Looking back at these pictures makes my mouth water. Our trip to Taiwan was all too short – only five days of eating the best street food I’ve ever had and hardly getting out of the city of Taipei at all. It meant only five nights of markets and five days of stuffing my face with buns and dumplings and beef soups. I did not eat anything in Taiwan that I thought was simply average. It was all packed with flavor, piping hot and a little bit spicy.
Thanks pretty much solely to a super helpful email from Waegook Tom, Luke and I ate bacon pancakes (danbing) and iced milk tea for breakfast every single morning. The morning I looked something else up and tried to order it, we ended up with plain pancakes and iced milk tea.
Night Markets and Street Food
We tried to go to a new night market every night that we were there, but ended up returning to a favorite on our last night because peppery beef buns are my new weakness.
We went to Tonghua Night Market twice – it’s really nicely located in the downtown area and was easy to get to, Shilin Night Market (probably the most famous and definitely the most crowded), Lehua Market and Raohe Market – a pain to get to but totally worth the walk.
Banana Pancakes. We ate a lot on our five month tour and these were easily the best of the bunch – fluffy and packed with bananas. Topped with chocolate and sweetened condensed milk.
These buns. These were the best we ate from a stall just outside the Tonghua Night Market. It was full of chunks of beef, not minced meat, whole peppercorns, and toasted to crunchy perfection in the ceramic oven. I would fly back to Taipei just to eat these.
A piping hot barbecued pork sausage sliced and filled with sautéed onions and garlic and heaping handfuls of coriander.
Oyster omelets. They were at every night market and we avoided them for a while because it seemed a little weird. They were a little weird, but covered in hot sauce and full of oysters they were pretty delicious too.
Buns. All day everyday. I think we managed to have them at least once a day while we were there, usually twice. These were steamed and covered in soy sauce and sesame seeds.
I’ve never had dumplings quite as good as the ones in Taipei. The dough is so soft, not gloopy like the ones you get at Chinese takeaways at home. The soy sauce is light and salty and infused with chilis. We waited in line for a while for these and it was completely worth it.
This dessert literally blew my mind. A thin wrap with shredded almond toffee three scoops of ice cream and a handful of coriander! (cilantro). It was SO good It was a little bit salty, nice and sweet and then there was that lovely zing from the leaf. It’s a flavor combination I would never, ever have thought of, but I’ll be replicating for certain.
Hello chocolate mochi cookie. Genius – the crusty nutshell of a cookie, the ooey, gooey center of Japanese Mochi. Chocolate chunks and dried cranberries inside. Heaven, absolute heaven.
Michelin Star Dining
Din Tai Fung is a Taipei institution. With chains all over the world now, we walked into the downtown Taipei branch for a late lunch. It’s particularly known for it’s Xiaolongbao, steamed buns. I was more than happy to order a plateful of those as well as the sticky rice buns, a little beef soup and some dumplings. Life is good when you’re eating at a five star restaurant in shorts and a t-shirt and paying less that $40.
Aboriginal Eats in Wulai
One of the day trips we made from Taipei was to a small town called Wulai. About 45 minutes on the bus took us to a totally different landscape. The road wound around mountains. It rained as we drove making the green hills around us really beautiful and misty.
Once we arrived, we wandered through the Wulai Atayal Museum reading about the Atayal tribe that was here before the Chinese arrived and then we went to the only restaurant left in the area fully owned and run by the Atayal people, Taiya Po Po (Atayal Grandmother).
Wild boar with bamboo and chilis.
The local specialty – pickled pork. The leaves taste like peppercorns and the meat is cooked in the salt. It looks tough and fatty but it was really incredibly tender.
Mountain High Tea
One of the days we were there we headed up Maokong Mountain just outside the city. We took the wrong bus, found out we couldn’t take the Gondola up because it was closed for repairs, and hopped on another bus that dropped us off outside a closed information center.
Luckily they kindly left some maps outside for the few that were still making the trip up the mountain. We wandered through the tea fields until we spotted a busy place that looked like a good spot for some Taiwanese Oolong.
Things I ate but didn’t photograph?
Stinky tofu (ok I lied earlier, I did eat something in Taipei that I didn’t love). Stinky tofu tastes like poop.
Beef Noodle Soup – the national dish of Taipei was waaay harder to find that I thought it would be. We ate it once in a restaurant that wouldn’t permit any photography. Not even of the outside. I think it’s simply called Tao Yuan Street Beef Noodle Shop (in English obviously). There are two options – spicy or not spicy. Luke and I both went for spicy and it was SO good. Dark and rich and the noodles we so, so good. It was so busy we shared a table with another couple who showed us the meaning of slurping.
There you have it. If this hasn’t convinced you to go to Taiwan to eat, well, there’s no hope. Have you ever been? What did you eat there?