So I lied. This is very biased. Hong Kong may be home and where I grew up, but I am a proud Taiwanese. Every time I visit Taiwan, I unabashedly put on a few pounds and it is more than worth it. I definitely always feel like I’ve earned the extra pan-fried pork bun – cue music.
Taiwanese food is incredibly unique in the sense that you can’t really find it outside of Taiwan, and even if you did, it would be fairly sub-par. I would argue that Taiwan has some of the best street food in the world. If you taste half of the things on this list, I’m fairly certain you’ll agree. There are a lot of dishes that people visiting Taiwan tend to hear about (beef noodles, oyster omelette, minced pork with rice) so I’ve stuck to some of the lesser-known Taiwanese dishes below.
Heading to Taipei for the first time ever? Click here for 10 things you must do if you only have 48 hours in Taipei!
The top eats to try out in Taipei
1. Batter Fried Shrimp With Pineapple (Fènglí xiā qiú)
This is one of the weirdest dishes you’ll see in Taiwan but I promise it’s delicious. Crunchy batter fried shrimp, served with pineapple and doused in a sweet mayonnaise dressing. Most places will also add ice cream sprinkles. So weird. So good!
2. Radish Omelette (Cài pú dàn)
So simple. But so tasty. The radish is pickled and folded into an egg omelette. A few sprinkles of spring onion to top it all off and voila.
3. Spring Onion Roti (Zhuā bǐng)
Probably my all-time favorite snack. The hawkers that sell this smack the roti around to loosen it up and get it nice and flaky, before cracking an egg on the hot grill and laying the roti on top. Top it off with a soy sauce paste, chili sauce (can’t go wrong with this, trust me) and you’re good to go.
4. Shaved Milk Ice with Mango (Mángguǒ xuěhuā bīng)
Shaved ice is so passé. Shaved milk ice, on the other hand, is delightfully fluffy and feels like snowflakes are melting in your mouth. Eat this with cubes of mango when it’s in season, and ask for extra condensed milk and a mini pudding on top. Always ask for extra condensed milk.
5. Pan Fried Pork Buns (Shēng jiān bāo)
These little magical buns have a crispy base but are extremely succulent – be careful of the hot soup inside when you take your first bite. You can get different fillings but pork is the best, in my not-so-humble opinion.
6. Pork belly buns (Gē bāo)
These delicious pockets of goodness are a Taiwanese street food that melt in your mouth. A slice of juicy pork belly is sandwiched in steamed white bread with a healthy sprinkling of pickled vegetables, cilantro and peanut powder. Heavenly.
7. Tian Bu La (Tián bù là)
The name for this dish literally means “sweet not spicy”, and it’s a pretty accurate description of the flavor of the sauce. This dish consists of pieces of fish cake that have been boiled in soup and then doused in a delicious, tangy sweet saucy with just the faintest kick of chili. It’s typically also served with 1-2 pieces of turnip as well as a piece of pig’s blood cake (which I normally ask the shopkeeper to skip).
8. Peanut brittle and ice cream roll (Huāshēng juǎn bīngqílín)
This is one of the tastiest little dessert items that you can find in Taipei. It starts off with a big block of homemade peanut brittle which is filed down, and the shavings are then sprinkled on top of a thin crepe, topped off with two scoops of fresh peanut ice cream and rolled up into a burrito.
Notable mentions: Pot stickers (Guōtiē, but in Taiwan they are long and rectangular in shape), deep fried chicken cutlets (Jī pái), pan fried sweet pork sausage (Xiāngcháng).
So…where do you get all this delectable food?
I like to stuff my face at the Raohe Night Market, Shilin Night Market or food court at the Taipei Train Station. You’ll also find some street food in Jiu Fen, a popular day trip destination just 45 minutes away from Taipei city. For a proper sit-down dinner, head to the Taiwanese restaurant in the Brother Hotel (yes – that’s a real name), Din Tai Fung (multiple locations) or Kao Chi.
The best places to stay in Taipei, Taiwan
Are you visiting the capital city, Taipei? Good news – Taipei has a plethora of public transportation options to choose from, and taxis are incredibly cheap, clean and efficient. If you are visiting Taipei, look into staying at these 2 hotels:
Hotel HD Palace: Hotel HD Palace is conveniently located in Da’an District. The rooms are basic but clean and room rates are extremely reasonable. If you’re keen to explore the night markets, Tonghua Night Market is just a hop and skip away. Click here to book your stay at Hotel HD Palace!
Fullerton North: Fullerton North is conveniently located in Songshan District and was recently renovated. This hotel is perfect for people who prefer staying at boutique hotels. It is close to Raohe Night Market and Ciyou Temple as well. Click here to book your stay at Fullerton North!
The Sherwood: The Sherwood is an upscale hotel located in the heart of Taipei that has hosted the likes of Ang Lee, Rafael Nadal and even Margaret Thatcher. If you’re looking for a splash of luxury and want a spacious room, gym and spa then book yourself into this hotel. Click here for current rates at The Sherwood!
More: There are tons of great accommodation options in Taipei – if you want to stay somewhere central look into hotels and AirBnBs in the Xinyi and Zhongzheng districts. Click here for even more accommodation options!
What are some of your favorites? Share them with me in the comments section below!
*Updated on June 21st 2016 with pinyin names of all the snacks! Last updated October 2017 to add pork belly buns.
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