Taipei Street Food

January 26, 2015 Ivan Teh - RunningMan 0 Comments

Taipei Street Food

Taipei Street Food is a large component of the overall cuisine in Taiwan, bringing together dishes that are a mish mash of influences from South Chinese, native Taiwanese aboriginals, Japanese, and Western culture. Taiwan is particularly noted for its substantial snacks and snacking culture, especially prevalent through Taipei Street Food.

Food in Taipei can be found along the streets in pushcarts, in kiosks, in small cafes, in mid-range restaurants, and fine-dining establishments. Street side stalls and kiosks are plentiful, especially in the popular Night Markets. Taiwanese cuisine is defined by their geographic location, as such, seafood and agricultural ingredients feature prominently. Common ingredients used in many Taipei dishes include beef, chicken, pork, fish, rice, wheat, seafood, tofu, corn, basil, soy bean, cabbage, chinese cabbage / bok choy, cilantro, sweet potato, taro yam, tapioca, scallions / spring onions, peanuts, papaya, mango, watermelon, flour, milk and more.

Taipei Street Food is rather hygenic, and dining at most places, even street stalls, is safe. For extra precaution, look for stalls that have long queues, which mean high turnover and freshness of food. Taiwanese cuisine is extremely popular, especially their snacks, and have been adapted in many other Asian countries. In recent years, more emphasis has been given to Aboriginal Taiwanese cuisine, and local Taipei chefs are starting to introduce these dishes to the rest of Taiwan.


A giant Taiwan style meatball, Ba Wan / Glutinous Pork & Vegetable Ball is said to have been invented when times were scarce. In Taipei, it's made with a mixture of minced pork, cabbage, carrots, light soy sauce, sugar, chinese 5-spice powder, shiitake mushrooms, shallots, bamboo shoots, then stuffed into a wrapper made from corn starch, rice flour, sweet potato starch, and water. After steaming, it's served in a thick gravy / sauce of hoisin sauce, sweet chili sauce, sugar, and water.

Ba Wan / Glutinous Pork & Vegetable Ball 01

Ba Wan / Glutinous Pork & Vegetable Ball 02

Drawing inspiration from Chinese Cantonese cuisine, the Beef & Leek Soup is a double boiled soup where the sliced beef and leeks within are incredibly tender. The clear soup has absorbed the beefy meat taste, making it very flavourful.

Beef & Leek Soup

The Taiwan style Beef Noodles, or Beef Noodle Soup, is so popular in Taipei that it even has it's own festival! Considered the national dish, Beef Noodles / Beef Noodle Soup has a few main ingredients, namely beef brisket / beef shank that is cooked till tender, thin / flat egg noodles, scallions / green onions, and kai-lan chinese broccoli. The difference lies in the incredibly tasty soup / broth, flavoured with herbs, including pepper, garlic, star anise, ginger, sugar, vinegar, light soy sauce, water, sesame oil, tomatoes, broad bean paste, chili, and then simmered for about 24 hours to get maximum flavour.

Beef Noodles 01

Beef Noodles 02

A dessert beverage known worldwide, Bubble Tea is named for the frothy foam created when shaking the drink, and for the round, chewy tapioca balls that accompany it, known in slang as 'Boba', or as 'Pearls'. The actual tea itself could be made from either black tea, red tea, green tea, milk tea, or a fruit flavoured tea. Besides tapioca balls, Bubble Tea may sometimes contain fruit flavoured jelly, azuki beans, or sago balls.

Bubble Tea

Inspired by Chinese Cantonese cuisine, Taiwan also has their own version of Buns, known as Baozi. However, the filling differs from the typical Chinese versions. In Taipei, the Bun Pork & Vegetable is the most common version, and most closely resembles its Chinese counterpart, with a filling of minced pork and spring onions. Bun Vegetable is an all vegetable bun, with a filling of spring onions, ginger, and cabbage. Bun Pork Belly has a filling of tender chunks of soy sauce braised pork belly and pickled mustard leaves.

Bun Pork & Vegetable

Bun Vegetable

Bun Pork Belly

The rather simple ingredients of the Butter Egg Sponge Cake simply consist of butter, egg white, flour, and baking powder. Various fillings can be added, including cheese, moa chi / mochi, black sesame, peanut, red beans, chocolate, and more. The resulting cake is incredbly light, fluffy, and soft, best when eaten fresh. When kept for more than 1 day, the taste still remains strong, though the cake becomes slightly more dense in texture. Part of the appeal of this dessert confectionery is watching the bakers make it.

