A Malaysian’s Guide to Ximending: 14 Things to Eat in the Harajuku of Taipei

No trip to Taiwan is ever complete without stuffing one’s self with scrumptious delicacies from Asia’s most popular food capital – Taipei! From its iconic night markets to culinary treasures housed in humble shop lots in Ximending, Taipei is globally recognised as a foodie paradise and the ultimate “whet” dream (get it?) of many a foodie. 

If it’s your first time to Taipei, you might find yourself confused (or maybe even conflicted) by the sheer number of choices when it comes to food and eateries. Even at its night markets, it’s hard to decide whether to follow the crowds and make a beeline for Shilin or throng the less touristy streets of Ningxia. 

However, don’t worry if you haven’t got a lot of time in Taipei. There is one area where you can sink your teeth into some of the city’s most iconic food without having to travel far – the vibrant youth district of Ximending! 

All you need to know about Ximending

Ximending is Taiwan’s most famous shopping district. Often referred to as the Harajuku of Taipei, Ximending is a cauldron of glitzy malls, quirky handicrafts, and trendy eateries. As the epitome of Taipei’s youth culture in Taipei, it’s arguably one of the city’s must-visit locations. It is also home to Taiwan’s largest pedestrian area, located right outside the Ximen MRT station (exit 6). 

The best time to visit the Ximending Pedestrian Area is during sunset. When the sun goes down, you’ll get to witness the area bathed in the flashy neon glow is it now famous for. There are also a variety of street performances, snack and souvenir shops and plenty of awesome photo spots. One location that many travellers stop at for a quick snap is the iconic rainbow crossing right outside the MRT station. But, perhaps most importantly, it is also here where you can feast on some of the best things to eat in Ximending!

Also read: 29 Best Things to Do & Places to Visit in Taipei

The Legendary Trio

1. Hot-Star Fried Chicken Steak

If you have a  friend who’s visited Taipei before, chances are, you’ve probably seen a picture like the one above on their Instagram feed! Hot-Star Fried Chicken Steak is easily one of the three most legendary things to eat in Ximending. Located on the intersection of Emei Street and Hanzhong Street, this trendy eatery serves a variety of fried snacks and finger foods but is most famous for their iconic XXL Fried Chicken Steak that’s bigger than the average human face! 

As you might have guessed from the name, it consists of a piece of tender chicken fillet that has been flattened and fried to golden perfection. Made fresh to order, you’ll likely have to get a number and wait in line for a good 15 minutes (at least) but trust me, it’s worth it! 

Price range: 70NT$ (RM9.60) for a piece of chicken

Address: No. 104, Hanzhong Street, Wanhua District, Taipei City, Taiwan 108

Operation hours: 12 p.m. – 10 p.m. daily

Pro tip: Hot-Star Fried Chicken actually shares a shop with a juice bar right next to it. When you order something off the menu, they’ll hand you a discount coupon for the juice bar so you can get a refreshing drink to go! But I’d hold off on that discount coupon because located on the other side of Hanzhong Road adjacent to Hot Star Fried Chicken is…

2. Xingfu Tang (Bubble Tea)

It’s safe to say that bubble tea (or boba) is the food trend of our generation. Well, if you love bubble tea, you’ll be delighted to know that Taipei is where all the craze began! And one eatery that you must visit in Ximending is the insanely popular Xingfu Tang! It’s located adjacent to the aforementioned Hot Star on the other side of Hanzhong Road. If you’re worried that you might miss it, don’t be. Just look out for the long queues!

Call me a purist, but one of the must-order items on the menu is their classic fresh milk with “stir-fried” brown sugar tapioca pearls! Of course, there are other selections too, including some which aren’t available anywhere else. Alternatively, you can also visit 50 Lan on Xining Rd, the company behind the world-famous KOI chain!

Price range: 65NT$ (RM9D) and above

Address: 101, Hanzhong Street, Wanhua District, Taipei City 108, Taiwan

Operation hours: 10 a.m. – 1 a.m. (next day) daily

3. Ah Zhong/Ay Chung Mian Xian

Image credit: Twang_Dunga

Rounding up the legendary trio of things to eat in Ximending is the timeless classic loved by locals and tourists alike: Ah Zhong Mian Xian. This famous stall, which has been around since the 70s, only sells one thing: silky-thin flour-rice noodles (vermicelli or mee sua) in a hearty, gooey broth. There are no tables or chairs, just a large crowd of diners standing outside, slurping on what many consider the best mee sua in all of Taiwan. 

