As expected, here is the food companion to A Day Out In Taipei, Taiwan! As you all know, while you’re out seeing the sights, you have to know what to eat in Taipei, too! Here are some of my suggestions on what to eat when you visit this lovely place…and I’m not talking McDonald’s!
Let’s start with dessert because…why not??
Mango Ice is exactly that…start with a BIG mango flavored ice block and shave very thin layers off it into a bowl using this industrial looking ice shaving machine (notice how the machine is also mango colored??).
They surround all the shaved mango ice with fresh cut mango chunks, top it with a big scoop of mango ice cream, and drizzle a bit of condensed milk on top (optional). It’s cold, refreshing, and over-the-top mango-y good. This is definitely a dish to share.
Hujiao Bing or Fuzhuo Pepper Bun
If you’ve never been introduced to the idea of street food before, it is basically fast food sold by street vendors who cook it up for you right on the spot. You see a food you like, you choose what you want, they cook it, you pay, you eat, you walk. Repeat! I think street food exists in one form or another in just about every southeast Asian country.
These pork pepper buns are one example (of many) of Taiwanese street food. These buns are stuffed full of peppery pork and loads of green onions before being cooked up nice and crisp in a tandoor-type oven.
Part of the fun of buying one of these awesome buns is watching how they are made. At this particular location, a family worked feverishly to make up these buns as fast as possible to satisfy the huge queue of people waiting. It took, perhaps, 5-10 minutes for the buns to cook completely once thrown into the ovens, after which they were immediately removed and served.
YUM. These are crazy hot when you get them, so taking a big bite out of one isn’t such a great idea unless you can handle the heat or like burning your mouth. The bun is crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and then you’ve got the flavorful peppery pork and onions inside. I think it is my favorite street food in Taiwan. And the cost? A mere $1.50USD. Cheap and filling!
Torch-cooked steak cubes
Here is another street food that you will most often find at the night markets in Taipei. These steak cubes are, literally, torched as the means of cooking them! They are cooked according to your preference (medium, well-done) and drizzled or seasoned with your choice of sauce. It’s fast, entertaining to watch, really good, and cheap!
Not for everyone, I know, but there is no shortage of deep-fried squid at the night markets. I, personally, am a fan of deep-fried squid (just think calamari, but slightly bigger pieces), and I do enjoy having some while in Taipei. There’s nothing like strolling the market, holding a container of deep-fried squid and eating it with a stick!
If there’s one street food you probably hear about more than any other in Taipei, it’s probably stinky tofu. In fact, you’ll smell it more than any other, too! Stinky tofu is deep-fried fermented tofu cubes. That’s basically it. Keep in mind that it’s not as if you’re eating insects, but you should probably be open to eating tofu in the first place! And the smell…nothing like fermented food! It’s definitely worth a try, just to say you’ve had it, and you never know, you may just like it!
Castella Sponge Cake (Japanese sponge cake)
I’m not sure how sponge cake fits into the “street food” definition, but that is where you will find these amazing cakes. First of all, they look mighty impressive…gigantic cakes, cut precisely into big chunks for you to buy and devour. One particular company, Le Castella, is Taiwan-based and is at the Shilin Night Market. That’s where we bought our sponge cake to devour, and they even imprint their stamp on each chunk of cake.
And the taste? Crazy good. Soft, moist, mildly sweet. We literally just walked around the market, ripping pieces off to eat as we went! Who needs plates and forks?
Roast Suckling Pig Omelet
The name is actually a bit weird and I don’t think it accurately describes what you’re actually getting. But imagine this: a thin eggy crepe, wrapped around thin slices of roast pork and veggies and sauce and eaten like a burrito. It’s crispy on the outside and super tasty on the inside..delicious!
Stuffed Chicken Wings
And yet, even MORE street food! There’s way too much for me to cover (and way too much for me to even eat!), but this one is definitely another worth mentioning. Stuffed chicken wings are just as the name says…they remove the two long bones of the wing and stuff it with sticky rice mixed with seasonings and other ingredients. Then they grill it and cover it in regular or spicy sauce. Sound crazy? Yes. Is it yummy? Totally!
Xiao Long Bao
Taipei is not all about street food, of course. Moving away from street food and to something more traditional, this is something you can’t pass up. Xiao long bao (shao long bow), or soup dumplings, were invented in Taiwan. These delicate parcels, which you can find most famously from Din Tai Fung, are actually available at many restaurants in Taipei…even at night markets! Juicy pork dumplings wrapped in a delicate wrapper, steamed to perfection…it’s hard to eat just one! Making them takes effort and finesse, but eating them is incredibly easy!
Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup
Another traditional Taiwanese dish that you have to try is Taiwanese beef noodle soup. Slow-cooked beef set on top of fresh-made noodles in a rich and flavorful broth makes for the perfect one-bowl meal. It’s cheap comfort food.
Lu Rou Fan (braised ground pork over rice)
I’d consider this a very local dish, the type of meal most often served at home. That being said, you can definitely find this dish at some restaurants, in which case, you should definitely give it a try. Lu Rou Fan is ground pork, of finely chopped pork belly, braised in a rich a flavorful sauce and served over rice. It is very basic, very simple, but incredibly tasty and satisfying.
How about trying some local Taiwanese fruit? Also known as rose apples or bell fruit, they have a slight resemblance to apples in terms of their red skin and pale flesh. However, that’s where the similarities end. Wax apples have tender skin and the fruit is crisp and juicy…similar to a watermelon. They are refreshing, juicy, and sweet, and make for a perfect afternoon snack or after meal dessert. You can find them in grocery stores, but you can also get them from a street vendor selling bags of pre-cut fruit, ready to eat!
This is only a small sampling of the foods you can find while visiting Taipei, but it should be enough to give you an idea of what is available. It should also be enough to keep you busy in the eating department!
If you visit Taipei, be sure to try some of these suggestions, but most importantly, be adventurous and try anything that looks interesting! Happy travels and eating!