Butter Egg Sponge Cake Cheese

Butter Egg Sponge Cake Moa Chi

The grilled Fatty Pork Sausage, also known as Taiwan Pork Sausage, is a very popular street stick food in Taipei. Meaty, juicy, and tasty, it's great on its own. Most vendors also offer the Fatty Pork Sausage as an ingredient in the dish called 'Little Sausage In Big Sausage', which stuffs the Fatty Pork Sausage into a glutinous sticky rice casing shaped like a white sausage, topped with garnishings of garlic, basil, and sometimes chili.

Fatty Pork Sausage 01

Fatty Pork Sausage 02

Fatty Pork Sausage 03

The Grilled King Trumpet Mushroom are simply king trumpet mushrooms, grilled over a charcoal flame. The mushrooms are thick and meaty in taste, with the smoky aroma of the barbecue, and a great alternative for vegetarians, or those looking for a healthier option instead of grilled meat.

Grilled King Trumpet Mushroom

Available mostly in convenience stores across Taipei and Taiwan, Guan Dong Zhu is inspired by Japanese cuisine, specifically the dish known as Oden. It consists of several individual ingredients on sticks, such as tofu, fish cakes, mushrooms, fish balls, pork meat balls, blood pudding, simmering in a light, soy and fish soup / broth. Often considered a slightly healthier option of street food.

Guan Dong Zhu

The Hong Shao Rou Fan / Red Roast Pork Loin Rice is a 1 dish meal. The star is the Red Roast Pork Loin inspired by Chinese Cantonese cuisine, although the actual taste and texture varies greatly. It's often accompanied by stir fried vegetables like cabbage and carrots, soy braised pork belly, stir fried soy pork loin strips, a hard boiled egg, and white rice.

Hong Shao Rou Fan / Red Roast Pork Loin Rice

The Ji Juan Fan / Chicken Roll Rice is a 1 dish meal, known to be very filling. The thick chicken roll is meaty and moist, with a slightly crisp outer casing. Often served with white rice and stir fried cabbage and carrots, as well as a hard boiled egg.

Ji Juan Fan / Chicken Roll Rice

The Large Fried Chicken Cutlet is a popular street snack in Taiwan, and Taipei. An oversized chicken fillet, as big as a person's face, is made from pounding flat an entire chicken breast, which is then battered and deep fried. It is often sprinkled with pepper and chinese 5-spice powder, and sometimes chili powder. The crust is crisp, and locks in the moisture of the chicken meat, making it very juicy.

Large Fried Chicken Cutlet

The Large Fried Pork Chop is mostly served in sit-down restaurants, not on the street. It's made by pounding flat a pork loin, pan frying it, then serving with a sprinkle of pepper and chinese 5-spice powder.

Large Fried Pork Chop

An iconic Taiwanese dish, Lu Rou Fan / Braised Pork Rice comprises of finely chopped, soy braised pork belly, with a good ration of meat to fat, slow cooked with chinese 5-spice powder till tender. It's then spooned piping hot over white rice, and served. The typical Taiwanese comfort food.

Lu Rou Fan / Braised Pork Rice

Similar to Italian Gnocchi or German Spatzle, the Taiwanese Mien Ger Da / Ugly Noodles consist of just flour and water, then shaped by hand. It's mostly served in soup or stew dishes, and are very filling.

Mien Ger Da / Ugly Noodles 01

Mien Ger Da / Ugly Noodles 02

The Milkfish Thick Soup is mostly consumed by Taipei locals, and is also found throughout Taiwan. A nourishing, filling broth / soup that is thickened with corn starch, it contains strips of cabbage, carrots, fish cake, milkfish slices, pork slices, and sometimes orange zest, which adds a layer of citrus flavour.

Milkfish Thick Soup

Considered as one of the most popular night market snacks in Taiwan and Taipei, the Oyster Omelette is a chewy, fluffy omelette made with eggs, oysters, tapioca starch / sweet potato starch, and sometimes, chrysanthemum leaves. It has a soft, sticky texture, served garnished with cilantro, and a sweet and mildly spicy sauce.

Oyster Omelette 01

Oyster Omelette 02

The Oyster Vermicelli incorporates Japanese cuisine influence, as the thick, flavourful broth / soup is made with Katsuobushi. The thin vermicelli rice noodles hold the broth when eaten, making each mouthful flavourful. Besides the inclusion of small oysters, other garnishings may include shredded chicken, vinegar, braised pig's intestines, or cilantro.

Oyster Vermicelli 01

Oyster Vermicelli 02

Pickled Cabbage In Sour Plum is mostly served as an appetizer or palate cleanser, and consists of sliced cabbage, brined in a sauce of sour plum juice and sugar. It can be either sour or sweet, depending on the chef.

Pickled Cabbage In Sour Plum

The Purple Gold Taro Yam Pastry is made from smashed taro / yam, shaped into cubes, then battered, deep fried till crisp, then chilled. Served cold as a dessert, the crust is crisp, while the filling has a sweet taste of taro / yam, and a texture like ice cream.

