A True Foodie Paradise
As a holiday destination, Taipei is synonymous with one thing: Food.
If you’re a complete newbie, like me, to this eclectic land of bustling streets and awesome night markets, the sheer variety of food may stun you. Almost everything is delicious in Taipei, but for an absolutely phenomenal food experience, there are some things that you have to include in your food-slaying hitlist.
With only 5 days to spend in this food-crazed city, all thanks to Scoot, Tiffany and I had only one goal in mind: To experience the best that Taipei has to offer, bite by bite. We hunted through the countless lanes that map out the city, sussed out out-of-the-way cafes and burnt our sleep time combing through night markets. And of course, stuffed ourselves silly at every opportunity. All in the pursuit of glorious food.
This beginner’s guide may not cover every single amazing thing, but if you only have a limited number of days to explore Taipei, it will cover all the bases.
Here are 21 of the greatest eats from this land of smiles and street food galore. From old-school eateries to hole-in-the-wall hipster cafes, this guide will take you through the very best of Taipei’s eats and treats. We’ve broken it down for you:
1. Taipei Night Markets
2. The Local Offerings
3. Snacks and Street Eats
5. Sweet Stuff
You’ll never go hungry in Taipei. Ever.
If you visit Taipei, you head to the night markets. This rule is unquestionable.
There are several night markets scattered all over the city, and each of them has their own quirks and specialities. Unless you’re staying for a week or more, it’s near-impossible to squeeze them all into your travel itinerary.
The 3 night markets in this section make a great “tasting platter” – an introduction to the tons of dazzling sights and snacks that Taipei’s night markets have to offer. This guide will take you through what to expect, the highlights, and some tips on how to make the most out of your night market visits.
So be prepared to stay out late, you’ve got some night market-conquering to do!
Tonghua Night Market: For A Mix of Popular and Unique Street Eats
Also known as Linjiang Street Night Market, Tonghua Night Market is located less than a kilometer from the nearest train station. The street comes alive as night falls, transforming the peaceful lane into a carnival of different sights and aromas as the different vendors start pouring in to set up shop.
Tonghua is an excellent first-time night market for those who are totally new to Taiwan. It isn’t as massive as Shilin, nor is it as quaint as Ningxia.
A medium-sized night market with great quality food, Tonghua slots itself neatly in between, in terms of size and street food variety.
You’ll be struck by a tidal wave of sights and scents as you venture deeper into the market. There are so many street snacks, from soup-filled, crispy-bottomed sheng jian bao (similar to pan-fried xiaolongbao), to sticky-sweet candied fruit on a stick.
Traveller Tip: To maximise stomach space, walk down the whole street before you start buying anything! This way, you’ll give yourself some time to take in all the stunning street food.
Here are some highlights from Tonghua to look out for!
Liu Sha Fritter (5 for 100 TWD, $4.20 SGD)
Let that liu sha flow
All liu sha lovers out there, this crispy, gold-filled donut is calling your name. Fried fresh to order, the filling is hot, silky and creamy-sweet; a far cry from the salty, distinctly buttery flavor of most salted egg dishes.
The MUST TRY Peanut Brittle Ice-Cream Spring Roll (40 TWD, $1.20 SGD)
If there’s one thing that you die-die must hunt down at Tonghua, it’s this unique, odd-sounding Taiwanese treat: The famous 花生捲加冰淇淋.
This snack can be roughly translated to “Peanut Roll with Ice-Cream”. Sounds simple, but there is more to this dessert than meets the eye.
You’ll be amazed by the level of complexity in this seemingly-simple dessert.
Sandy piles of peanut brittle shavings and coriander sprigs are layered on a dough skin, along with 3 scoops of yam, pineapple and red bean ice-cream.
Coriander, caramel and ice-cream sound like a very strange combination, but hold your judgement till you take your first bite. The herby coriander hits your palate like a breeze of fresh spring air, and the sweet, snowflake-like peanut shavings add an addictive sandiness on top of the smooth ice-cream. This is fresh, creative, and totally ingenious.
Even if you dislike the pungent herb, do not request to leave it out. I repeat, DO NOT LEAVE IT OUT. If any of the components are missing, this dessert won’t be the same.
Spring and summer transformed into a street snack. Don’t leave Taipei without giving this a shot.
With an interesting mix of stalls, amongst which you can find popular night market staples alongside the more unique local bites, Tonghua Night Market is definitely worth the trip.
Traveller Tip: Most of the street food vendors usually arrive past 7 pm, so you should only head down around then.
