you set eyes on the queue of people outside Yong-Kang Beef Noodle, you’ll know it’s the real deal. Offering both beef shin and tendon noodle soups, dinner at Yong-Kang should definitely be on your Taipei bucket list.
Scallion pancakes (蔥油餅 cōngyóubǐng)
Flaky and chewy, this night market snack really hits the spot – be sure to eat them quickly to maximize the experience. Some venders will offer additions such as cheese and egg, but for first-timers, we recommend ordering the light and flaky original. We’re a particular fan of Tian Jin Flaky Scallion Pancake (天津蔥抓餅) on Yongkang Street near Dongmen Station. The long queues and satisfied customers speak for themselves.
Mango shaved ice (芒果冰 mángguǒbīng)
Perfect for cooling off during Taiwan’s hot and humid summer, a shaved ice mountain is a real treat. Sometimes referred to as crushed ice, shaved ice mountains are often packed with juice, milk or fresh fruit and it’s the mango flavor from Ice Monster that gets our mouth watering the most.
Oyster omelette (蚵仔煎 é zǐ jiān)
Unsurprisingly, as a nation surrounded by the ocean, Taiwan has great seafood. A dish that has proven incredibly popular with foreign visitors over the years, oyster omelettes are cheap, tasty and can be eaten on the go as you’re strolling around a night market. Yuan Huan Pien Oyster Egg Omelette at Ningxia Night Market source their oysters from Tainan and drizzle their omelettes in homemade hot sauce for the perfect seafood snack.
Bubble tea (波霸奶茶 bōbànǎichá)
Taiwan’s most famous drink. Bubble tea (or boba) is milk tea with chewy tapioca pearls. We recommend getting a cup of 青蛙撞奶 from Chen San Ding, however, it’s not just all about classic bubble tea. Check out the incredibly Instagrammable Bobii Frutii for their range of tasty fruit drinks, as well as bubble teas. (Read also: Bubble Milk Tea and Beyond in Taiwan (part two))
Stinky tofu (臭豆腐 chòudòufu)
You might love it, you might hate it, but you’ve got to try it. It’s simply deep-fried bean curd marinated with sweet, spicy sauce, but it’s the stench/fragrance (delete where applicable) that makes it. You can get a charcoal-grilled version of stinky tofu from the ever-crowded Shilin Night Market, although you should be able to find it at pretty much any night market you go to. The stinkier the better!
You’ve got to have a proper Taiwanese breakfast while you’re here in Taiwan at least once. Sesame flatbread (shāobing) and deep-fried Chinese donuts (yóutíao) washed down with a glass of soy milk (dòujiāng). Other popular breakfast foods include egg pancake (dànbǐng), and steamed buns (bāozi). Start your day right, Taiwan style! (Related content: Breakfast in Taipei: Start Your Day Like a Local!)
Braised pork rice (滷肉飯 lǔròufàn)
One of Taiwan’s signature dishes, braised pork rice, known as lurou fan, is simple, cheap and delicious. Somewhat sweet and somewhat salty, lurou fan is spiced slow-cooked braised pork belly cooked in soy sauce served over rice. The meat is fine and fatty and the result is both filling and extremely comforting.
Tan tsai noodles (度小月)
Slack season noodles, named so due to their popularity during typhoon season when fishing was difficult (hence small months, 小月), are wheat noodles with garlic, shrimp and coriander in a shrimp-flavored soup. Originating in Tainan, you can find them in Taipei at No. 12, Alley 8, Lane 216, Section 4, Zhongxiao East Road, Da’an District, Taipei City, 106
Fancy trying some of these foods for yourself? MyTaiwanTour’s Taipei Culinary Experience tour will be right up your street. Explore traditional Taiwanese markets, as well as the famous eateries of Yongkang Street, finishing with a night market trip where you can try all the best snacks the city has to offer. What are you waiting for?