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.
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.
1. Pingxi District in eastern New Taipei City
2. Jiufen Old Street
My favourite discoveries:
1. fried rice in a chicken wing （鸡翅包饭）, Jiufen
One 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
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.
1. Ximending, Taipei
2. Any night markets in Taiwan
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
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
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.