Address: Alley 1, Lane 40, Linjiang St, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106
Opening Hours: Daily: 5 p.m. onwards
How To Get There: Take the Tamsui-Xinyi Line to Xinyi Anhe Station, and head out from Exit 4. Walk down Xinyi Road, and turn into Tonghua Street. Continue down, and you’ll hit the entrance of the Tonghua Night Market in no time. Look out for the lit up night market arch!
2. Shilin Night Market: For A Crazy-Huge Variety Of Street Food
Some Taipei holiday veterans may have the opinion that Shilin Night Market is overrated and touristy, but trust me, you have to experience Shilin at least once in your life. With both a street level and underground section, this is by far the largest night market in Taipei.
On The Surface
The sheer variety and quantity of the street food offered at Shilin is INSANE, with the road to the main part of Shilin Night Market paved on all sides with food stands.
Try not to get derailed by the sudden onslaught of delicious aromas and tantalizing sights. A common first-time mistake would be to stuff yourself silly at all the stalls leading to Shilin before you even reach the main part of the market. Do buy some snacks to sample, but remember- Self control is key!
We did succumb to temptation with this GIANT grilled squid (100 TWD, $4.20 SGD).
No regrets, this squid is perfectly seasoned with furikake, and the charred calamari ends are crisp and addictively smokey.
Out of all the wonderful street eats that we stuffed ourselves with, here are some of our favorites!
Raohe Pepper Bun, Or Hu Jiao Bing (50 TWD, $2.10 SGD)
Although technically not from Shilin, the queue for this crispy oven-roasted bun easily stretches halfway down the street.
Charred and crispy on the outside, filled with peppery char siew on the inside. This is a giant char siew bao on crack.
Peanut Shaved Ice from the famous Xin Fa Ting (70 TWD, $2.95 SGD)
This super popular shaved ice store can get really packed, but thankfully you can opt for takeaway!
Peanut Shaved Ice on the street
Topped with rainbow sprinkles, this dessert of peanut-infused ribbons is almost ethereal. Every bite so incredibly airy and out-of-this world fluffy that this monster tub will be gone so fast, you won’t even have time to share.
Save some space, as there’s a second part to Shilin Night Market.
Food as far as the eye can see.
Taiwan’s version of our or-luak (oyster omelette)
In the making: “Da Bing Bao Xiao Bing”, or literally, “Big Bun Wrapping Small Bun”
This is made by pounding a crispy disc of fried pastry dough with a mallet, before wrapping the smashed pastry in a popiah-like skin.
Traveller Tip: The best way to tackle Shilin’s crazy patchwork of streets is to start from the street beginning with the massively popular Hot Star fried chicken stall, and then work your way in from there.
Address: No. 101, Jihe Rd, Shilin District, Taipei City, Taiwan 111
Opening Hours: Tues – Sun: 6 a.m. – 2 a.m. ; Mon: 2 p.m. – 2 a.m.
How To Get There: Take the Tamsui-Xinyi Line to Jiantan Station. From there, you’ll seeing signboards pointing you in the direction of Shilin Night Market. It’s impossible to get lost.
3. Ningxia Night Market: Enjoy Freshly Grilled Seafood And Other Taiwanese Delights At This Local Favorite
Ningxia Night Market is one of the smaller night markets in Taipei, only consisting of one long, narrow street. However, don’t demean Ningxia based on it’s size. It’s extremely popular with the locals, and for good reasons too. With tons of unique seafood-based snacks and dishes, Ningxia is the place to head to if you’re a seafood-lover.
On a Saturday night, the narrow lane way is packed. Do be warned, it can be quite a bit of a squeeze. However, despite the apparent chaos, human traffic flows in a surprisingly organized manner.
Here are some of the highlights from Ningxia Night Market!
Cheese-Mentaiko Grilled Shellfish (40 TWD, $1.70 SGD)
“Seafood Shell”: Pieces of mystery shellfish are mixed with a creamy mentaiko sauce, before the mixture is stuffed back into the shells, topped with cheese and grilled till bubbling.
Hot, creamy mentaiko sauce, and a melted cheese crust. So shiok.
Deep Fried Stuffed Squid (120 TWD, $5 SGD)
If you like calamari, you will love the Deep Fried Stuffed Squid: A whole battered squid stuffed with celery, carrot and cucumber sticks, before being deep-fried to a golden-brown perfection.
This monster calamari was consumed in no time.
