There are so many of my friends going to Taipei soon and keep asking me the same question “What is there to eat?” If you haven’t been to Taiwan before, there are three types of food you must try: The street food, the desserts and the regional specialties.
Do not leave Taiwan without going to one of the night markets to nibble on tempura (tian bu la), crepes, fried chicken, and stinky tofu. Also, each region has its own signatures, such as my favourite Ah Gei (tofu sealed with vermicelli and fish paste), fish balls and black iron eggs from Dan Shui.
Of course, every meal must be paired with a dessert or drink such as bubble tea, grass jelly, aiyu, shaved ice and milk shakes. Some say you cannot leave Taiwan without trying the braised pork rice and beef noodles. I say match that with bubble tea.
Here are some other must-try food.
If you think they are anything close to the German franks and bratwurst, you will be in for a surprise. Taiwanese sausages are short, sweet and oily, barbequed to perfection by the street hawker. They come in a variety of flavours such as black pepper, garlic, chilli, wasabi, butter or even chocolate! If you are in something even strange and calories-inducing, try the 大肠包小肠 (literally meaning big sausage wrapping small sausage) which is a sweet pork sausage wrapper in grilled sticky rice. Guilt to the max!
Xiao Long Bao
This steamed dumpling 小笼包 may have originally in eastern China, but it was Taiwanese’s Din Tai Fung which reached this dish out to the world. Awarded one Michelin Star and ranked as one of the world’s Top Ten Best Restaurants by The New York Times, the original Din Tai Feng can be found at Yong Kang Street. The dumplings are served hot in bamboo basket. Be careful when you eat them, as hot-piping soup will burst out from within.
Talking about Yong Kang Street, this is one of the best places to find quiet cafes and food gems. Ice Monster’s 冰馆 mango and other fresh fruits desserts are irresistible in summer. Fresh sweet mangoes topped with mango ice cream, milk, syrup and pulp, laid over thin ice shavings which melt instantly in your mouth. The servings are generous and fruits sweet and fresh.
You can find the best mee suah at Ximending’s Emei Street 西门丁 or Shida Night Market 师大夜市, also known as the ‘university night market’. The best around are really 阿鑫面线 and 阿宗面线. This has thin smooth vermicelli cooked for long hours in a tan brown starchy soup base. Usually large intestines and oysters are added, adding some chewiness and bite. Ah Zong at Emei Street has no seats for customers. Therefore, you will just spot crowds around holding and slurping divine bowls of goodness.
Pork Pepper Buns
Found at Rao He Night Market, the secret of 福州世祖胡椒饼 success is the rich and juicy filling of its buns, made of fresh pork, marinated in a special sauce concocted using a secret recipe. The plentiful green onions and strong peppery taste is almost a perfect combination. The pepper buns, lightly sprinkled with sesame seeds on the crust, are crisp on the outside and piping hot in the inside.