Taipei may be world-famous for its night markets, but food travelers can find good Taipei food options before the sun sets. Join us as we eat our way through Taipei in a day.
Taiwan’s night markets are legendary for good reason. Visitors with a two-week itinerary could feast at a different market in the capital city of Taipei every night during their visit, never running out of new Xiao Chi (snack) options to sample.
Sadly, we didn’t have two weeks in Taipei during our first trip to Taiwan. We didn’t even have two days. In fact, we only had five hours to fit the best Taipei food in our stomachs.
With Taipei as a port of call during our 14-day Holland America cruise on the MS Volendam, our time in Taipei was limited. This luxury ship sailed 1,400 passengers (including us!) on an Asian cruise that started in Hong Kong, drifted through the Philippines, skirted along Taiwan, edged into Southern Japan and ended in Shanghai.
Pick up a box of pineapple cake at Chia Te’s airport location as a souvenir for yourself or a friend. You can pre-order the iconic Taipei dessert comes with three filling options – original pineapple, pineapple & cranberry or pineapple & egg yolk.
Why Visit Taipei
We visited Taipei for the first time as a stop on our cruise; however, we plan to return in the future for a longer visit. Since we travel for food, Taipei has long been on our list of ‘must visit’ food cities for its street food and night markets.
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As we quickly learned during our brief visit, Taipei has much to offer tourists starting with stylish 101 story Taipei 101. The stylish, green, bamboo-esque edifice was the world’s tallest building for six years. (It’s currently the tenth tallest building with Dubai’s Burj Khalifa taking the top spot with a whopping 163 floors and the Shanghai Tower taking the number two spot with 128 floors.)
Tapei 101 is just one of many interesting buildings we saw in Taipei as we traversed the East Asian capital by foot and via the ultra-modern Taipei metro system. We had to move fast and rely on a Taipei map – we had a lot of food to sample in the big city and a mere five hours to try as much Taipei cuisine as possible.
Taipei Food Experiences
Although the Taipei night market scene is legendary for the quantity and quality of street food selections, the Taiwanese mega-city has plenty of food experiences to enjoy while the sun is shining. As a bonus, many daytime experiences won’t break the bank for cheap eats travelers.
To be clear, five hours isn’t enough time to linger at a Taiwanese restaurant and truly experience all of the best food in Taipei. However, if you have limited time like us, these are our culinary picks when exploring the best places to eat in Taipei in just one day:
1. Eat Soup Dumplings (Xiǎo Lóng Bāo)
Although Shanghai is known as the international headquarters for Xiǎo Lóng Bāo (i.e. soup dumplings), Taipei can stake a claim to soup dumpling fame with Din Tai Fung. Open since 1972, the global restaurant chain started in Taipei and has been making some of the best soup dumplings in the world for over 40 years.
If you love soup dumplings as much as we do, visiting Din Tai Fung is a no-brainer. The same goes if you’ve never eaten them before. After one slurp at Din Tai Fung, one of the best restaurants in Taipei, you’ll wonder where the savory treats have been hiding all of your life.
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Since we regularly indulged in soup dumplings in Philadelphia, we weren’t novices at the concept of sucking the broth out of the doughy goblets before dousing them with vinegar and hot chili oil. However, we never ate such well-crafted soup dumplings, each delicately formed (precisely folded 18 times – no more, no less) and stuffed with liquid goodness.
Din Tai Fung has a full menu with lots of Chinese food favorites. However, the soup dumplings are the thing to order here. Sure, you can dine at Din Tai Fung’s many locations throughout the world. But there’s something special about feasting on these brothy nuggets of gold at or close to the source.
Be aware that the wait can be long. Ours was 80 minutes! There is also a Din Tai Fung location at Taipei 101 if time or convenience is a concern.
Din Tai Fung has multiple locations in Taipei. We ate at the dumpling shop located at No. 194 號, Section 2, Xinyi Road, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106.
2. Eat Beef Noodle Soup (Niú Ròu Miàn)
Beef Noodle Soup starts with braised beef, hand-drawn wheat noodles and savory broth, but herbs and spices make the flavors pop. Yong Kang takes one of the most popular Taiwanese dishes to new levels by slow cooking the meat and adding Sichuan ingredients for extra spiciness.
Open since 1963, Yong Kang proves that great restaurants don’t have to be expensive or fancy. Recognized by Michelin with a coveted Bib Gourmand rating, Yong Kang serves big portions of savory food for reasonable prices in a barebones setting.
