I was so excited to visit Taiwan, as I knew very little about the country and was eager to experience what it had to offer. Starting, of course, with its cuisine! I assumed that Taiwanese food would be very similar to Chinese food (considering their history) but I was blown away by how fantastic and unique Taiwanese food is! It is a cuisine that should be celebrated in its own right, and I’d like to share eight food and drink items you must try the next time you’re in Taiwan.
Warning: This post is likely to make you very, very hungry!
- Beef Noodles
Considered to be the national dish of Taiwan, beef noodle soup can be found almost everywhere. It is so popular, there is an annual festival and competition to find the best beef noodle soup maker! Springy noodles are placed at the bottom of a bowl, then generously topped with incredibly tender and flaking stewed beef. Then comes the most important part – ladlefuls of aromatic broth that would be great just on its own. This broth can be either braised or clear. Sides such as pickled greens and chilli paste will also be on your table to add some acidity and spice, so help yourself.
Where to try Beef Noodles
Yongkang Beef Noodles, Taipei
This old school family-run restaurant is one of the most famous eateries in Taipei to try this dish. You can choose from bowls with braised beef, beef tendon, or a mix of the two. Due to its popularity, you will almost certainly have to queue, but it is worth the wait. You will also potentially be sitting with other people at a communal table, but that just makes it a bit more homely. We shared ours with an old Taiwanese chap, who snuck his own cheeky bottle of whiskey in to enjoy with his meal!
Price: $NT 270 for large portion
Address: No. 17號, Lane 31, Section 2, Jinshan South Road, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106
- Lu rou fan (Braised pork and rice)
We soon realised that pork is widely popular in Taiwan! Lu rou fan is a joint contender for the “national dish of Taiwan”, along with beef noodles. I’ll leave that fierce debate up to the locals, but either is a worthy winner. Lu rou fan is marinated minced, fatty pork, braised in soy sauce and served over rice. Sounds a bit simple, right? Well it’s not minced meat how you find in a supermarket, but carefully chopped to give the right texture. Once braised, the meat should have some bite to it, while being beautifully tender. It is typically served with some pickled cucumbers to help balance the flavours.
Where to try Lu rou fan
Ximen Jin Feng
We stumbled across this place after spotting a large group of locals in a queue. The wait was luckily minimal, and we were led into a pretty modern-looking eatery. It turns out this was a branch of the most famous place in Taiwan to try this dish! The Lu rou fan hit the spot, but we also got some other dishes including a slab of tender pork belly, and soy braised egg.
Price: $NT 170 including drinks
Address: No. 89號, Kunming Street, Wanhua District, Taipei City, Taiwan 108
- Gua Bao
This amazingly glorious street food consists of sticky, super tender slices of pork belly, pickled greens, coriander and very finely crushed peanuts. These delightful components are all snuggled up together inside a folded steamed bun to form a pocket of near perfection. It is soft, surprisingly light, and each mouthful will have you coming back for more. I’d say it is my absolute favourite thing we ate in Taiwan!
Where to try Gua Bao
Yi Jia Zi, Taipei
This place was so good we went back twice. Located a little walk from the popular Ximending district, Yi Jia Z is very popular with Taiwanese people all eager to get their pork fix. The soy-stewed pork belly melted in the mouth, the bun was like a cloud, and the peanut powder just capped off an absolute bargain of a street snack. There are other dishes to choose from with most including the delicious pork belly, and the staff were incredibly friendly too!
Price: $NT 45
Address: No. 79, Kangding Road, Wanhua District, Taipei City, Taiwan 108
- Xiaolongbao (Soup dumplings)
Xiaolongbao are delicious dim sum dumplings, made in a rather ingenious way. Minced pork and meat-flavoured aspic (gelatin made from broth) are enveloped by the thin dumpling skin, then carefully pinched closed. They are then steamed inside a bamboo basket which melts the aspic, creating a soup inside! Place one of these dumplings on your spoon, poke a little hole in to let the fragrant broth trickle out, then eat in one mouthful for a burst of flavour. They can also be dipped in a vinegar and ginger mixture.
Where to try Xiao Long Bao
Din Tai Fung, multiple locations
This famous restaurant started out in Taiwan in 1958, but these days you can find them all across the world. Although they have a very extensive menu, Xiaolongbao is probably what they are best known for, so we obviously went for them and were not disappointed. Each dumpling is folded exactly 18 times, and is beautifully delicate. The broth is excellent, and the pork juicy. A heavenly mouthful.
Due to its immense popularity they have a waiting system. You give your name, receive a menu (in Mandarin or English), tick the dishes you want to have, then wait for your number to be announced. Times vary but we went at a slightly obscure time so only had to wait about 30 minutes. They also sell ridiculously cute merchandise of little dumpling people…
Price: $NT 110 for 5 dumplings
Address: No. 194號, Section 2, Xinyi Road, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106
- Hujiao bing (Black pepper buns)
Hujiao bing is another popular street food, that can be found in various night markets in Taipei. They are baked buns filled with a beef or pork mixture, a lot of black pepper, and a big handful of spring onions. Once rolled up, they are cooked inside a charcoal fired oven (similar to a tandoor). Once they are baked lovely and crisp, they are chiseled off the oven wall with a knife, and served warm. As you bite into one, you will notice a delicious pool of meat juice oozing out, probably onto your hand. It’s pretty hot, but you won’t really notice as you will be munching down this wonderful snack.