The noodles are usually topped with coriander and soft yet chewy intestines (pig). You can add more flavour by adding spices from the spice counter which offers vinegar, chili oil, and garlic. Go easy on the chili oil though if you’re not fond of spicy food! While you might feel put off by the crowds that are often found in the store, don’t worry. The lines clear pretty quickly! 

Price range: 50NT$ (RM7) for a small serving, 60NT$ for a large

Address: No.8-1 Emei Street, Taipei, Taiwan

Operation hours: 10 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.  (Mon – Thurs), 10 a.m. – 11 p.m. (Fri – Sun)

Breakfast/Brunch like a champ

4. Yong He Soy Milk

Image credit: Yusuke Kawasaki

Breakfast in Ximending is a joy for foodies, thanks to the many different options available. However, if you want to experience breakfast like a local, head to Hankou Street, Section 2, a.k.a. The Breakfast Street of Ximending. Of all the breakfast options there, my top recommendation is Yong He Soy Milk. 

This humble shop lot serves a variety of must-try breakfast eats, including steamed buns, scallion pancakes, dan bing (Chinese crepes), fan tuan (breakfast rice rolls) and more! However, my favourite has to be the iconic dou jiang you tiao (warm soy milk paired with fried dough) combo, especially when the crispy you tiao is fresh out of the fryer! It might sound weird but it’s actually the go-to breakfast of the locals. For those with a more refined palette, you can try salted soy milk but be warned, it’s not for everyone! 

Price range: From 40NT$ (RM5.50) /meal on average

Address: No. 30, Section 2, Hankou Street, Wanhua District, Taipei 108, Taiwan

Operation hours: 5:30 a.m. – 11:30 p.m. daily

Pro tip: The shop itself isn’t very big and seating is limited. You may need to share a table with strangers. Also, Yong He Soy Milk is incredibly popular so there’s often a large crowd. It’s best to grab a menu and decide on what you want before heading up to the counter to order to avoid holding up the line.

5. Tiantianli Lu Rou Fan (Braised Pork with Rice)

Looking for something that’s perfect for a late breakfast/early lunch? Then one of the things to eat in Ximending on your list should definitely be lu rou fan, a simple serving of rice topped with aromatic braised pork. Relatively inexpensive, it goes well paired with stir-fried vegetables or simply on its own. 

There are many lu rou fan shops in Ximending (or Taipei in general), most of which are housed in inconspicuous corners, tucked away in the side alleys off Hanzhong Street. One such eatery is Tiantianli. It’s not hard to find. Even if you miss the open-air kitchen at the front, you’ll likely hear the chatter coming from the packed interior. 

The go-to dish in Tiantianli is obviously lu rou fan. However, this popular eatery allows diners to top the already delicious comfort dish with a fried egg (runny yolk and all) to add a whole new dimension of flavour! Besides this, you can also sample some oyster omelette (oh-chien) and radish cake too! 

Price range: From 25NT$ (RM3.50) (w/o egg) and 35NT$ (with egg) onwards

Address: No. 1, Lane 32, Hanzhong Street, Wanhua District, Taiwan 108

Operation hours: 9:30 a.m. – 10:30 p.m., Tuesdays to Sundays; closed on Mondays

6. Niou Dien Beef Noodles

Beef noodles in Taiwan are so popular that you can even find cup noodle versions of it around the world. However, nothing beats a fresh bowl of niu rou mian! While it won’t be too difficult to find a beef noodle shop in Ximending (Chengdu Road, just off the Pedestrian Area is practically peppered with them), if you can only visit one beef noodle shop, make it Niou Dien Beef Noodles. 

Located on Kunming Street, a few blocks away from Ximen MRT Station, Niou Dien is one of the most popular restaurants in the area. It’s signature beef noodles comes with springy noodles (slightly thinner than udon) in a hearty braised broth and topped with tender pieces of beef shank. The depth of flavour in the soupy broth is the perfect way to jolt your taste buds awake! Trust me, it’s one of the best things to eat in Ximending! 

Price range: From 170NT$ (RM23.50) onwards

Address: 91 Kunming Street, Wanhua District, Taipei, 110, Taiwan

Operation hours: 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m., Tuesdays to Sundays; closed on Mondays

Did you know? Niou Dien is such a celebrated restaurant that it was even included in the 2019 Michelin Guide! That being said, the one downside to that is the prices are slightly more expensive compared to other beef noodle restaurants in the area.  

