By Madison Morris When you get to Taipei, you might find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the food all around you. How can you choose? Taiwan's food culture is incredible and convenient as you’re never too far from a street stall selling bao, red bean cakes, or barbecue. But of the hundreds of tasty dishes, I’ve broken it down to the five foods you absolutely must eat in Taipei! Taiwan food culture is likely to be quite different to what you’re used to if you’re from the West, but with an open mind and an empty stomach you’ll find a new favourite dish in no time!
Dan Bing - Savory Crepe
Dan Bing is one of the most popular Taiwanese foods to eat for breakfast and I can’t recommend it enough! Sort of a cross between a breakfast burrito and a savory crepe, it’s made of water, flour, and cornstarch whisked together and spread across a pan, then eggs and scallions are added on top to form an egg-pancake. These can be made with bacon, ham, and all sorts of other ingredients, and typically also have cheese added as well. In Taipei this food is served with soy sauce mixed with sesame oil and a little bit of rice vinegar, and sometimes with a little bit of chili pepper as well. You might be hesitant to try the sauce in the morning, I know I was! But trust me, they know what they’re doing! This savory and filling breakfast will usually run around $1USD. You can find them at basically any breakfast place, most of which are open until noon or 1 pm.
photo credit: Food52
Gua Bao - Steamed Bun
Sometimes called a Taiwanese hamburger and or a Taiwanese taco, this belly warming snack should feature in every Taipei food guide. The dish is basically a soft, steamed bun stuffed with braised pork belly. The buns are steamed and the pork comes shredded in a sweet sauce. Most are topped with sweet crushed peanuts and fresh cilantro. The most famous spot for this popular Taiwanese food is Lan Gua Bao, in the Zhongzheng District of Taipei, which is so popular you can almost always count on a long line. But you can also find them in little street stalls where they will be cheaper. They cost 50 TWD (1.70 USD) at Lan Gua Bao, and range from 10-15 TWD (0.34-0.50 USD) at street stalls.
photo credit: Choochoo-ca-Chew
I’ll be honest, I never used to be a big dumpling fan. Dumplings in the US always tasted a bit soggy and flavorless to me. But believe it or not, dumplings are also an important part of Taiwan food culture but are completely different to the ones found in other countries! Pan-fried or steamed, dumplings here are crisp, flavorful, and abundant! Most are made with pork, and leeks are a popular addition. You can also get soup dumplings - another must eat in Taipei. These dishes have thin skins and have a special process of eating. The most famous soup dumpling restaurant in Taiwan, the Michelin starred Din Tai Fung, breaks it down into these four steps: first, mix soy sauce and vinegar into your sauce bowl with sliced ginger, then dip the dumpling into the sauce, put the dumpling into your spoon and poke a hole with your chopstick through the wrapper of the dumpling to release the juices, and finally, enjoy!
One of the most popular local chains is Ba Fang Yun Ji, where visitors can enjoy a meal of dumplings and soup for two for less than $5 USD.
Baobing - Shaved Ice Dessert
Baobing has roots all the way back to the seventh century AD in China and is another important part of Taiwan food culture. This is one of those foods that you just can’t miss! Perfect particularly on a hot day, it’s served as a huge bowl of shaved ice, and generally you choose from the display of available toppings and syrups. Even if your Chinese is not up to scratch, most of it you can muddle through by pointing. In Taipei this food will usually be made with frozen fruits, taro, peanuts, grass jelly (if you’ve ever had bubble tea, grass jelly is what those tasty little bubbles are made of), adzuki and mung beans. If you’re feeling a little less adventurous, you’re safe sticking with just the fruits and syrups and are still set to enjoy a delicious and refreshing dessert.
photo credit: www.flickr.com
Red Bean Cakes
This popular Taiwanese food is made from waffle batter that’s cooked in cast iron pans with different designs. They’re often called car wheel cakes for a closer translation to Mandarin and for their traditional round shape. These tasty desserts are crispy on the outside and filled with a sweet red bean paste on the inside. To a lot of us, red beans in a dessert sounds like an oxymoron, but it is a popular addition here for sweets, added to ice cream, cakes, and pastries. Red beans are an absolute must eat in Taipei.
photo credit: courtneycheng.me
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