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Don’t be fooled by the decor or lack thereof at this shabby Taipei restaurant. Extra touches like rich, marbled Australian beef and Sichuan spices elevate Yong Kang’s food to a higher level than what you’ll find at the typical street vendor. The soup is cooked low and slow, and the beef literally melts in your mouth.
Crowds queue day and night at Yong Kang for the chance to slurp down hearty, filling beef noodle soup for lunch and dinner. We shared a bowl, slurping our way to Taipei noodle bliss.
If you don’t have time to get to Yong Kang Beef Noodles, you can enjoy beef noodle soup at Chef Hung near Ximen Station.
Yong Kang Beef Noodles is located at No. 17 號, Lane 31, Section 2, Jinshan South Road, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106.
3. Scallion Pancakes
Scallion pancakes are a typical Taiwan street food eaten during the day and night. Considering its low price and portability, this crispy treat made with spring onions may be the most ideal Taipei street food if you’re hungry for a savory Taiwan snack.
Located down the block from Din Tai Fung and diagonally across the street from Smoothie House, Tian Jin serves flaky scallion pancakes to a never-ending line of people looking for a quick, yet satisfying treat. One of the most popular places to eat in Taipei, Tian Jin offers a range of topping options including cheese and ham. We ordered ours plain and were more than satisfied.
If you’re curious about the price, a plain scallion pancake cost us 25 TWD (under a dollar USD). If you’re feeling adventurous, an everything pancake cost 50 TWD (under $2 USD) at the time of our visit.
Eat your scallion pancake as soon as you buy it. Like most fried foods, these pillowy yet crunchy morsels taste best when they’re hot off the griddle.
Tian Jin Flaky Scallion Pancakes is located at No. 1號, Lane 6, Yongkang Street, Da’an District, Taipei City, ไต้หวัน 106.
4. Eat Mango Shaved Ice
In the same manner shaved ice made its way from Japan to Hawaii, this icy dessert took a similar, yet shorter route to Taipei. However, this Taiwanese version of shaved ice is bigger and better.
During our travels around Taipei, we noticed several Japanese influences on Taiwanese food and in the city’s fun design elements. (Think Hello Kitty on steroids.) Mango shaved ice is one of our favorite Japanese-inspired finds of the day.
The icy concoction is hugely popular among both locals and tourists. CNN raved about it, calling it one of the “Taiwanese foods we can’t live without.”
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Smoothie House’s mango shaved ice is a must-try Taipei dessert. This cafe adds fresh mango and condensed milk to its shaved ice before ramping it up with optional toppings like fruity sorbet and milky, creamy panna cotta.
Until prices go up, expect to spend about 200 TWD (approximately $6.50 USD) for a ginormous serving of mango shaved ice. We shared a bowl that was literally as big as Daryl’s head. Though the cold dessert was refreshing on a hot day, it was too big for us to finish. Yes, Daryl has a big head.
Smoothie House is located at No. 15 號, Yongkang Street, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106.
5. Drink Bubble Tea (Pearl Milk Tea) and Specialty Coffee
Invented in Taiwan but loved around the world, bubble tea is a global phenomenon that is a hyper-local beverage in Taipei. The milky drink usually comes with a jumbo straw large enough to accommodate the inevitable cluster of tapioca balls that swim at the bottom of each bubble tea cup.
In fact, sucking up the soft tapioca spheres is half the fun of drinking bubble tea. You could hypothetically order bubble tea without the starchy balls but that would just be wrong.
For travelers in need of an extra jolt of caffeine to energize a hectic day of sightseeing, Taipei has a fair share of specialty coffee shops. We traveled to the city’s Songshan District to get our caffeine fix at GaBee Coffee, an independent cafe helmed by former national barista champion Van Lin.
The cafe has a cool hipster vibe despite its nondescript residential location. Coffee drinks include typical third wave preparations like pour overs and flat whites, but unique flavors like sweet potatoes (caramelized with a blowtorch) and butter beer make this Taipei spot worth a special visit.
Not sure what you want to drink? You can make a game-day decision at GaBee Coffee as to whether you want coffee or milk tea.
Bubble Tea is located all over Taipei.
GaBee Coffee is located at No. 21, Lane 113, Section 3, Minsheng East Road, Songshan District, Taipei City, Taiwan 105.
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About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.
Original Publication Date: October 17, 2018