Taipei is easily one of the food capitals of the world, boasting incredible street food and scrumptious delicacies. Ask any foodie worth their salt and they’ll gladly rave about Taiwan’s capital city!
If you’re hungry for your own culinary adventure in Taipei, the best places to start are the city’s famous night markets. Shilin, Raohe and Ningxia Night Market are some of the recommended spot, with Ningxia being my personal favourite! It’s much more chill and there aren’t as many people around, so I could actually walk and enjoy my food without being literally pushed around!
But you’re not here for that, you’re here for the food, and I hear you! From my personal list of favourites, here are the 18 foods in Taipei Malaysian foodies will fall in love with. Well, maybe 17 (you’ll see why)!
1. Rice Rolls – fan tuan 饭团
Rice rolls are a bit of a Taiwanese staple for breakfast. Traditionally, these oblong snacks were peddled on the streets in wooden food carts. They were made using sticky white rice, pickled mustard greens, radish and occasionally some meat floss. These days however, you can find plenty of different modern varieties.
Apart from the traditional ingredients, some vendors also add in cheese, ham, bacon, and spicy chicken among a plethora of other exciting flavours. Even the rice that is used is no longer limited to white rice! Some have even used purple rice and five grains for healthier options. To kickstart your day in Taipei, you can’t go wrong with some delicious fan tuan!
2. Pork Belly Bun – gua bao 割包
Oh yassss, this is one of my favourites! Known affectionately by locals as the Taiwanese hamburger, gua bao is such a simple dish yet packs a flavourful punch! Slow braised pork belly and pickled mustard greens are stuffed into a soft, steamed bun and topped with crushed peanuts and cilantro.
Biting into a piping hot gua bao is heaven personified on your palette. The tender pork belly and crunchy peanuts combine extremely well with the soft, doughy texture of the bun. And then the tartness of the pickled mustard greens hits you. Oh, I’m salivating already! Bring me back to Taipei…please? 🙁
3. Pepper Buns – hu jiao bing 胡椒饼
Hu jiao bing is another popular street food easily found in night markets. Much like gua bao, Taiwanese pepper buns are fundamentally simple in nature. They are basically meat buns with a crunchy, flaky exterior (think croissants) with a juicy, meaty centre. The meat mixture is usually minced pork or beef marinated in plenty of pepper (hu jiao means pepper in Mandarin) and topped with scallions right at the end.
What makes these buns even more delicious is how they are baked. Instead of conventional ovens, they are cooked in clay-ovens (like tandoori) over a charcoal fire, adding a whole new dimension of smokey flavour! Watch out when you bite into it though, the juice can really burn your tongue if you’re not careful!
4. Fried Scallion Pancakes – cong you bing 葱油饼
Fried scallion pancakes are pretty common even in Malaysia but, and I might get lynched for saying this, I slightly prefer the Taiwanese version. For the uninitiated, scallion pancakes are cooked over flat iron girdle over high heat. Scallions are added to the dough mixture and fried to perfection with plenty of oil.
Sometimes, egg is also added upon request. It’s a sinful and savoury snack that’s suitable for all ages. Best eaten hot! Some might say that the flavour reminds them of roti canai and that’s…not completely wrong!
5. Stinky Tofu – chou dou fu 臭豆腐
Here is the infamous street food that divides foodies. Like durian, some people can’t stand it, and some can’t get enough of it! Basically, fermented tofu is deep-fried and laden with pickled vegetables, a variety of sauces and topped with some fresh herbs. The smell is quite pungent. In fact, you could smell it from yards away!
I tried it once but unfortunately, I was not a fan of it. The texture isn’t all that different from regular fried tofu, it’s the smell that makes it unique. You may or may not like it, but I certainly recommend giving it a try when you’re in Taipei. For me though, I’ll stick to my musang king and petai!
