Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, is widely regarded as one of the top food destinations in the world. Backed by a long and rich culinary tradition, the city has a dynamic and robust food culture. Tourists from far and wide travel all the way to Taiwan, many of them with one goal, that is, to try Taipei street food.
Night markets are an integral part of the food culture and way of life in the bustling metropolis. The city’s night markets are some of the best in the world, and more than 20 of them are focused on street food, particularly xiaochi or filling snacks. Taipei’s night markets are filled with locals and tourists looking for the cheapest and the best specialty street food. The most popular night markets are Ximending, Tonghua, Shida, Gongguan, Shilin, Ningxia, and Raohe night markets.
Pick a night market in Taipei and you’ll soon find yourself surrounded by a sea of delicious and affordable options. You’ll surely spend hours hopping from stand to stand, and only leaving after consuming copious amounts of excellent street food.
Here are 14 must-try Taipei street food to whet your appetite.
If there’s one dish Taiwan can’t live without, it is lurou fan – made by braising finely chopped pork belly and in a soy sauce and five spice mixture and serving it over a bowl of piping hot steamed rice. The sweet and salty dish is so simple and yet incredibly satisfying. A highly recommended eatery serving lurou fan is Jin Feng Minced Pork Rice, just a stone’s throw away from the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall MRT Exit 2. However, you can easily find food stands selling tasty lourou fan at Taipei’s night markets.
The oyster omelet is another Taipei street food with an avid cult following. In Taiwan’s version of this savoury dish, freshly poached little oysters are added as a filling to a seasoned potato starch and egg batter and then fried. The final product is a mouthwatering, chewy egg wrap that’s served drenched in a sweet and spicy sauce.
Taiwan has a love affair with “QQ” or bouncy and chewy food, and the boba tea (bubble tea) best represents the country’s obsession for anything QQ. Commonly called boba tea, bubble tea, or pearl milk tea, the drink is invented in Taiwan and sold at night markets and probably every street corner in the capital city. To make bubble tea, chewy sweetened tapioca balls are added to cold or iced milk tea. There are countless variations to this drink.
Mee sua is actually oyster and pork intestine vermicelli soup. It is smooth, thick, gooey, and packs a lot of flavour and texture. The oyster and the intestines are tender and chewy. A perfect snack for cold, rainy nights, mee sua is often flavoured with chilli and vinegar. For the best mee sua in the city, head to Ay Chung Rice Flour Noodles at the Ximending Pedestrian Area. Another eatery selling this bestselling Taipei street food is Chen Ji Mee Sua, Wanhua District.
Peanut Ice Cream Roll
The famous peanut ice cream roll looks like a spring roll but instead of savoury fillings, it uses scoops of ice cream, peanut brittle shavings, and fresh coriander. The ice cream roll is an explosion of flavours in your mouth and so unlike any street food you’ve ever tried before. Grab the ice cream roll at Tonghua and Ningxia night markets. A stall in Jiufen Old Street also sells this popular delicacy.
Another must-try in Taipei street food is mochi – soft and chewy glutinous rice balls that are usually packed with delicious fillings like red bean paste, peanut paste, and sesame paste and then dusted generously with peanut powder. This snack is commonly sold at the city’s night markets. Skewered grilled mochi – rectangular in shape – are also available. If you prefer individually packed handmade mochi, you can head to Ijysheng – a bakery chain in Taipei. There’s a branch that’s just a few steps from the exit 2 of the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall MRT station.
Pork Pepper Bun
An absolute must when at Raohe night market is the hu jiao bing or the pork pepper bun. These buns – filled with juicy pork and generous amounts of spring onions – are baked in a special clay oven. The cooked bun is crispy on the outside while the meat inside is tender and oozes with peppery goodness. The pork pepper bun is very filling and affordable at 50NT each.
Shaved Ice Mountain
One of the best things you can eat while in Taipei is the highly popular shaved ice mountain – think scoops of ice cream, chunks of fresh fruit, sweetened beans, boba, gelatin, and condensed milk piled on top of a large heap of fruit-flavoured shaved ice. The dessert has a melt-in-your-mouth texture and just the right amount of sweetness, definitely a perfect way to cap off your nighttime Taipei street food feast.
Taipei’s stinky tofu is deep-fried, crunchy fermented tofu that has a very strong odor. It is served drizzled with sweet and spicy sauce and topped with sour pickled vegetables like cabbage. With its lingering rotten stench, the stinky tofu is clearly a love-it-or-hate-it snack but every visitor should try this Taipei street food at least once.
Fried chicken is one of Taipei’s favourite late-night snack. Drop by any night market or at the Ximending Pedestrian Area and you’ll see people lining up to have their much-needed dose of ji pai or fried chicken steak.
Perhaps the most popular place selling fried chicken steak in Taipei is Hot-Star. Their chicken is huge and flat, about 12 inches wide. Coated in a special egg-and-flour mixture and deep-fried to perfection, it is crispy and crunchy on the outside but inside, it is surprisingly tender and juicy. And seasoned with salt, pepper, and five-spice powder, Hot-Star fried chicken is dangerously addictive.
A gua bao is a fluffy, steamed bun sandwich filled with a mixture consisting of braised pork belly, pickled cabbage, fresh cilantro, and peanut powder. A combination of sweet, sour, and salty, this traditional Taiwanese snack is heaven in every bite. For the best gua bao in Taipei, go to a small eatery called Lan Jia Gua Bao in Zhongsheng District. Their gua bao is outrageously good – packed with well-balanced flavours and textures. Order the option with half fat and half lean pork as it is the most flavourful.
Torched Beef Cubes
Grilled beef may seem ordinary but make no mistake, Taipei’s torched beef cubes fits the bill for a melt-in-your-mouth, life-changing snack. The raw wagyu beef cubes are flame-grilled, torched for a few minutes, and then seasoned with rose rock salt. The result is a cluster of extremely tender, succulent, and delicious beef cubes that’ll make you wish you lived in Taipei.
Deep-fried Taro Balls
The deep-fried taro ball is another must-eat Tapei street food. Locals and tourists troop towards the Ningxia night market to buy deep-fried taro balls from Liu Yu Zai Fried Taro Ball. There are two versions to this wonderful street snack, the plain version and the one with pork floss and salted egg yolk. Both versions are delicious but if you can only pick one, get the version fillings. The savoury pork floss and the salted egg yolk just go really well the yam’s sweetness. And as you relish every morsel of this humble street food, you’ll definitely enjoy the symphony of different tastes and textures inside your mouth.
Da Chang Bao Xiao Chang
Da chang bao xiao chang or Taiwanese sausage in sticky rice sausage is a famous street food that’s invented in Taiwan. The snack is actually a pork sausage wrapped in what looks like a regular hotdog bun, except that the bun is actually an intestine casing filled with sticky glutinous rice. Both sausages are grilled and served with an assorted condiments like garlic and pickled vegetables. Other vendors may add a special salty paste and wasabi for more kick.
Planning to explore Taipei and the rest of Asia? Check out Travezl.com for ideas and recommendations.
By: Brendelyn Balaga