The Backpacker’s Guide to Taiwanese Food (Part I)

Taiwan is probably home to a hundred times more types of food than Pokémons. And for every Pokémon stop that you come across, there are probably like twenty authentic Taiwanese restaurants.

IMG_4214
My pokemon ball landed on a cat in Taipei.

I’ve been trying to keep a list on my phone of all the food I tried so far in Taiwan, but it’s growing out of control.

So next time when you go to Taiwan, here’s how you’re going to take on this Mewtwo in the food world (And if I’m not mistaken, Mewtwo is one of the strongest Pokémons in the game).

Number One: Look for the Alleys

Any Harry Potter fan would know, Diagon Alleys harbour great things. When you spot an alley with a lot of people holding food, do not hesitate to dive right in. This is where all the old food stalls would be. They wouldn’t look comely, but a lot of them turn out to be the gems that local foodies line up for.

Recommended locations:

1. Pingxi District in eastern New Taipei City

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Pingxi Line is a popular railway route among tourists, studded with stops that are all old-fashioned small towns. Hopping off to spend an hour at each stop and then always catching the next train is a good option.        PC: Mia

2. Jiufen Old Street

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Jiufen is a small mountain town in North Taiwan. It’s known for its quaintness, street snacks and narrow streets. Moreover, it’s known as the Mecca for Ghibli Studio fans, because this is the place that inspired the Oscar-winning animated movie Spirited Away.   PC: Mia

My favourite discoveries:

1. fried rice in a chicken wing (鸡翅包饭), Jiufen

IMG_4205One of the weirdest things I’ve ever had, but the combination is amazing. It’s like the more famous Japanese dish omelette fried rice, but in a chicken wing. They remove the bones, and stuff bacon-and-egg fried rice inside the wing the same way you stuff a turkey. The crispy chicken skin and the kinda-sticky rice make it fun to eat.

2. Sausage with Sticky Rice (大肠包小肠,”small sausage wrapped in big sausage”), Pingxi

sausage

It’s like a hotdog but with rice instead of bread. If you like strong flavours, adding garlic inside the sausage is a must.

Number Two: Hunt around when it’s midnight

“Midnight~~ not a sound from the pavement~~” These lyrics definitely don’t work for Taiwan. If you’re looking for real food made from fresh materials, the midnight diners are always the best diners. These small restaurants usually serve quick dishes like braised meat and fried fish maw. Plus, Taipei late at night is mesmerizing- Cosplayers walking home, motorcycles roaring past, the evening wind… so go explore.

Recommended locations:

1. Ximending, Taipei

ximending_at_night_taipei_taiwan_photo_wikipedia.jpg
Ximending is a shopping district in Taipei. It has a long history, and the only UNICLO shop in Taiwan where you can design and print your own shirts.   Image source: online

2. Any night markets in Taiwan

 

night market

Well-known night markets in Taiwan include: Shilin Market, Keelung Night Market, Feng Chia Market, Shi-Da Market, and many more. Image source: online.

 

My favourite discoveries:

1. braised buffet, Ximending

A lot of food stands offer braised buffets, where you get to create your own dish and then have it boiled on the spot. Our first night in Taipei, we ate at a place called Tong Hao Xia, and I immensely enjoyed their braised egg white. My dish included radish, balls made of fried cuttlefish and shrimp, egg white and cabbage.

2. minced pork rice, Ximending

minced port
image source: online

On a whim, we went to line up for a restaurant known for its fried milkfish maw at Ximending after we showered. When we sat down at our table it was past 12 o’clock midnight. I didn’t enjoy the milkfish maw too much , it just tasted like normal fish to me, but I did fall in love immediately with a traditional Taiwanese thing- minced pork rice, or Rouzao rice. It’s just a small bowl of rice with minced braised pork on top, and soy sauce and lard oil. It tastes rich and beyond satisfying.

 

This is only the first half of my guide to Taiwanese food. Like I said, too much food, too little time. I’ll leave you with part of the poem The Health-Food Diner by Maya Angelou.

Uncooked kale and bodies frail
Are sure to make me run

to

Loins of pork and chicken thighs
And standing rib, so prime,
Pork chops brown and fresh ground round
(I crave them all the time).

Irish stews and boiled corned beef
and hot dogs by the scores,
or any place that saves a space
For smoking carnivores.

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. I am saving this list! Two of my best friends are Taiwanese and have told me, as passionate as I am about good food, good drink, and good people, to visit already. When I finally do, this is going to be a great resource. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awww thank you! The pleasure’s all mine. And yes Taiwan is full of good food, good drink and good people, and yes you should go visit!

      Liked by 1 person

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