Scrumptious bites on the go

7. Ximen Hang Ma Ji (Grilled Mochi)

Image credit: 西門夯麻吉

When it comes to things to eat in Ximending, it would be a crime, nay, a sin, to leave out its delicious range of street food and snacks! One innovative snack which I found to be very interesting (and tasty) was grilled mochi! It’s exactly as you imagine it. Soft mochi (rice cakes) are grilled to perfection and generously topped with various flavours ranging from cheese and peanuts to sesame paste and simple powdered sugar. 

Just imagine sinking your teeth into the crispy exterior before the familiar feeling of fluffy, gooey mochi overwhelms your tastebuds. Oh yasss! The stall in Ximending is located at a hard-to-spot corner of Emei Street, but you can often find it by looking for the bright red lanterns that adorn the ceiling. 

Price range: 40NT$ (RM5.50) each

Address: No. 49, Emei Street, Wanhua District, Taipei City, Taiwan 108

Operation hours: 1 p.m. -11 p.m daily

8. Prince Cheese Potatoes

Located just a few doors down from the grilled mochi store is arguably one of the most sinful things to eat in Ximending. The concept is deliciously simple: fluffy potatoes garnished with various toppings such as ham, bacon, corn, egg and more, and then topped with a generous amount of gooey melted cheese! 

Having appeared on several popular Taiwanese food shows, Prince Cheese Potatoes has been a mainstay of Ximending’s food culture for years now. With each mouthful of gooey cheese and fluffy potatoes, you’ll fall even more deeply in love with this scrumptious, cheesy snack! And, with over 10 different toppings and combinations to choose from, you might just find yourself coming back every day! 

Price range: From 70NT$ (RM9.60) onwards

Address: No. 49-3, Emei Street, Wanhua District, Taipei City, Taiwan 108

Operation hours: 1 p.m. -12 a.m daily

9. Ji Guang Fried Chicken

Wait, you must be thinking, “another fried chicken store?”, and you’re right! However, I assure you, this is a little different than Hot Star. For one, Ji Guang markets itself as Taiwan’s No.1 Fried Chicken brand, and having tasted it myself, I’m inclined to agree! Secondly, rather than serving face-sized chicken steaks, Ji Guang Fried Chicken’s signature dish is their bite-size popcorn chicken! 

Marinated in over 10 different spices and then deep fried in fresh oil to perfection, it’s the perfect snack to have in hand while you stroll the streets of Ximending. Apart from fried chicken, Ji Guang also serves fried squid and king trumpet mushrooms. You can also pair different items on the menu to complete a set meal! Best of all, it’s located right outside Ximen MRT Station Exit 6, across from H&M so it’s super easy to find! 

Price range: From 75NT$ (RM10.30) onwards

Address: No. 121-1, Hanzhong Street, Wanhua District, Taipei City, Taiwan 108

Operation hours: 11:30 a.m. -11 p.m daily

10. Hankou Street Section 2 Lane 34 Street Food Corner

What’s Taiwan without its famous night markets, am I right? While you won’t find night markets on the scale of Shilin or Ningxia at Ximending, there is a street food corner located on Lane 34 of Hankou Street (Section 2). Simply look for a massive Uniqlo store on your left as you walk down Hanzhong Street and turn the corner when you see it. Head there after 7 p.m. and you should see a few food carts selling various Taiwanese snacks including the aesthetically pleasing flame-torched beef cube, grilled lobster tail, and the infamous Stinky Tofu. 

One particularly food I recommend is garlic chicken (yes, more chicken!). You can have it in various flavours but I tried the original recipe. It had spiced fried chicken, coriander, chives and a heapful of garlic. While it was incredibly delicious, I must suggest giving it a pass if you plan on kissing someone later because they’re really generous with the garlic! 

What makes it even more interesting is that, since none of the food carts (with the exception of about 4 of them) are bound by location, these food carts will sometimes move their location throughout the night, so you’ll sometimes have to embark on a bit of a scavenger hunt to track down your favourite. Good luck, foodies! 

Price range: Average of 50NT$ (RM7) onwards

Address: Hankou Street Section 2 Lane 34, Wanhua District, Taipei City, Taiwan 108

Operation hours: 7 p.m. onwards (roughly)

An ode to Ximending’s youth culture

11. Ximen Modern Toilet Restaurant

Image credit: eazytraveler

One night in Ximending is all you need to see why it’s called the Harajuku of Taipei. As you stroll along the main stretch of the pedestrian area on Hanzhong Street and its side alleys, you’ll see plenty of quirky fashion stores, novelty souvenir shops, and more. You’ll also find a good number of unique eateries frequented by the young people of the area. One such popular eatery is the Ximen Modern Toilet Restaurant!

