12 Oct Taipei Eats: Our Favorite Food in Taiwan
Our time in Taipei, Taiwan, was filled with one delicious bite after the next. We noshed on a wide range of eats and left with quite a few dishes that we are still craving to this day. Some of our absolute favorites were the fried chicken, beef noodle soup, hot pot, soup dumplings and shaved ice. We even ate one meal out of toilets—eek! Because we tried so many fantastic meals and snacks throughout our visit, we couldn’t resist compiling a list of our favorite food in Taiwan. This list doesn’t encompass everything we tried during our visit, but here’s a recap of the foods that left us wanting more!
Lu Rou Fan and Stinky Tofu at Ningxia Night Market
On our first night in Taipei we went on a food tour of Ningxia Night Market. Tung-wei, our guide, took us around the market while giving us a rundown on the food, history, and sights to see in Taiwan. It was a fascinating (and delicious) evening! We’ll be writing a full post on the experience soon, but in the meantime, our favorite foods on the tour were lu rou fan (braised pork rice bowl) and the deep-fried stinky tofu. The braised pork rice bowl was simple, melt in your mouth delicious, and the perfect way to warm up on a chilly, rainy evening.
And well, I guess I should say one of my favorites was the stinky tofu—Micah could barely swallow a tiny bite, ha! I guess it’s a love it or hate it kind of thing. Stinky tofu is a form of fermented tofu and it has a horribly pungent odor that is not very appetizing. Tung-wei said to think of its flavor profile like blue cheese or gorgonzola cheese, and once I got past the smell I really enjoyed it!
Fried Chicken and Bubble Tea at Hot-Star Large Fried Chicken
Trying the famous GIANT Hot-Star Large Fried chicken and a bubble tea was definitely a must and a tasty late-night snack. The fried chicken was the size of my head—it’s a large, flattened piece of chicken that is breaded, fried, and spiced with a special Hot-Star seasoning.
To drink, we ordered a bubble tea at the stand next to Hot-Star. Bubble tea is typically iced tea, sweetened milk or other flavors, with black balls or pearls made from tapioca. It was invented in Taiwan in the 1980’s, so it was only appropriate to try several varieties during our visit. This time around we ordered a tea with passion fruit, pineapple, and several other ingredients that I couldn’t understand, but thankfully, it was a great choice!
Hot Pot at Wu Lao Guo Elixir Health Pot Taipei
Hot pot was another meal we just had to try, so we made our way to Wu Lao Guo Elixir Health Pot Taipei, a restaurant near our hotel. It’s almost like a fondue experience—you pick your broth, meats, and veggies, and then cook it all right at your table. Reservations are recommended, and we booked one of the last tables available for the evening which happened to be at 5:30p.m. We ordered both types of broth (regular and spicy) with beef and sweet potatoes, and I can’t get over how delicious everything was. The spicy broth wasn’t actually all that spicy, but the flavor was robust. The regular broth was rich and milky and came with “tofu ice-cream” that turned into an extremely flavorful pillow like cloud after soaking in the broth for a few minutes.
We took our time enjoying the atmosphere in our private booth and stuffing ourselves silly. The icy, fruity palate cleanser they served at the end of the meal was a refreshing way to end the evening. It was so delicious and one of our favorite meals of the trip.
Xiaolongbao and More at Din Tai Fung
One of our favorite restaurants we visited in Taipei was the popular Din Tai Fung. We actually ended up going to this spot twice—once at the original location and once in the Taipei 101 building. Din Tai Fung started out as a cooking oil retailer that eventually turned into a restaurant in the 1970’s when it started selling the always made by hand xiaolongbao (soup dumplings) that it has since become famous for. The restaurant has been on the world’s best restaurant list and the Hong Kong branch earned a Michelin Star. Our first visit to Din Tai Fung was at the original location. This location opened at 10 a.m., and when we arrived at 10:30 a.m. we were greeted with a crowd of people and a 20-25 minute wait. At the host stand, we were given a sheet of paper to place our order, and after we filled it out and turned it in, we were added to the queue. We ordered the Pork Xiaolongbao (soup dumplings), the Steamed Shrimp and Pork Shao Mai (dumplings), the Pork Chop Fried Rice with Egg, and the House Special Spicy Shrimp and Pork Wontons. Everything was fantastic, but the two versions of dumplings were out of this world. By the time we left an hour later, the wait time was over 1.5 hours!