6. Taiwanese Sausages – tai wan xiang chang 台湾香肠
Is there anything more synonymous with Taiwanese street food than Taiwanese sausages? These meaty, juicy pork sausages are all the rage in Taipei’s food markets and it’s easy to see why! Fragrant and pack full of flavour, these delightful skewers can be found almost everywhere.
For an even more filling treat, go for some da chang bao xiao chang (literally meaning sausage wrapped in bigger sausage). Before you get all excited, the “bigger sausage” is actually made of glutinous rice. Basically, you get a good ol’ Taiwanese banger in glutinous rice grilled over a charcoal fire and then dressed with some garlic and savoury sauce. It’s a perfect “hotdog” in every way.
7. Torched Beef Cubes – huo shao niu rou 火烧牛肉
This one is as much a feast for the eyes as it is for your taste buds. As the name suggests, juicy beef cubes and cooked using a flaming torch over a hot grill. It’s one of those foods that you first enjoy with your eyes before putting it in your mouth.
The beef that is used is of extremely high quality, with the perfect mix of fatty and lean meat. Some of the stalls even use wagyu beef for the best taste! These bite-sized snacks are filling and oh so satisfying, especially if you love beef and enjoy being treated to a spectacle before your meal.
8. Chicken Drumstick Roll – ji tui juan 鸡腿卷
This is one of the underrated Taiwanese street foods I came across by pure chance. I was walking through Ningxia Night Market when I smelled something really good but different from what I’d tasted before. Following the trail, I came to an aunty grilling what at first looked like plump bacon-wrapped sausages. Upon closer inspection (and the sign at the front of the stall!), I realised it was actually something called ji tui juan, a chicken drumstick roll.
It’s a chicken drumstick that has been deboned and rolled into a hot dog and then grilled to perfection. You can choose to have it seasoned with other spices and even pair it with some cheese but I chose to go for original flavour. And boy was it good! The chicken was so tender and juicy and the skin was charred to a lovely crisp! I consider it one of the best treasures I found in Taipei.
9. XL Fried Chicken – zha ji pai 炸鸡排
Of course, how could a foodie adventure in Taipei be complete without the iconic extra large fried chicken steak? In Malaysia, you have probably tried some version of it from Taiwanese outlets like Shilin, but this, my friends, is the real deal, the OG Taiwanese fried chicken.
The steak is often larger than your face and can be a meal all on its own. The super crunchy coating and the juicy meat will leave you hungry for more! Again, there are plenty of flavours to choose from, even one called the devil spicy fried chicken but I recommend giving the original one a taste first before venturing into more adventurous varieties.
10. Oyster Omelette – he zi jian 蚵仔煎
As a Penangite, this was one dish that I looked forward to a lot. And while I still think Penang’s oh-chien is much better, I have to say that the one’s in Taipei aren’t half-bad at all. For those who’ve never tried it, oyster omelette is, well, an oyster omelette: eggs, juicy oysters and scallions or spring onions drizzled with sweet chili sauce.
The reason why I like Penang’s better was because I found that the Taiwanese version was a tad bit more oily. However, that may well just be the stall in question!
11. Braised Pork with Rice – lu rou fan 卤肉饭
Oh sweet lu rou fan, THE rice dish of Taiwan. I am continually amazed by how the Taiwanese can transform such humble ingredients into something so satisfying. It doesn’t get more rustic than a bowl of rice topped with pieces of aromatic braised pork. The fluffiness of the rice combined with the tender pork and savoury broth is too perfect to describe in writing.
And, to top it all off, lu rou fan is one of the cheapest foods you could get in Taipei too! You can easily get a bowl for about NT30 (about RM4) if you look hard enough. And trust me, sometimes the cheap ones are the best ones!
12. Mian Xian – mian xian 面线
If you have friends who frequently visit Taipei, you’ve surely seen this on their Instagram feed. Mian xian is basically the Taiwanese version of mee sua, thin wheat flour noodles in rich broth. The most famous mian xian in Taipei is undoubtedly Ah Zhong Mian Xian in the Ximending District.
