If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you’ll have seen that I recently took a visa run to Taipei. I’m sure it’s no surprise that one of the reasons I picked Taipei is because I missed the food too much! I spent a glorious week stuffing my face with all my favorite foods, returning to my favorite vendors again and again.
It wasn’t until after my trip that I realized that I didn’t exactly make the best use of my time there. You see, I had long planned to write a Part 2 to my Taipei food guide (which is one of the top viewed posts on this blog), because there is soooooo much more to share. But I lacked pictures. And it completely slipped my mind to take the pictures I needed while in Taipei in order to complete the guide (because I was too busy stuffing my face).
But nevertheless, I have enough to create a mini sequel. Again, it focuses mostly on cheap street style food (i.e. not restaurants dishes) you can find in night markets or local eateries. In this part, you’ll find more strange or possibly even gross-sounding foods, but still all quintessentially Taiwanese.
Oyster & intestine noodles (Mee Sua)
I’m not a fan of this dish, but I know the locals love it. This vermicelli soup originated as a peasant food, but the popularity has spread all over the country. There are usually two versions: with oysters or intestine (or both!). Being a coastal region, oyster is a stable in Taiwanese cuisine. The soup is a thick starchy broth, which to me, gives the whole thing kind of a slimy texture. Not really my cup of tea.
Duck blood tofu soup
I think this is the grossest Taiwanese food I’m featuring (sorry to anyone who likes it!). This is literally HUGE chunks of congealed duck blood in a soup with tofu and pig intestines. My local friend brought me to the famous stand in Raohe night market to eat this and I felt reluctant to try it.
But you know what? It wasn’t too bad. Honestly, if I didn’t look at it and didn’t know I was eating duck blood, I would probably think it was a mushroom or something. It has a bit of an earthy flavor and a silky yet firm texture. So if you’d like a fun adventurous food story to take home, it’s really not as scary as it looks/sounds!
Where to get it: one of the most popular places to get this is at the Raohe Night Market (MRT: Shongshan Station, Exit 5), it’s located towards the middle of the market in the center section where there’s a lot of tables. You won’t miss it.
Ice cream burrito
This is one of the most unique desserts and I’m pretty sure it’s only found in Taiwan. Imagine this: the sugary nuttiness of shaved peanut brittle, herbiness of cilantro, and cold sweetness of ice cream all wrapped up in a thin flour tortilla. But surprisingly, it all goes really well together. I’m not sure if it’s usually the norm, but my local night market does 3 different flavored scoops of ice cream. To me, they taste like plain, taro, and lemon. So every few bites bring about a new delightful taste.
Snow ice dessert
This is one of the most refreshing things you can have on a hot day! There are lots of different flavors, but my favorite (and the most popular) is mango. A mountain of very finely shaved ice, as fluffy as snow, is drenched in syrup and sweet condensed milk with a cascade of fresh fruit, and topped with a generous scoop of ice cream. Another distinctively Asian version to try is matcha green tea and red bean.
Where to get this: Smoothie House on Dongmen Street (MRT: Dongmen, Exit 1) is the most famous place in Taipei for snow ice. This thing is HUGE, definitely for sharing. But I ate one of these on my own :P.
Fried food cart / Popcorn chicken
These carts are staples at mostly all night markets. It looks intimating to approach because there are just so many things and you have no idea how to order. Basically, you can just point to what you want – there’re a ton of choices from all kinds of veggies to tofu to meat – and they’ll deep fry it up for you on the spot.
Taiwanese popcorn chicken is a famous snack and it’s a must try when in Taiwan. It’s what you see next to the red pans. The bite-sized chicken pieces are coated with a flavorful sweet potato batter, which gives it the perfect thin crispy shell, and deep-fried with basil leaves. You can also request for it to be spicy if you want.
I don’t think this needs much introduction. You can find grilled squid at almost all night markets. Though I’m not really sure who wants to walk around eating a huge squid on a stick (or who can even eat that much squid by themselves). If you prefer your mollusk battered and fried instead, you can sometimes find this (frankly pretty scary looking) version as well.
Tamsui (all the way at the end of the Red Line) is especially popular for the fried squid.
Grass jelly (Xian Cao)
In my last guide, I introduced you to the popular tofu pudding dessert. Taiwan obviously has a very different idea of desserts than western countries. This is another popular dessert that may seem very odd. The hot black looking soup is grass jelly, which is made from boiling a plant in the mint family. It has a slightly bitter herbal taste, but is not entirely unpleasant once you get used to it.
It’s served either iced or hot, and both are great as a meal topper for hot or cold days, respectively. The one pictured here is served as a hot soup with red beans and boiled peanuts.
There are so, so much more strange and delicious things to eat in Taipei: red bean wheels, pineapple cake, Taiwanese teppenyaki… I guess I will just have to come back with a Part 3 whenever I make it back to Taipei again!
Which of these would you try, and what would you avoid?
P.S. Don’t miss Volume 1 – A Street Food Lover’s Guide to Taipei Cuisine!
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