Where to try Hujiao bing
Fu Zhou Shi Zu Hu Jiao Bing, Taipei
Night markets are one of t
he best ways to experience Taiwan’s food culture, and one of our favourites was Raohe night market. Right at the entrance you will spot a big queue, and that is where you will find these delicious black pepper buns. Don’t be put off by the line as it moves quite quickly and they are well worth the wait.
Price: $NT 55
Address: No. 249, Raohe Street, Songshan District, Taipei City, Taiwan 105
No. 13, Section 1, Chongqing South Road, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City, Taiwan 100
- Soy milk
Soy milk is so damn good in Taiwan I had to include it. It comes in a variety of styles, such as sweet, salty, cold, warm, with numerous flavours. For me though, an ice cold glass of the classic, slightly sweet variety was perfect, especially in the scorching heat. Apparently, soy milk is typically consumed at breakfast in Taiwan, especially with some youtiao (fried dough sticks) to dip in. However, you can find plenty of places to drink it throughout the day, from small street stalls to cafes.
Where to try soy milk
Fuhang Soy Milk, Taipei
Fuhang Soy Milk is a famous breakfast spot in Taipei that serves hearty bowls of soy milk and food such as youtiao. I’ll be honest, we weren’t hugely enamoured with youtiao. They were slightly too oily and heavy, but they’re so popular we had to give them a go. The soy milk was lovely though and it was a generous portion. Expect a massive queue for Fuhang, which winds down the street.
Price: $NT 60 for a large portion
Address: 100, Taiwan, Taipei City, Zhongzheng District, Section 1, Zhongxiao East Road, 108號2樓
As the name suggests, Soypresso is a dedicated soy cafe. This small chain serves moreish soy milk, soft serve ice cream, soy puddings and coffee. There are a number of flavours to choose from such as classic, sesame, and matcha, and the drinks are sold in snazzy reusable canisters. The building itself is a great place to chill for a bit. Sleek white tiles give off an old dairy store vibe, that is very photogenic.
Price: $NT 60 for a large drink
Address: No. 8號, Lishui Street, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106
- Pineapple cake
Pineapple cakes are the quintessential gift for those visiting Taiwan. They are made with pastry and a pineapple jam centre, but can also include pieces of pineapple too. They reminded me a bit of fig rolls. Nice and crumbly, with a soft and chewy centre. The flavour won’t blow you away, but they are a nice little snack. They are often specifically aimed at tourists to buy as souvenirs or gifts, so you can find them in really nice sets with fancy packaging.
Where to try pineapple cakes
Sun Merry, Taipei (various locations)
You can find pineapple cake in lots of places, especially as it’s a typical gift. We tried a few, but they were much of a much, really. One place we remember was Sun Merry, as it has an adorable pineapple mascot that you will easily spot walking around. It’s full of lots of varieties, such as pineapple and egg yolk, so I’m sure you will find something you like.
Address: No. 186號, Section 2, Xinyi Road, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 10
You can’t visit Taiwan without drinking tea, and luckily you don’t have to look hard to find some. Throughout the day you will see people walking around with plastic beakers of tea, either fruit based or the milky bubble tea variety. Whilst the fruit teas were fantastic and refreshing, there was something deliciously indulgent about the bubble teas available. As bubble tea was invented in Taiwan, it seemed only fitting to have as much as possible. The one that I couldn’t get enough of had a kind of frothy, whipped up cream cheese topping and tapioca bubbles cooked in a warm, thick, caramel sauce. Is it more of a dessert or beverage? Who knows? Who cares! Taiwanese tea is an addictive delight.
Where to try tea
Tiger Sugar, multiple locations
Whilst there are hundreds of places to grab a tea to go, Tiger Sugar was our first introduction to the cream cheese and brown sugar style. Whilst delicious, they are super sweet, so maybe go for a small… or share a large!
Price: $NT 55 for a cold brown sugar boba milk
Address: No. 1號, Nanyang Street, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City, Taiwan 100
SOMA – Tea & Mocktails, Taipei
This tea store had a very upmarket, almost boutique vibe to it which drew us in. It serves fruit tea and milk tea in a number of flavours, and is located just off of Yongkang Street. SOMA is a great place to go for a cold, refreshing drink on a warm evening stroll down bustling Yongkang Street.
Price: $NT 60-90
Address: No. 3號, Lane 7, Yongkang Street, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106
So that’s all, folks! If you have any other favourite Taiwanese dishes or restaurants that I haven’t mentioned, please share them in the comments below.
Ciao for now
The Curious Sparrow