14 must-try street food for your Taipei trip

Joko Magalong-De Veyra

Posted at Dec 03 2017 07:02 AM | Updated as of Dec 04 2017 01:10 PM

One of the reasons people go to Taiwan is the food. And why not? In 2016, CNN declared the country as the top food spot in Asia, citing Taipei’s bustling night markets filled with relatively cheap and varied street food.

There’s something for everyone at these night markets, and it doesn’t hurt that most of them are near a train station for easy access too.

Salt, sweet, and spicy are the major flavors of Taiwanese night market fare. If you must choose which markets to prioritize, we recommend Ningxia, Shi-lin (the most touristy of all), Ximending, and Raohe, which all have their own specialties.

Just remember the general rule in Taiwan (and in most places): The longer the line, (most likely) the better the food.

It does get confusing at times, so here’s a quick list of some of the scrumptious eats in the night markets of Taipei.

 

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14 must-try street food for your Taipei trip 1
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1. Pepper Buns

With a filling of peppery ground beef and loads of scallions, this bun, first found at the Raohe Night Market, is baked in a vertical oven, which gives it that crusty bottom. It's quite enjoyable to watch being made as they roll the dough and slap the buns. Be patient and let it cool a bit before taking a bite -- it’s hot!

 

2. Bubble Tea

Taipei is often credited with inventing bubble tea, so all sorts of milk tea are available here. While the big brands like Coco, Sharetea and Gongcha are on almost every street corner, the purest versions are in the night markets with old amahs just using black tea and milk.

 

3. Torched Wagyu Cubes

This is all about anticipation. Seeing flames come out of a blowtorch with that whooshing sound is enough to whet the appetite. Wagyu beef, tender and succulent, comes out of the fire to be doused with just some pink salt or copious amounts of pepper. Or get the version with cheese, which gives it a heavier bite.

Photo by Jeeves de Veyra

 

4. Stinky Tofu

Deep-fried fermented tofu that has its own distinct odor. It’s an acquired taste and takes some courage to try out. We had ours fried, which is a friendlier way of eating this delicacy. Beware of trying this out inside an enclosed room!

Photo by Jeeves de Veyra

 

5. Lou Rou Fan

Simple but oh-so-good! Minced meat with a sauce that’s slightly sweet with hints of star anise over a bowl of hot steaming rice (or noodles, or with a hard boiled egg). It’s cheap, filling and should be one of your Taiwanese must-eats. We found our favorite version at the Ximending night market.

Photo by Jeeves de Veyra

 

6. Deep-Fried Taro Balls

Say yes to a pile of puffed up balls of fried dough! Best eaten hot, this treat is fun to eat as it deflates as you chew. We like the plum flavored ones for a sweet-sour bite.

Photo by Jeeves de Veyra

 

7. Grilled Wood Mushrooms

Large pieces of wood mushrooms (usually oyster mushrooms) are grilled whole, then chopped and sprinkled with your choice of spice powders. Earthy and meaty.

 

8. Taiwanese Sausage

This pork sausage has beautiful pockets of fat interspersed between sweet meat that’s been flavored with wine and garlic. It makes for a filling snack grilled street side. Great as it is, but some stalls do offer sauces – the one in Shilin market had a sour and spicy one that perked us up during the cold night.

 

9. Tamagoyaki Egg Roll

This was a case of lining up where the lines were long in the Raohe Night Market. Soft and silky Japanese sweet-style tamago (egg) roll with melty cheese and corn inside is topped with generous portions of fish roe, nori seasoning, bonito flakes and a criss-cross dash of Japanese mayonnaise.

 

10. Fan Tuan

It was night, and this is a typical Taiwanese breakfast treat, but we saw a blockbuster line of people, so we knew we had to go. This is another of those best bang for your buck meals -- a large rice roll hides a lot of filling include pickled mustard greens, pork floss, and even a meat filling.

Photo by Joko Magalong-De Veyra

 

11. Ice Cream Runbing

We had this icy treat in the alleyways of Juifen, but it’s easily found in most night markets. Runbing can be savory or sweet, we couldn’t resist the sweet version – with shaved peanut brittle and ice cream wrapped in a wheat wrapper.

Photo by Joko Magalong-De Veyra

 

12. Octopus Takoyaki

Soft and chewy, a serving is generous and doesn’t scrimp on the cctopus, as the tentacles protruding out of the fried balls can attest.

Jeng del Rosario, Food in the Bag

 

13. Flour Rice Noodle Soup

Ay Chung Flour Rice Noodle has been serving this soup since 1975. This is a Ximending classic, as the lines can attest. The service is fast and brisk, and after a brief wait you get a piping hot bowl of noodles filled with shrimp and seafood. Add a bit of vinegar, garlic and chilies – and join the throng outside the stall as you blow and slurp your way into possibly best misua bowl of your life.

Photo by Joko Magalong-De Veyra

 

14. Tanghulu

Shiny and striking, skewered strawberries (or cherry tomatoes) are coated in candy – hard enough for some crunch, but not too hard that you’ll break a tooth. Sweet and sour. Great for ending a night market meal, or refreshing your palette.

For more things to do in Taipei, check out our travel feature on this exciting Taiwan destination.