Regardless if you’re in Taipei for 24-hour or 6 months, you can’t leave without indulging in these 5 street foods. These are the backbone of every night market. I guarantee that they’ll leave you smiling in satisfaction, but mostly, they’ll leave you wanting more.
- Taiwanese people know a little something, something about fried chicken. The chicken is crispy, juicy, and doesn’t need any assistance from any condiments to take you to, what I call, the “bliss” level. Now I’ve tried my fair share of different chicken vendors since living in Taipei for 6 months, but there’s only one brand that had me drooling for more. Two Peck Fried Chicken. Their batter is slightly sweet, thin, yet crunchy, but not overpowering — It doesn’t smother or overshadow the chicken like other brands. The chicken is marinated in crack (my personal guess) and although it’s white meat, it’s not one bit dry. Right before they hand over the baby to you, they dust the chicken with Chinese 5 spice and red pepper for one last dose of flavor. Can I get an umami hallelujah?!Tip: you can adjust the spice level because the red pepper is quite spicy. Say “Bú Là” for no spicy, “Xiǎo Là” for little spicy and “Dà Là” for big spicy. I usually get little spicy and it’s the perfect balance for me.
- Bubble tea is fresh brewed tea shaken with powdered or fresh milk and topped with tapioca balls. I can assure you that the bubble tea you’ve had in your country or state will not compare to the ones in Taiwan. I mean Taiwan was the birthplace of this addicting drink after all. Only here, can you get a 16 oz or 500 cc customized drink for just under $2 USD. In Taiwan, bubble tea shops are everywhere, on every corner and on almost every street so selecting the right shop might be a dilemma. So here are my recommendations. For a good classic bubble tea, I recommend TenRen’s Tea. Their tea is aromatic and their bubbles are perfectly chewy.
- If the “bubbles” or chewy tapioca balls are not your thing, don’t fret, many places offer a variety of toppings like grass jelly, red beans, and taro. After a while, I got tired of the bubbles and adding pudding to my milk tea became my topping of choice. Pudding is egg custard, similar to flan, and Coco Fresh Tea and Juice makes their own — Very delicious!
- Now if you are a Matcha tea fanatic like I am, I recommend going to Lóng Tīng Chá Fān,日式茶飲.籠町茶番, as they make their own pudding and even have Matcha tea pudding! Their locations are limited, but you can find one on Shida Road and one in GongGuan.Tip: remember to customize your drink: powder or fresh milk, sugar level, ice level, and your choice of toppings. I usually get powder milk (standard and doesn’t overpower the tea), 30% sugar (this is plenty sweet for me), little ice, and, of course, pudding!
- Don’t you squeeze your nose and turn your back on this one because you’ll be missing out on what the locals really enjoy here. Stinky tofu is tofu fermented in a brine made up of different ingredients like vegetables. When it’s fried, it’s crispy on the outside, but still retains its softness on the inside. It’s accompanied with pickled cabbage or Taiwanese-styled kimchi and dressed with light vinegar soy sauce and chili. I remember the first time going to a night market and my nose was immediately assaulted by this pungent smell and all I wanted to do was to run far away from it. However, I became the biggest fan after I had it from this one street vendor — I call her my Stinky Tofu Mama. She is located in GongGuan Night Market on Roosevelt Road Section 4 Lane 136. If you are coming from Roosevelt Road, she is usually the 2nd cart on the right. Her tofu is so crunchy, light, and airy with tons of air pockets on the inside and her kimchi is the BOMB! The cabbage is crisp and has the right amount of tang and spice to compliment the tofu. Tip: if you are spice sensitive, don’t be afraid to ask for the kimchi on the side.
- If you are feeling daring then you should try the steam version in broth. The flavors are stronger and more intense, a.k.a. more mouthwatering.
Sausage in sticky rice bun
- Who doesn’t love sausages? It’s a meat pocket packed full flavors from salty to sweet with no extra seasoning required and, boy, do the Taiwanese loves their sausages. To take the sausage to the next level, why not place it in a garlic sticky rice sausage bun? Obviously being in Asia, having sticky rice as a bun rather than the typical bread is a must! Just when you think it’s over, the sausage is then topped with various toppings like caramelized onions and cucumbers to enhance the final flavor profile. Boom-shacka-lacka!!! That’s my sausage chant. Tip: Taiwanese people love standing in line, but that doesn’t mean the food is actually worth the wait. However for these sausages, I recommend finding the vendor with a line because the sausages will be piping hot and fresh.
Hóng Dòu Bǐng: Red Bean Pie
- This is one of the best finger-food desserts at the night market. It’s made right in front of you so you know it’s fresh out of the cake mold. The pie is fluffy and loaded with your topping of choice. Although the name is Red Bean Pie, it comes in several flavors like milk custards, taro, chocolate, and green tea. My favorite is the milk custard because it’s creamy, but not too rich. Some nights, I start off my dinner with one of these pies as my appetizer.