Famous for its night markets and street vendors, the bustling city of Taipei in Taiwan is a foodie mecca. Fine dining in the city is on the up, but there’s an array of delicious cheap-and-cheerful eats at the heart of Taiwanese cuisine.[related_articles]1888,4934[/related_articles]
Here are five dishes under $10 to try on your next trip to Taipei.
#1 Xiao long bao
You can’t go to Taipei without indulging in plate after plate (after plate) of xiao long bao. Known as “soupy dumplings”, the delicate pork-and-broth-filled parcels are typically associated with Shanghai, but have found a dedicated fan base in Taipei.
If the lines outside the dumpling houses are anything to go by, they’re real crowd-pleasers, too.
Din Tai Fung – renowned for its xiao long bao – opened on Xinyi Road in 1972, spawning a worldwide craze for soupy dumplings. You can find numerous Din Tai Fung stores around the world, but the Xinyi Road store is an institution. While they specialise in traditional pork xiao long bao, there are other variations available for non-pork eaters, too.
Five delicious dumplings will set you back just AU$5 (NT$105).
Where: Din Tai Fung, No. 194, Section 2, Xinyi Road, Da’an District, Taipei City
#2 Traditional Taiwanese breakfast
There are plenty of places around Taipei that serve traditional Taiwanese breakfasts, but the most highly regarded is Yong He Dou Jiang Da Wang (Yong He Soy Milk King) in South Da’an. The same name is dotted elsewhere around Taipei but the local Da’an breakfast bar is the original and the best.
A far cry from smashed avocado on toast, the traditional Taiwanese breakfast isn’t for anyone watching their carb intake. Expect to see you tiao (literally translated as “oil stick”), baked wheat cake shao bing, and xiao long bao on the menu, as well as an array of savoury pancakes and omelettes. Made to be shared, the meal is best washed down (or even dipped in) a cup of hot, fresh soy milk.
It costs AU$1 (NT$20) to AU$3 (NT$70) per dish.
Where: Yong He Dou Jiang Da Wang, No. 102, Section 2, Fuxing South Road, Da’an District, Taipei City
#3 Braised pork rice
The ultimate comfort food, lu rou fan is a much-loved staple among the Taiwanese. Unlike some other dishes (stinky tofu, we’re looking at you), braised pork rice is always a hit among visitors, too.
Cooked in a thick, sweet and savoury five-spice sauce and served on a bed of steaming hot rice, the melt-in-your-mouth pork warms will warm you right down to your soul. Most bowls also come with a serve of hard-boiled eggs on the side, braised in the very same sauce.
Dished up in restaurants all over Taipei, the meal can be eaten on its own or as a base dish for an array of sides for just AU$1.60 (NT$35) a pop.
Where: Jin Feng Minced Pork Rice, No. 10-1, Section 1, Roosevelt Road, Zhongzheng District, Taipei
#4 Beef noodle soup
When a dish has a whole festival devoted to it, you know you have to try it.
Another of Taipei’s much-loved dishes, it isn’t hard to find a lunch bar or street vendor that sells beef noodle soup. A steaming hot bowl of fresh, chewy noodles, delicious beef broth, pieces of beef (and tendon, if you please) and sliced scallions; it is a simple dish, but it’s easy to see why it’s celebrated.
Hole-in-the-wall vendor Lin Don Fang is a heavyweight in the beef noodle soup arena. Known for having one of the tastiest broths around, don’t be put off by the sight of beef off cuts bubbling away in their pots. The scariest looking concoctions yield the most flavoursome broth!
It’s just AU$11 (NT$240) for a large bowl.
Where: Lin Don Fang, No. 274, Section 2, Bade Road, Taipei, China
#5 Stinky tofu
If you can get it close enough to your mouth to pop it in, stinky tofu is a must-try. Some say it tastes of mushroom, others think it tastes like blue cheese, or even sour meat. Just like wine, stinky tofu varies from region to region.
It’s essentially fermented tofu, left in a brine of fermented milk, vegetables, meat and even dried shrimp. Normally sold by lunch bars or street vendors at the night markets, you can eat it cold, steamed, in a soup or deep-fried.
But regardless of what it’s like on the palette, one thing’s for sure – it has an incredibly distinct odour. And, unsurprisingly, you can smell the delicacy from quite a distance. If you want to try it for yourself, just follow the smell.
It generally costs AU$1 (NT$20) to AU$3 (NT$70) per serving.[qantas_widget code=TPE]Check out Qantas flights to Taipei, China.[/qantas_widget]
(Lead image: Zhao ! / Flickr)