Taipei has long been known as a street food paradise. No trip to Taipei is considered complete without visiting a night market and trying some Taiwanese snacks. Searching online, popular restaurants recommended by travel bloggers or international media can be easily found on Google Maps and the like. With tens of thousands of places to discover, it is always the most unpretentious taste that keeps surprising food lovers from all over the world. These small restaurants or stands in Taipei may not have a gorgeous name or brand, but instead have been selling only the same simple bowl of noodles or a humble pack of handmade buns for decades. However, it is precisely their simplicity makes the ordinary dishes extraordinary.
To find the authentic Taiwanese flavors, TAIPEI has undertaken a journey through the capital’s dense, labyrinthine alleys and lanes. Here are four unassuming restaurants tucked in regular neighborhoods or hidden on inconspicuous street corners, yet their fabulous flavors have been supporting local residents’ lives for years. It’s time to let them be seen by the world.
Marvelous Egg Crepe in Shipai — Beitou Dist (石牌無名蛋餅)
As we always say: “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” Our first restaurant without a name is a traditional Taiwanese breakfast stand in Shipai (石牌). Among its various choices on the menu, such as fried bread sticks (youtiao, 油條) and sticky-rice rolls (fantuan, 飯糰), their egg crepe (danbing, 蛋餅) is this unassuming establishment’s signature dish. (Read more: Breakfast in Taipei: Start Your Day Like a Local!)
The egg crepe is 100% handmade and hand rolled by the owner, which makes it thicker than those 02 made by machines. The texture is crispy on the outside and chewy at the inside, and goes extra amazing with the hot and sour sauce on the top.
The famous Michelin-starred restaurant chef André Chiang (江振誠) once named the restaurant one of the most unforgettable of his youth, as he grew up in the Shipai neighborhood, making the little shop even more popular nowadays.
According to Chiang and every local in the neighborhood, the truly local way to enjoy the stand’s egg crepe is to dip it into a bowl of hot rice milk (mijiang, 米漿), a plant-based milk made from brown rice and peanuts. Aside from the crepe, fried radish cakes (luobo gao, 蘿蔔糕) and sweet peanut soup are another two bestsellers at the shop. The skin of the radish cake is crispy, and tastes as perfect as it looks. As a traditional Taiwanese dessert, the sweet peanut soup provides a bowl of soft, smooth and luscious cooked peanuts, making it a glorious ending to your breakfast pilgrimage to Shipai.
|Marvelous Egg Crepe in Shipai
|🏠 7, Ln. 48, Shijian St., Beitou Dist.
🕑 6:00am – 11:00am (Closed on Tuesdays）
Rice with Pork Chop on Chifeng Street — Datong Dist. (赤峰街無名排骨飯)
Rice with pork chop, a common bento (便當, lunch box) option in Taiwan, plays an important role in Taiwanese food culture, as its the juicy protein that powers much of the Taiwanese working class. This tiny restaurant, hidden in an old residential apartment on Chifeng Street (赤峰街), has been serving the palatable rice with pork chop for almost four decades, changing hands from the last generation to their daughter, who runs the place with her husband these days.
We are not kidding when we say the restaurant is small. The kitchen is tucked in a less-than four-square- meter corner, with other space stuffed with four tables that provide only ten seats. Regardless of the cramped space, it is their mouthwatering pork chop that wins the customers’ hearts (and stomachs). The pork chops are marinated, fried and braised with soybean sauce, star anise, and sugar, making it a perfect balance of sweet and salty flavors. Priced at only NT$100 for a set, it’s the greatest value for your money, considering how thick the pork chop is. The finishing touch is the runny egg on top. Make sure to mix the yolk with the rice and the vegetables! You can try the hot chops if you’re into spicy food, which add yet more tantalizing flavors to this already appetizing meal. (You might also like: The Faithful Gourmand: Enjoying Taiwanese Brunch at Dadaocheng Cisheng Temple)
Arriving at early lunch/dinner time is highly recommended, just in case the line is long or, heaven forbid, they are sold-out. We arrive on a Tuesday evening at around 7:00 p.m. By the time we sit down and finally enjoy the meal after waiting 30 minutes in line; the owner shouts out “Last two pork chops!” much to the disappointment of the customers behind us. That’s how popular they are!
|Rice with Pork Chop on Chifeng Street
|🏠 4, Chifeng St., Datong Dist.
🕑 12:00pm – 2:00pm, 5:30pm – 8:00pm (Closed on weekends)
Nameless Noodle Shop on Yanshou Street — Songshan Dist. (延壽街無名麵店)
Plain noodle soup (yangchun mian, 陽春麵), just a bowl of noodle soup with chopped green onions on top, is the best street eat to endorse the proverb “simplicity makes perfection.” If you’re looking for a perfect bowl of plain noodle soup, this nameless noodle shop on Yanshou Street (延壽街) will not let you down. (Read also: Mai Mien Yen Tsai Restaurant: Michelin Bib Gourmand Purveyor of Classic Qiezai Noodles)
Located on the side of the busy road in Minsheng Community (民生社區), this noodle vender has no sign at all, making it even harder to spot the inconspicuous stall. Open from 11:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., longer than the normal lunchtime eatery hours in Taipei, the shop is favored by local laborers who 06 don’t have a fixed schedule. Even at 3:00 p.m., the stand is still lined with many off-duty taxi drivers or shop clerks, eager to grab a late lunch or an early dinner after a long shift. The star on the menu — plain noodle soup — is the most common dish on any Taiwanese dinner table, reminding of grandma’s cooking with its mild soup and soft noodles.
Their fresh-cooked luwei (滷味) is also a must-try when visiting the vendor, with braised kelp, pig scalp, pork jowl and dried tofu being the top choices for many customers.
|Nameless Noodle Shop on Yanshou Street
|🏠 1, Aly. 20, Ln. 330, Yanshou St., Songshan Dist.
🕑 11:30am – 4:00pm (Closed on Sundays)
Late Night Stir-fried Lamb at Shilin Night Market — Shilin Dist. (士林深夜生炒羊肉)
Taiwanese see rechao (Taiwanese stir-fries, 熱炒) as the most essential comfort food, and stir-fried lamb is the most indispensable dish, found in any rechao restaurant. Sitting in the bustling Shilin Night Market, our discovery is a stir-fried lamb specialist that only opens three hours a day, from midnight to 3:30 a.m. The stall is run by two sisters, the second generation in their family who have dedicated themselves to the common yet amazing street eat.
With a history of two decades, the things that have never changed at the stall are the four items on the menu: stir-fried lamb, rice, seasonal soup, and beer. Knowing lots of people aren’t that into the gamey taste of lamb, the two sisters insist on using the freshest lamb available so that anyone can enjoy it carefree. Another secret ingredient is their shacha sauce. Unlike most restaurants which use factory- made sauce, they make theirs themselves, following the recipe handed down through the generations in their family. The rich and aromatic sesame in the sauce elevates the whole dish and sets their stir-fried lamb apart from other restaurants. Besides the tender meat and the sauce, three-times the usual amount of water spinach is added, giving the dish a crunchy texture as well. For fans of hot food, be sure to order the spicy version. (You might also like: Taiwan Knows Food: A Guide to Taipei’s Michelin-Worthy Night Markets)
|Nameless Noodle Shop on Yanshou Street
|🏠 21-3, Dadong Rd., Shilin Dist.
🕑 0:30am – 3:30am (Closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays)
Words by: AYCC
Photos by: David Emrich, April Chen
This article is reproduced under the permission of TAIPEI. Original content can be found at the website of Taipei Travel Net (www.travel.taipei/en).