Giant Deep-Fried Seafood Wanton (50 TWD, $2.10 SGD)
One of the more unique street snacks can be spotted at a stall selling Giant Deep Fried Seafood Wontons (50 TWD). This massive fried dumpling is way bigger than any wanton you’ve ever seen before, even larger than a baseball.
The giant wantons come stuffed with a mix of minced vegetables, a whole egg, and your choice of either shrimp or oysters.
This is like eating an inverted seafood/oyster omelette. Delicious.
Freshly-Grilled Seafood Galore
There are several stalls displaying an ocean’s catch worth of seafood on ice at the night market, from huge crab claws to fresh juicy scallops.
Amazingly juicy giant prawns
Fresh off the grill!
To order, just point at whatever seafood your heart desires, and the stall owner will grill it up on the spot for you! You can have your skewers to go, or you can head to the back of the stalls, where there are tables set up for patrons to enjoy their fresh seafood.
Opt for the dine-in option. Take it from us, slurping up freshly-shucked oysters and cracking off huge prawn heads, while trying to navigate a bustling night market, can be quite a challenge.
Custard Apple (100 TWD, $4.20 SGD)
The soft, creamy custard apple will make a welcome break from all the savoury seafood that you’ll be steadily consuming over the course of the night.
Liu Yu Zi (20 TWD, $0.80 SGD)
Notice the tiny stall with a humongous queue? That’s the famous Liu Yu Zi stall, which sells a special taro fritter that’s stuffed with salted egg yolk and pork floss. Do take note that there is a minimum order of 2 pieces per customer!
A huge order of liu yu zi being prepped.
The purple-hued liu yu zi is crispy on the outside and wonderfully moist on the inside, with slight chewiness in the taro-based dough. What makes this fritter so interesting is the incorporation of pork floss, which adds a delicious savoriness on top of the taro’s milky sweetness.
It’s worth queuing for, at least once.
Traveller Tip: Save this as your last stop, and grab a seafood skewer or custard apple to munch on as you wait.
Although much smaller and not as glitzy as Tonghua and Shilin, this local hidden gem of a night market is definitely more interesting. The quality of the food here is better overall as well. For a not-so-typical night market experience, check out Ningxia Night Market.
Address: Ningxia Road, Datong District, Taipei City, Taiwan 103
Opening Hours: Daily: 5.30 p.m. – 12 a.m.
How To Get There: Take the Songshan-Xindian Line to Zhongshan Station, and head out Exit 4. Walk down Nanjing West Road until you hit a circus in the road, from there, you should be able to spot the arch marking out Ningxia Night Market.
“When in Taipei, eat as the Taiwanese do.”
There’s no substitute for good ol’ local food. To really get a taste of a city’s heritage and culture, you’ve got to go local.
This section introduces some of the best local Taiwanese dining experiences you can embark on during your first trip. From a mind-blowing fish market adventure like you’ve never experienced before, to a simple but terrific traditional sit-down breakfast feast, there’s so much that Taipei has to offer.
4. Queue with the locals for a heart-warming traditional breakfast
No Taipei trip is complete without having an authentic sit-down local breakfast with all the trimmings. And that’s exactly what you’ll find at Fu Hang Dou Jiang.
Fu Hang Dou Jiang is just a stall in the food court, but you’ll notice that the whole space is packed with people enjoying hot trays of food from the popular breakfast joint.
Even on a weekday, Fu Hang Dou Jiang will still be packed, with a queue extending out the door and down the staircase! Thankfully, this line moves quickly, and you should be able to reach the ordering counter in under 30 minutes.
Fu Hang is bound to get way more crowded on weekends, so head there on a weekday if you can.
You can observe the kitchen staff hard at work, deftly stuffing baos by hand and cutting up sticks of fresh you tiao dough for the wok.
Remember to settle on what you want to get before you reach the counter! Don’t be that blur sotong tourist who disrupts the efficient flow of the cafeteria-style system by hemming and hawing the moment the server asks for your order.
Our whole breakfast bill came up to a total of 105 TWD, or $4.40 SGD!
Shaobing, a type of roasted layered flatbread, is a Taiwanese breakfast staple. Fu Hang’s shaobing came piping hot with a slightly sweet, crispy glazed top sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds. A bite of this revealed amazingly fluffy layers scattered throughout with spring onions.
Buttery and slightly savory, this was heavenly soaked in Sweet Dou Jiang (soy milk). This Taiwanese soybean milk was thicker and more creamy than the kind that you’ll find in Singapore, making the sweet bowl of milky goodness a lot more satisfying.
