Taipei is a bustling city known for its amazing markets, gorgeous mountainous regions, hot springs and its cheap, delicious street food.
On that note, I wanted to share with you all a few of my favourite Taipei street eats and two places where you can find them: Shilin night market and Jiu Fen.
Fried pork buns – ‘Shui jian bao’ 水煎包
An every day staple, these can be found all over Taipei and are perfect as part of breakfast or a snack. These pan fried morsels have a crispy base and fluffy skin, with a pork/cabbage mixture so juicy that you get a little pool of soup at the bottom of the buns.
The buns in the photo above were located on the main street from Taipei main station and with so many stores, it really cannot be missed.
Ji Guang fried chicken: “Ji guang xiang xiang ji” 繼光香香雞
Deep fried ‘popcorn’ style chicken is a popular street food choice in Taiwan and can be found generally everywhere.
Founded in Taichung in 1973, Ji Guang fried chicken is a household name amongst locals and has since been expanding across Asia. The chicken is incredibly crispy yet not too oily, seasoned with up to 10 secret spices and optional chilli powder.
Hot star fried chicken – ‘Hao da da ji pa” 豪大大雞排
Another popular fried chicken that’s also rapidly expanding internationally is hot star fried chicken. The original store is located at Shilin market which is still the best by far. As it is a whole piece of XXL chicken thigh fillet, the meat is moist, tender and very crisp whilst the five spice and pepper seasoning creates a perfect combination of flavours. Chilli powder is again, optional.
Shilin Night Market － 士林夜市
One of the most popular food markets in Taipei is the Shilin Market where you can find almost everything. Most of the food stalls have now moved to an underground basement with some stalls and general merchandise remaining where they were.
Grilled skewers (mushrooms, fried chicken, chicken fillets, fish tofu, tofu, chicken giblets)
You will find a lot of stalls at the market in this format. All you need to do is select what you want and the chef would place your selections atop a grill and baste it in lots of sauces and marinade (not spicy) until the flavour has been fully absorbed. The grilled mushrooms are smokey and delicious.
Taiwanese sweet sausage － “Xiang chang“ 香肠
These sausages can be found in several types, the most common being the small red ones and you can get the bigger ones which is basically a small sausage encased in a bigger sausage. I have only ever tried the small ones and they have a sweet aftertaste although definitely not your arteries’ best friend.
Oyster Omelette － ‘Ke jai jian’ 蚵仔煎
Oyster omelette can be found in varying forms all around Asia. The omelette is comprised with small oysters, eggs and a little corn starch. This is sold by many vendors at the market.
Deep fried milk – “Zha xian nai” 炸鲜奶
Although deep fried milk did not originate in Taiwan, it has found a solid place amongst the street dining scene. The dish is essentially made with a solidified milk custard that is deep-fried with the resulting texture resembling a hot, fluffy custard.
Jiu Fen － 九分
Beyond Taipei’s hustle and bustle is the picturesque mountain village Jiu Fen that is a food (and tea) lovers dream. The town is accessible via train and a short bus ride and although the region has become more commercialised in recent years, this has not changed the nature of the trade for many of the food vendors and the beautiful heritage buildings still remain.
Once you arrive, just follow the crowd to the old street and you will start weaving through all the lovely shops and head upwards to the top of the town. There’s only one main thoroughfare so it’s impossible to miss anything.
Despite the name, stinky tofu definitely deserves a mention as it is a very popular dish in both Taiwan and northern Asia alike. There are two types of stinky tofu – one boiled in a soup base and the ones (like the picture above) which are dry, firmer and less pungent. If you have never tried stinky tofu, this version would be the best place to start.
The slightly unpleasant aroma is the result of the tofu being fermented which takes on a dense texture, similar to cheese. Prior to serving, the tofu is basked in lots of sauces and spices, resulting in a incredibly flavoursome piece of solid tofu devoid of the pungent aroma.
This vendor specialises in all types of braised items, including varying types of tofu, mushrooms, meats, white radish and beans to name a few. The flavour is a honey soy marinade which is incredibly delicious and according to the shop, cannot be found anywhere else in Taiwan. After waiting in line for about 15-20 minutes, all you need to do is request or point to the items you want and these will be scooped up and transferred into a few plastic bags with long toothpicks for eating. I highly recommend the white radish (bai lor bo) and extra dry tofu (duo gan).
Top: Cuttlefish balls Bottom: Thin pancakes with peanuts, candy shaving and ice cream
The food discussed above would be considered just a taster to the extensive street food scene in Taipei which is constantly evolving but at the same time, staying true to its traditions and century old techniques.
Ji Guang fried chicken
Hot Star fried chicken
Shilin Night market
No. 101, Jihe Rd
Shilin District, Taipei City
Take the train from Taipei station to Rui Fang station (option to reserve seats)
Take the bus across the road from Rui Fang station to Jiu Fen