Purple Gold Taro Yam Pastry 01

Purple Gold Taro Yam Pastry 02

Shrimp Fried Rice contains a lot of small shrimp, shell and all. This lends a very heavy crustacean flavour to the overall dish.

Shrimp Fried Rice

Served cold, the Sliced Pork Loin With Honey Mustard Sauce features tender slices of marinated pork loin, with a grilled / barbecue taste. Dipped into the sweet, tangy honey mustard sauce, and paired with the dried cranberries, the layers of flavours are complex. Taste is at once savoury, sweet, sour, and tangy.

Sliced Pork Loin With Honey Mustard Sauce 01

Sliced Pork Loin With Honey Mustard Sauce 02

The Soya Bean Curd Pudding With Sweet Potato, Taro Yam, Tapioca, In Ginger Soup is a classic Taiwan dessert, found throughout Taipei. The soya bean curd pudding is soft, but more dense than versions in other countries. The sweet potato balls, taro / yam balls, and tapioca balls lend flavour and the signature chewy texture of Taiwanese cuisine. The ginger soup is potent, spicy, warming, and hot, it feels cleansing and comforting.

Soya Bean Curd Pudding With Sweet Potato, Taro Yam, Tapioca, In Ginger Soup

Seafood plays a large part in Taiwanese street food snacks, and the most common seafood is Squid. The Squid Grilled is a whole squid / sotong, barbecue over a charcoal fire, then served with a sprinkle of pepper and chinese 5-spice powder. The freshness of the squid is key here, as is the balance of seasoning.

Squid Grilled 01

Squid Grilled 02

This love it or hate it dish of Stinky Tofu looks like a normal deep fried tofu, doused in a sweet, spicy sauce and served with pickled cabbage and cilantro. With a slightly crisp exterior, and a warm, soft interior, Stinky Tofu has a normal texture. The difference lies in the pungunt, almost repulsive odor it gives off due to fermentation, but the Taiwanese have got the fermentation just right, so that it's not rotten.

Stinky Tofu

The Stinky Tofu & Century Egg In Kung Pao Sauce is a resturant style dish, combining 2 classic Taiwanese ingredients of Stinky Tofu and Century Eggs. Stir fried together in a sweet, sticky, spicy Kung Pao sauce, along with garlic and dried chili, this dish adds the challenge of heat and slimy texture to the already challenging repulsive odor. A dish for the adventurous!

Stinky Tofu & Century Egg In Kung Pao Sauce

The Stir Fried Chinese Spinach With Bean Curd Sheets is a simple stir fry of chinese spinach / water spinach / ong choy / kang kong, dried bean curd sheets, ginger, and garlic. Best eaten when fresh and hot, it has a clean, vegetable taste.

Stir Fried Chinese Spinach With Bean Curd Sheets

The Stir Fried String Beans are a simple stir fry of string beans, spring onions, and garlic, in a spicy chili paste. It has a slight heat from the chili oil, and is best eaten together with white rice.

Stir Fried String Beans

The Suncake / Sun Biscuit is a signature pastry from the Taichung district, consisting of a filling of maltose / condensed malt sugar, in a round, crisp, flaky crust basted with butter.

Suncake 01

Suncake 02

A typical Chinese Cantonese dish, the Sweet & Sour Fish features a light, firm, boneless fish fillet, in a sticky, sweet and sour sauce. The Taiwanese version of the sweet and sour sauce is made with light soy sauce, garlic, onions, ginger, rice wine vinegar, tomato ketchup, sugar, corn flour, and sesame oil.

Sweet & Sour Fish

Wontons Shrimp And Pork In Spicy Sauce are from Chinese Cantonese cuisine, and are prepared in almost a similar style, with minced pork, diced shrimp / prawns, stuffed into a wonton casing. Served in a sour, tangy, spicy sauce of black vinegar and chili, garnished with spring onions.

Wontons Shrimp And Pork In Spicy Sauce 01

Wontons Shrimp And Pork In Spicy Sauce 02

Despite its origins in Chinese Cantonese cuisine, the Taiwanese may have perfected the art of Xiao Long Bao / Steamed Soup Dumplings, where a filling of either meat or seafood, is steamed within a dumpling casing, until it releases a savoury broth / soup into the dumpling. For Xiao Long Bao Steamed Pork Dumplings, this filling is minced pork, and for Xiao Long Bao Steamed Crab Meat Dumplings, the filling is a mixture of crab meat and crab / fish roe. Bite a small hole first, drink the soup / broth, then garnish the dumpling with ginger and vinegar, and consume it.

Xiao Long Bao Steamed Pork Dumplings

Xiao Long Bao Steamed Crab Meat Dumplings


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