The Salty Dou Jiang is completely different from it’s sweet counterpart, with a thick custard-like texture reminiscent of steamed egg. Topped with crispy you tiao and spring onions, this breakfast option is perfect for those looking for a comforting, tummy-warming dish.
Saving the best for last: the crispy golden-brown Youtiao. This freshly-fried cruller was incredibly light and crackly, a world away from many doughy, overly-greasy versions. Eaten with a spoonful of sweet dou jiang, this is really the ultimate comfort dish.
Whoever it was who came up with the idea of pairing this hot crispy fritter with cold creamy soymilk, I salute you.
Address: No. 108, 2nd Floor Section 1 Zhongxiao East Road, Zhongzheng District, 100 Taipei City, Taiwan
Opening Hours: Tues – Sun: 5.30 am – 12.30 pm; Closed on Mondays
How To Get There: Take the Bannan Line to the Shandao Temple Station, and head to the HuaShan Market. Fu Hang Dou Jiang is located on the 2nd floor of the HuaShan Market Building; you’ll have to find the side door with a staircase that will take you up to the foodcourt area.
5. Enjoy A Xiao Long Bao Feast That Is Cheaper, But Just As Good As Ding Tai Fung’s
If you’re craving for a basket of hot, soup-packed xiao long bao (abbreviated “XLB”), Hang Zhou Xiao Long Tang Bao is just the place for you. Located just a short walk from the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall, this local restaurant specializes in the popular soup dumplings. Many locals profess that they favor Hang Zhou over the other restaurants selling XLB, including our taxi driver!
This place serves their Xiao Long Tang Bao (8 for 140 TWD, $5.88 SGD) and other steamed dumplings at a lower price as compared to their competitors, but the quality and taste of their XLB are just as good. Maybe even better.
Don’t expect to get a seat immediately; Hang Zhou is still very popular with locals and tourists alike.
Hang Zhou’s namesake Xiao Long Tang Bao: Pristine pouches of soupy goodness.
Filled with melt-in-your-mouth meat filling and bursting with a light yet flavorful broth, each delicate dumpling was juicy and delectably delicious. This basket will be polished off in record time.
While you’re at Hang Zhou, don’t miss their Crabmeat and Shrimp Siew Mai (4 for 90 TWD, $3.70 SGD) either.
Siew Mai? Siew MINE.
Don’t be fooled by their small size. Each crab-roe crowned siew mai packs a sweet punch with its juicy seafood and minced pork stuffing and slippery wanton skin. No hard, dry or “porky” tasting siew mai for us.
Head to Hang Zhou for a more authentic, local dining experience that you might miss out on at chain restaurants.
Plus, there’s no need to queue for 2 hours. A girl needs her dumplings.
Traveller Tip: Come at an off-peak hour (5 p.m. is good), and you should be able to get a seat quickly.
Address: No. 19, Section 2, Hangzhou S Rd, Da’an District, Taipei City, 106
Opening Hours: Daily: 11 a.m. – 12 a.m.
How To Get There: Take the Tamsui-Xinyi Line or the Songshan-Xindian Line to Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall Station. Head down Linsen South Road, and turn right down Aiguo East Road until you hit Hangzhou South Road. Continue down Hangzhou South Road in the direction of the girls’ school to reach Hang Zhou Xiao Long Tang Bao.
6. Wolf Down Some Of Taipei’s Best Niu Rou Mian At A Tiny Street Side Eatery
Taiwan is famous for its niu rou mian, a soup noodle dish with a rich, intensely-flavorful beef broth. Many even consider it to be the country’s national dish!
It’s near-impossible to try all the niu rou mian shops in Taipei. Several high-end restaurants claim to serve the best niu rou mian in Taipei, with one such restaurant even pricing their rendition at a staggering 888 TWD ($37 SGD). Imagine that!
However, the true front runners in the niu rou mian race are humble establishments such as Lin Dong Fang Niu Rou Mian. In terms of quality, price and taste, their aromatic beef noodles certainly lives up to its hype. It’s sold at a much more reasonable price too.
At Lin Dong Fang, order a steaming metal bowl of their signature Large Beef Noodles (180 TWD, $5.50 SGD) to share with your travel buddy.
Look at that huge portion!
A sip of the beef broth will win you over immediately: Light yet supremely flavorful, with an intense umami-filled body. The noodles are slippery-smooth and delightfully chewy, while the thick beef slices are so well-stewed that they melt in your mouth the moment you take a bite.
There is also the option for brisket meat, as well as various types of xiao cai (appetizers), which you can enjoy alongside your noodles.
