16 foods you HAVE to eat in Taipei
Not all Taiwanese food agrees with me. It's a little too greasy, too laden with MSG, too salty, and always a lot more flour-y than it needs to be. For someone who grew up eating Asian food, you'd think I wouldn't be so baffled by this cuisine. I wasn't wowed at everything we ate because of this, but I found some gems that I was truly excited by and would love to eat again!
1. Clay oven roasted chicken in Wulai
2. Wulai specialty: Bamboo rice
On a day trip from Taipei we hired a cab who drove us around the Wulai countryside. This was a recommendation of his and I cannot recommend it enough to you! The chicken is so succulent, gloriously roasted in these giant clay vats. The bamboo rice was also such a great find! Most rice dishes in Taiwanese cuisine is slick with oil, so it was refreshing to have this glutinous bamboo carb accompaniment which is a specialty to this area. Its origin supposedly came from tribal hunter-gatherers who stuffed bamboo with rice and wild boar meat and steamed the stalks over coal. It’s freaking delicious.
3. Fresh seafood: you pick, they cook
In the same Wulai district you can pick out your seafood in the market, which they then take into the restaurant next door to cook up for you in whichever style you love. Amazingly fresh seafood and VERY tasty simple sauces like garlic and soy.
4. Fried pork rib with chilli and fennel spices
A specialty at 1010 Hunan Pop Cuisine. Nicely seasoned, mildly spicy. I didn't mind the fried herbs at all and the meat was very well seasoned.
5. Crispy oyster you tiao (dough fritters)
6. Roast pork
Number 5 was completely new to me. Never dreamt of draping succulent oysters over dough fritters! Quite clean and refreshing. The roast pork we ordered by accident was a dish meant to be had with beer because it was soaked in salt. You couldn't just eat it with rice and sides, it washes down nicely only with booze. James Kitchen serves up these wonderful concoctions.
7. Taiwanese fried rice
This is the only place where I enjoyed the fried rice, and we have tried a few everywhere we went as my dad loves fried rice. It's not coated in oil and has a nice fragrant flavour. There's a few locations but treat yourself to the restaurant at Taipei 101 for a grand city view.
8. Oden (or in Taiwan, Olen)
Various ingredients such as fish and meatballs, blood pudding, fish stuffed beancurd which are served in broth and dips of spicy chilli.
9. Oyster omelette
Ubiquitous here and fairly different from anywhere else in Asia as it's served with a sweet sauce.
10. Stinky fermented tofu
MUST try! There are a few levels of "stinkiness" and some people say it smells like feet, but I didn't get that. It is extremely crispy and very good when eaten with the chilli accompaniment. I can see many folks being turned off by this since most can barely stand normal tofu, but wait! It's very fluffy AND crispy!
11. Oyster mee sua (thin noodles)
My favourite anywhere in the world, and it originated here in Taiwan. Thick pork and oyster broth with thin noodles drizzled with black vinegar that you scoop with a spoon. YUM.
12. Indigenous Taiwan sausage
A favourite since I was a child, and where better to eat this than from where it originated. This sausage xiang chang is slightly sweet, not like the Cantonese dried version of lup cheong.
13. Spring onion pancake
My grandmother used to make this for us when I was a child. The flavour is drawn of course from the spring onion and mixed into a batter that fries up crispy.
Ning Xia night market is the place to be for a glorious haul of street foods. People move fast and eat fast - they eagle in to empty seats, order a hot meal and quickly leave when it's over. There are tons of street stores selling all the above and I prefer them all to the more renowned Five Star fried chicken, which I tried and was immediately put off by a greasy, fatty slab of floury chicken.
14. Omelette wrapped you tiao (dough fritters) and salty soy milk
Savoury soy milk? Yes. Coagulated? Very much so. Would probably never get used to this but it was an interesting texture and taste. From Yong He Dou Jiang, you can get soy milk with chai po (preserved vegetable) and also pork floss, sticky rice wrapped omelettes.
15, 16. Fried pork rib & beef tripe
We found this restaurant near the Bopilian district and I was in awe of the food. It's a very different Chinese style to what I'm used to, even having been in Shanghai and Beijing a few times. Shao Shao Ke specialises in Shanxi cuisine from Northern China. The larger, cosy seating area resembles a cave dwelling which is apparently typical of Northwest China. The tea served is a strong Shanxi version, of which I'd never tasted before.
Suan chiang tu douh sy as they write in their menu - "suan" means sour - is strips of potato with vinegar and dried chillies. Super tasty stuff, slightly crunchy, and an overall great addition to the entire meal. NEVER had potatoes like this before
The surprise dish we had was hurng your wen bahn niour duh tiaur (seriously, copied this off the menu). I had to pull a bluff to everyone at the table that I'd ordered beef, but it's really slices of tripe with spicy sauce. They loved the first bite till I revealed it was beef stomach. They never ate another bite. And of course the star was the exceedingly fork-tender herbed fried pork rib (NT$340), a speciality and a must try. I've never had anyone fry a pork rib before.
How many items on this list have you tried! Or will dare to try?
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