Where to eat in Taiwan? All over and everywhere. And this is why I love Taiwan. But the likely start would be Taipei. Then it’s all to do with getting lost and stumbling through the maze of Taipei food kiosks and stalls dotted between entertainment arcades, shops, and Asia’s favourite food chain restaurants. And it’s a city where we find ourselves constantly eating between eating in Taipei.
What to Eat in Taiwan?
Taiwan is a country world-renowned for street food and night markets, although this guide is more specific to what to eat in Taipei. And we often base ourselves in Ximending which is geared towards the popular snacks with youthful Taiwanese crowds. As well as the Taiwanese food franchises that are currently circling the globe. However, I still feel we have only scraped the surface, and it is all shared in the video below.
Bubble tea must be Taiwan’s most obvious street food export. There are various names for Taiwanese bubble tea (like boba tea, or pearl milk tea) although they are all the same traditional drink of iced tea with tapioca balls. A concoction which may not sound enticing to some. But there are all sorts of variations of bubble tea with lots of tea, milk and coffee flavours as well as different “toppings” often made from jellies. So there really is something for everyone, and I personally may go for a sweet potato bubble tea with popping boba pearls.
The first I heard of Taiwan’s famous Fried Chicken was with “Hot Star Chicken” when it opened up shop in the food courts before I tracked it back to its origins at Taipei’s famous Shilin Night Market. Although now it is found all over Taiwan. So the secret to Taiwanese Fried Chicken is the large chicken breasts which are pounded flat before marinating, battering and deep-frying to perfection. And while “Hot Star” is the obvious big brand for this Taiwanese street food staple, there are lots of similar fried chicken shops and recipes to explore in Taipei.
Shaved Ice Desserts
Shaved Ice desserts are fairly common in Asia. But I can say the first time I ever properly enjoyed a bowl of shaved ice was with Taiwan’s “Baobing” shaved ice desserts (aka chhoah-peng). And this again was at a Taiwan food stall. So shaved ice desserts are more or less finely shaven ice topped with fresh fruit, mango being a big favourite, as well as sweet lashings of condensed milk. Although other common topping options include adzuki beans, sweetcorn, mung beans, peanut, or tapioca balls…
Or, more specifically in Taiwan, the Japanese inspired Taiyaki, which is a bit like a whimsical take on the popular Taiwanese “wheel cakes”. Otherwise, at their most basic, wheel cakes or a bit like a waffle made from pancake batter, poured and cooked in a hot metal mould, before serving with fillings of your choice. Traditionally they would have been filled with red bean paste, although toppings really are potentially endless, with ice-cream being a favourite in the Taiyaki of Taiwan food stalls. Although standard wheel cakes are also found throughout the snack shops of Taipei.
Beef Noodle Soup
Taiwanese Beef Noodles would be considered Taiwan’s national dish, so it would be rude not to tick it off the to-eat list when in Taipei. And a good place as any to find Beef Noodles would be at the various food stalls and restaurants where many will specialise in the dish (e.g. Lao Shandong). So Taiwanese beef noodles bring together cuts of a slow-stewed beef, simmered in a beef broth, and is served on a base of fresh and chewy egg noodles wit cuts of Chinese cabbage. Although bowls will vary throughout. It is also a dish revered so much in Taipei that it has its own annual Festival (Taipei Beef Noodles Festival).
Taiwan Beer, which is the literal name for the big beer brand in Taiwan, is famous for its fruit flavoured beers, with all sorts of tropical fruit flavours added. They are also widely available at local 7-11s and convenience stores. But beer kiosks are otherwise far from common in Taipei, so I was kind of excited to find flavoured beers in the Ximending food streets, out along the main Zhonghua Road (section 1). They are light beers, however, known as summer beers, at around 2-3% abv. Although this probably works best for the casual day-time drinker.
Taiwan has become somewhat famous for its weird and wonderful cafes and restaurants. And this kind of began with “Modern Toilet”, a toilet-themed restaurant, which serves up all sorts of poop-related foods. And while the origins begin in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, probably the most popular store is found in the Ximending area (location here). Just look for the giant sign with a toilet on it. And, as expected, it is not the sophisticated foodies choice when it comes to dining in Taiwan. But it is a fun and whimsical experience and the theme of fun does sum up much of Ximending food experiences. It’s a vibrant and youthful area. With various themed eateries to suit all sorts of weird tastes.
Street Food in Taiwan?
While Taipei is renowned for street food. Ximending is one area where it is restricted, so local hawkers have been forced to innovate. As long as they look like they’re moving, very slowly, it is hard to stop them. Meaning there are always these sketchy looking hawkers lurking at corners with an eye on the surrounding streets. And ready to do a runner. It definitely is an interesting/unique street food culture, but I would 100% go to the night markets when it comes to authentic street food exploration and experiences.
Brought to you by the Taiwan Tourism Bureau.