As the name suggests, the restaurant follows a unique toilet. Food is served in porcelain bowls shaped like toilets and diners sit on custom “thrones” as they await their food. Most come here for the photo ops more than for the food, but if you’re wondering, the restaurant serves a typical fusion menu of Asian and Western dishes and hot pot. While the food isn’t half-bad, it’s not much to shout about either. However, I do recommend their desserts!

Price range: Average of 100NT$ (RM13.70) onwards for desserts; 270NT$ for meals

Address: 2F, No 7,Lane 50,Xining South Road, Wanhua District, Taipei City, Taiwan 108

Operation hours: 11:30 a.m. – 10:30 p.m. daily (service hours vary by day)

12. Ximen Red House LGBT Bar Area

One of the most iconic buildings in Ximending is the Red House, a theatre that houses regular live performances throughout the week. However, it is what lies behind the red-bricked structure that we’re interested in. For those not in the know, Taiwan was the first ever Asian country to legalise gay marriage in 2019. Coincidentally, one of the best places to get a drink in Ximending, regardless of sexual orientation, is the LGBT Bar Area behind the Red House. 

The bars are all lined up side by side in the area, each with its own unique themes and vibe. Adorned with colourful LED lights and al fresco seating, the ambiance is second to none. What I particularly liked was that unlike some bars that continually blast incessantly loud music, the atmosphere at the LGBT Bar Area was comparatively more chill and relaxed. 

Prices for drinks are competitive too, since all the bars are located in one area. Some of the bars serve finger food to go with the drinks while others operate a full-scale kitchen. Don’t worry about feeling uncomfortable visiting the area just because you do not ‘swing that way’, there’s no strict LGBT-patrons-only rule after all! 

Price range: Average of 300NT$ (RM40) onwards 

Address: Behind Ximen Red House (Ximen MRT Station Exit 1)

Operation hours: 6 p.m. onwards (Roughly)

Classic desserts to satiate your sweet tooth

13. Ximending Mango Shaved Ice

Of course, we can’t talk about things to eat in Ximending and leave out its famous desserts, can we? Ximending Mango Shaved Ice is arguably the most popular store in the area (maybe even in Taipei!) where you can satisfy your craving for proper Taiwanese shaved ice.

For the uninitiated, Taiwanese shaved ice is a popular dessert consisting of ice mixed with sweetened condensed milk and shaved in layers (so that it has a smooth consistency) and melts the moment it touches you tongue. You can choose from a variety of different flavours and toppings such as fresh cut fruits, ice cream, pudding and more. 

However, as you might have guessed from the name, mango shaved ice is the way to go in Ximending! In fact, the city is so passionate about their fresh mangoes that almost anywhere you go, you can find mango-centric desserts! That being said, Ximending Mango Shaved Ice also offers other desserts too, such as strawberry shaved ice and waffles! 

Price range: Average of 200NT$ (RM27.50) onwards 

Address: No. 17, Hanzhong Street, Wanhua District, Taipei City, Taiwan 108

Operation hours:10 a.m. – 11 p.m. daily

14. Yongfu Ice Cream

Who doesn’t love ice cream, am I right? Just imagine an ice cold ice cream cone on a hot summer’s day… Perfection! Well, when you’re in Ximending, one ice cream shop you simply must visit is Yongfu Ice Cream. Having operated for over 70 years, it is one of the city’s most popular traditional ice cream shops! 

The ice cream is 100% handmade and features flavours like peanut, taro, passion fruit, along with classics like vanilla and other beloved flavours. What makes Yongfu ice cream stand out in terms of taste is that the ice cream isn’t overloaded with sugar, so it’s not as sweet as most commercial ice cream. Instead more emphasis is placed on the natural flavours of the various ingredients used to make the ice cream, so you can be sure of an authentic taste with every bite!

You can even mix up the flavours for an explosion of flavours on your palette! 

Price range: 50NT$ (RM6.90) onwards (2 scoops) 

Address: No. 68, Section 2, Guiyang Street, Wanhua District, Taipei City, Taiwan 108

Operation hours:10 a.m. – 10 p.m. daily

A food paradise for all

And there you have it, a list of incredible things to eat in Ximending. It’s easy to see why Taipei is such a lovable foodie destination with areas like Ximending around. In fact, I think my tummy is rumbling already! Time to book those tickets to Taipei, foodies. Bon appetit!

Also read: Day Trips From Taipei

By Darren

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