What to Drink and Eat in Taiwan
Taipei, Taiwan is one of the most underrated countries for food in the world. One might even go as far as to say it is the best food in Asia. If you do one thing while visiting it is eat in Taipei. This island metropolis of 2.6 million people is filled with street food vendors on every corner. The city showcases its elaborate night markets and 20 Michelin star restaurants. You might ask, “What’s NOT to eat in Taipei?” It is truly a mecca for food enthusiasts and dumpling lovers alike. Not only does it have great food but it is also home to many tea plantations, making it a leader in oolong tea production. Taipei is a must visit country and the perfect place for a long layover of eating.
What to eat in Taiwan #1
This is in no way your average Chinese take out scallion pancake. This fluffy masterpiece, also called Dan Bing, is pretty life-changing and a must try while visiting Taipei. Perfect for every meal, from breakfast to an afternoon snack, this pancake comes in a variety of versions. All are fluffed on a flat top grill to create a crispy, yet airy pancake. The most iconic version of the street food features a fried egg with sweet sauce folded into the middle of a greasy, flour-based savory pancake. If an egg is not enough, you can add many other items like corn, basil, chicken or pork. Some vendors also choose to sell it as a stand-alone pancake without any fillings, while this is also very tasty, the egg and sweet sauce is really the game changer here. No trip to Taiwan is complete without trying this snack. We repeat you MUST try it! If you are in San Francisco and looking for something similar, check out House of Pancakes. It’s not exactly the same but it’s closer than a lot of other restaurants around town. If you are trying to cook your own, check out Kingdom of Dumplings Wholesale and buy a frozen pancake for the perfect base.
What to eat in Taiwan #2
Peppery Pork Bun
This juicy ball of pan-fried love is pure delight and one of the best things to eat in Taipei. Sometimes sold in a box of 8, you will have no problem eating every bun. It’s filled with pork, scallions, and peppercorn then pan-fried and steamed to perfection. This succulent bun is joy in one bite. There are a lot of varieties of ‘dumplings’ to eat in Taipei, but this juicy pork ball has our vote for the best bun in town. These buns can be found all around town but the best stand is in the entrance to the Tonghua Night Market. If you are looking for a place in San Francisco that has a similar pork bun, check out Shanghai Dumpling King. It is not exactly the same but it is closer than anywhere else around town.
What to eat in Taiwan #3
With what some may say is an aroma of old garbage, stinky tofu is a crowd favorite amongst the Taiwanese people and sort of a must eat in Taipei. Stinky tofu’s strong odor comes from the fermentation process used to make it. It is then deep-fried, braised, BBQ-ed or steamed with spices. Many western people hesitate before giving this tofu a try but don’t worry, it is perfectly safe to eat in Taipei. Although the aroma is strong, the flavor is a bit milder than one might expect. Don’t get us wrong, it definitely has…flavor. You can find stinky tofu all over the country but one of the best places to try it is called Liang Popo. But when in doubt, just follow your nose!
What to eat in Taiwan #4
Turnip Cakes with Egg
The turnip cake might be one of the most underrated foods to eat in Taipei. It is a perfect, hearty, on-the-go, breakfast snack. This savory square cake has the consistency of stiff pudding so it might take some getting used to but we promise after a few bites you will love it. The base is a mixture of rice flour, cornstarch, Japanese turnips, mushrooms and sometimes sausage. It is steamed in a water bath in the oven for about 45 minutes. It is then rested overnight. By the time you get to one of the many stands around town to try this delight, the vendors just grab a steamed square and use the flat top to give it a pan-fried crispy top. If you are feeling wild, ask if they can add an egg on top. Be sure to grab the sweet soy sauce because it is sure to seal the deal on your love for this classic breakfast. Whatever you add, it is absolutely amazing. The closest comparison we have found in San Francisco is at Begoni Bistro in Chinatown however they will not add an egg (trust me we asked!).
What to eat in Taiwan #5
To be fair, bubble tea is not just a thing in Taipei, but all over Asia. However, since Taiwan is an island, the country has access to a lot of interesting fruits. This means passionfruit bubble tea is not just a surgery mix of chemicals, but the real deal. The fresh juice mixed with fresh tapioca balls makes it a refreshing way to wash down all the other street snacks we have told you about. With the vast variety of tea flavors, we had to put it on the must-try list. If you are feeling adventurous, many of the stores offer a variety of fruit jellies to add to your drink, with a similar texture to the American classic Jell-O. Full disclosure we took this picture in San Francisco because we forgot while visiting Taiwan. There are plenty of places to try bubble tea around the bay but our favorite is Bambū Desserts & Drinks, like in Taiwan they use real fruit with their tea making it extra delicious.
What to eat in Taiwan #6
Peanut Ice Cream Spring Roll
This dish is truly one of a kind and the perfect thing to eat in Taipei at the end of your meal (or even the beginning). This dessert burrito starts with a flour crepe that is filled with a bunch of goodies. The fillings include peanut shavings, cilantro, and milk ice cream. It is then wrapped up like a spring roll. This dessert is very portable and perfect for navigating through the night market labyrinth. The addition of cilantro adds a refreshing addition to the roll. This dessert is the perfect way to “wrap up” a delicious night of hopping from stall to stall at one of the many Taiwanese night markets. Unfortunately, we have not found anywhere in San Francisco with this unique treat, if you have any leads on where to find it please comment below!
What to eat in Taiwan #7
Although this is not featured in the video, hot pot, a DIY soup station, is a fun way to spend an evening in Taipei. In Taiwan, hot pot is taken very seriously and can be upwards of a two-hour affair. If you don’t know what hot pot is, you are not alone. Hot Pot is a traditional style of dining that allows you to build and cook your own soup. First, you pick your style of broth or broths, ranging in spice level. Next, you pick your (raw) meat and a variety of vegetables. They bring a soup pot to the table so you can plop your meat and veggies into it and cook your own soup. This unique experience makes the Hot Pot a must-eat in Taipei. Since we can’t always eat in Taipei, there are a few locations around San Francisco that offer this type of experience, our favorite is Boiling Hot Pot on Geary.
Watch this Video on 5 Things to Eat in Taiwan!
If you are a visual learner like us here at Stretchy Pants, here is a short video on what to eat in Taipei.
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