The silky noodles actually have quite a bite to them and the broth is quite flavourful. You can also top off your noodles with condiments such as chili, garlic and vinegar to your liking. However, take note that a typical serving of the dish contains pig intestines.
13. Beef Noodles – niu rou mian 牛肉面
Of all the things to eat in Taipei, this was my go-to comfort food. Beef noodles in Taiwan are cooked in an aromatic broth with a generous amount of springy noodles, topped with tender melt-in-your-mouth beef brisket. It’s such a popular dish that you can even get instant versions of it in convenience stores. And for the record, those don’t taste half bad either!
My best experience was when I was high in the mountains of Alishan. The weather was extremely chilly and it was drizzling slightly. I ventured into this rustic old store and ordered a bowl of smoking hot beef noodles and boiled cabbage with wasabi on the side. My goodness, that was the best meal I ever had in Taiwan!
14. Shaved Ice – pao bing 刨冰
It seems that no whether where you go in Asia, shaved ice is a common dessert we all share. There’s ais kacang in Malaysia, patbingsu in Korea,
whatever it is Singapore copied off Malaysia and pao bing in Taiwan.
In Taipei, one version of shaved ice I recommend is mango shaved ice. This sinfully yummy dessert is topped with fresh mango, mango ice cream and mango-flavoured syrup. It’s the perfect way to enjoy Taiwan’s delicious fruits in a refreshing way!
15. Ai Yu Jelly – ai yu bing 爱玉冰
Malaysian Chinese will more or less be familiar with this dessert drink, but for those unaware of it, ai yu jelly is made from a certain type of fig tree found in Taiwan and is known to have certain health benefits and can certainly cool you down on a hot day.
The jelly is usually served ice cold with honeyed lemon juice although it can also be served with other sweet beverages and even used as an ingredient for shaved ice. This dessert is perfect for a summer’s day in Taipei.
16. Peanut and Ice Cream Spring Roll – bing qi lin run bing 冰淇淋润饼
The words “ice cream” and burrito aren’t often found together in the same sentence but this is the best way to explain this unique street food in Taipei. This deceptively refreshing snack is prepared by laying down a flour crepe and topping it with shaved peanuts and scoops of ice cream. Usually the ice cream that is used is peanut or taro flavoured by other varieties exist too.
It is then topped off with some chopped cilantro, rolled into a burrito and enjoyed just like that. You might find the addition of cilantro to be a bit weird (and some people actually request to omit it), but for me, the flavours strangely worked well together. You might wanna give it a try too!
17. Tanghulu – tang hu lu 糖葫芦
Tanghulu is a traditional Chinese candy consisting of fruits dipped in syrup and left to harden. It is extremely sweet and sticky (due to the syrup) but it’s one of the most ancient snacks in Taipei. Originally, the fruit that is used is mountain haw or shan zha. Malaysians should be familiar with haw flakes, right? Neh, this one:
So, imagine this, except in its original fruit form, covered in sugar syrup. Of course, these days, many different fruits are also given the tanghulu treatment, but for the purists, nothing beats candied mountain haw or a stick!
18. Pearl Milk Tea – zhen zhu nai cha 珍珠奶茶
And to round things off, how can we forget Taipei’s famous pearl milk tea? It’s already such a craze in Malaysia, what with boba pizza and all that, so it’s only fitting to wash down all that food with pearl milk tea from its OG place of creation!
There is hardly any need for an introduction for something this famous, but if you must know my favourite place for bubble tea in Taipei, it’s 50 Lan, otherwise known as KOI. Yes, even I have fallen for the temptation of franchise bubble tea T_T
Also Read: Taipei Day Trips
Be prepared to gain a few pounds!
And there you have it, my personal list of 18 of my favourite things to eat in Taipei. Which one do you like best? I have to warn you though, just like Penang, don’t expect to go on a trip to Taipei and not put on some weight! But don’t be sad, it’s all worth it! Now, food, get in my belly!