Warning: The eatery is rather small, so you might have trouble finding seats if you arrive in a large group. To avoid this, come in the mid-afternoon, when they are less busy. Alternatively, head here for a sumptuous midnight supper; their stall remains open until 3 a.m.!
Address: No. 274, Section 2, Bade Rd, Zhongshan District, Taipei City, Taiwan 104
Opening Hours: Mon – Sat: 11 a.m. – 3 a.m.
How To Get There: Take the Bannan Line to Zhongxiao Fuxing Station, and head out Exit 1. Walk down the length of Andong Street, cross the Taipei City East-West Expressway, and continue straight till you reach Lin Dong Fang.
7. Get A Fabulous Sushi and Sashimi Feast From Aquatic Addiction, For Less Than $20 SGD Per Person!
If you’re a huge fan of Japanese food, particularly the seafood offerings, you won’t regret making a trip down to Aquatic Addiction at the Taipei Fish Market for a sashimi-sushi brunch.
With huge seafood-filled tanks containing all kinds of live critters, from tiny clams to gigantic lobsters, Aquatic Addiction is every seafood lover’s paradise.
Be sure to check out the massive live crabs.
Huge whole lobsters on ice.
The old Taipei fish market was redeveloped as the Aquatic Addiction Development by Mitsui group a few years back, and the variety here is simply stunning. Fix your eyes on trays upon trays of premium uni, king crabs, palm-sized scallops and so on. Everything goes at an exceedingly reasonable price!
Crazy crayfish halves for less than $20
If you’re too lazy to cook up your own seafood feast, Aquatic Addiction had more than just fresh seafood; they have restaurants built right into the development itself! Here, you can enjoy your seafood in any style.
Boiled into a hearty bowl of steaming somen noodles
Skillfully sliced into platters of beautiful sushi
As an alternative to dining in, head down to the takeaway section, where you’ll be greeted by the most beautiful sight: Counters filled with glistening boxes of freshly sliced sashimi and sushi!
For the size and portions given, the takeaway sets at Aquatic Addiction are an absolute steal.
After piling your cart high with sushi and sashimi platters, head outside to the outdoor seats. You’re sure to be famished after a whole morning of trekking to and exploring the market, so reward yourself with a mega sushi-sashimi brunch.
Clockwise from the top: Mixed Sushi Platter, Maguro and Salmon Sashimi, Grilled Giant Prawn Skewers, Giant Prawn Sashimi.
If you’re always torn between your loves for salmon and tuna, the Maguro and Salmon Sashimi (320 TWD, $9.85 SGD) is an obvious choice for you. The sashimi slices are thick and super generous; more than double the portions that restaurants back home usually serve! For some of the sweetest, most delicious prawns that you’ll find outside of Japan, get the Giant Prawn Sashimi (320 TWD), which is melt-in-your-mouth fresh, and full of umami seafood essence.
Everything is so delicious you’ll polish the food off, down to the last grain of vinegared rice.
The Mixed Sushi Platter (350 TWD, $10.80 SGD) has an incredible variety, and is an incredible deal to boot. You’ll get anago(freshwater eel), chutoro (fatty tuna), hamachi (yellowtail), negitoro (minced fatty tuna), ikura (salmon roe) and more, all artfully arranged into vibrant rows.
Honestly, there’s no such thing as too much sushi.
Warning: Aquatic Addiction can get terrifically crowded on during the weekend. Visit early on a weekday morning instead.
Address: No. 18, Alley 2, Lane 410, Minzu E Rd, Zhongshan District, Taipei City, Taiwan 104
Opening Hours: Daily: 6 a.m. – 12 a.m.
How To Get There: Take the Zhonghe-Xinlu Line to Xingtian Temple Station. From there, take Bus No. 642 for 3 stops, and alight at the Taipei Fish Market.
SNACKS AND STREET EATS
Taipei’s street food game is so strong, that this vibrant city is considered to be one of the greatest street food capitals in the world. This section gives you the low-down on some of the amazing snacks that you can grab and go to fuel your adventures around Taipei.
Grab whatever catches your eye, whether it’s a box of cute, squishy mochi, or steaming sticks of pig’s blood pudding. With all sorts of nibbles available at every turn and corner, it’s impossible to run out of options in this street food mecca.
8. Try IJYSHENG’s Phenomenal Handmade Mochi- And Bring A Box Home To Spread The Love
If you’re a die-hard fan of the chewy treat, IJYSHENG’s handmade mochi is something that you CANNOT miss out on. Aside from their fragrant award-winning buns and pastries, this popular bakery is lauded for their delicious mochi.