We loved the dumplings so much that when we were visiting the observation deck at Taipei 101, we had to pop into the Din Tai Fung located on the ground floor of the building, as well. This location has a more upscale feel to it and the area where you can watch the dumplings being made is fascinating! We arrived just before opening and found ourselves near the front of the line. We ordered an even larger portion of Pork Xiaolongbao this time around, and with it we ordered the beef noodle soup and spicy pickled cucumbers. The beef noodle soup was just ok (we liked the Lin Dong Fang version much more—see below), and I LOVED the cucumbers. Micah has something against green vegetables in general, so I ate the entire dish myself and still crave it to this day. I would have to say the second visit to this spot was also a success.
Beef Noodle Soup at Lin Dong Fang
And of course, you simply can’t visit Taiwan without slurping up the iconic beef noodle soup. We made our way to Lin Dong Fang to try the soupy goodness and we definitely weren’t disappointed. There are so many restaurants that serve beef noodle soup (we also tried it at Din Tai Fung), but after some research before our visit, we determined that this would be the first spot we tried. We arrived mid-afternoon and were lucky to find that we didn’t have to wait for a table which usually seems to be the case. The restaurant was very simple and food-stall-like, and we sat in one of the seating areas next to the main kitchen. Instead of ordering half meat and half tendon, we ordered two big bowls with just the red meat. The noodles were soft and springy and perfectly cooked, the broth was flavorful with a tad bit of an herbal taste, and the meat was quite tender. I couldn’t resist adding some chili paste to my bowl which gave it a nice kick and made it even better.
Pineapple Sweet Cotton Ice at Ice Monster
Ice Monster was another treat that I was dying to try while in Taiwan—the giant mountain of cloud-like shaved ice is light, fluffy and absolutely delicious. The shaved ice is called sweet cotton ice and it is made to be as light and airy as cotton candy. All of the ice is made from Taiwanese flavors and fruity concoctions are made from fresh, locally sourced fruits. I originally wanted to try the mango, but they were out during our visit. Instead, we settled on pineapple, and it turned out to be a fantastic decision. The tower of ice came with fresh pineapple, pineapple ice cream, a cup of thick pineapple juice, and something green, icy, and a bit chewy that we couldn’t figure out! Even though I want to try the mango version someday, I’m so glad we tried the pineapple—it was tangy, sweet, delicious, and one of my favorite desserts to date!
Food in a Toilet at Modern Toilet
Many years ago, I read about a restaurant that was toilet themed and when I remembered it was in Taiwan, we decided we had to check out the weirdness. Modern Toilet is a restaurant where you not only sit on toilet chairs, you also eat and drink from toilet themed dishes. I ordered the simple toilet chicken nuggets and fries, and Micah went with the ham and cheese stuffed chicken due to my encouragement (I wanted to see a dish served in a mini toilet)! Was it cheesy, touristy, and all kinds of weird? Yes. Was the food good? Eh, it was just ok. But, was it worth it? I have to say yes again, just for the laughs and strangeness of the entire experience!
Pepper Pork Bun at Raohe Night Market
Another street food stall we grabbed a snack at was Fuzhou Pepper Buns. The stall is located in the middle of the street and because they are typically busy, they set up posts to create official, convenient lines. The pepper pork buns are stuffed with pork and green onions and slapped onto the side of a giant tandoor oven for cooking. The outside of the bun is crispy and covered in sesame seeds and inside you will find soft, steaming hot pork.
As far as our other meals—they were not terrible, but not anything to write home about either. We also couldn’t resist dining at our favorite Japanese chains, Ichiran Ramen and CoCo Curry, since they are not located anywhere near us at home and we needed a quick fix. Oh, and we had a couple of travel-fatigue-induced meals at the KFC around the corner from our hotel, which is thankfully a completely different experience in Taiwan than in the states. Sometimes cheap and convenient just has to win out when you are tired, am I right?
There were so many other foods we wanted to try during our visit, but there’s only so much food two stomachs can hold! Until next time, Taipei!