Kiwi food YouTubers Thomas & Sheena Southam are on an eternal quest to find the most delicious local food the world has to offer. This week, they check out the best cheap eats in Taipei.
Taipei, the exuberant capital of Taiwan, is paradise for food lovers. We're all familiar with Taiwan's most famous dishes: stinky tofu, beef noodle soup, bubble milk tea, braised pork on rice and pork belly buns, but in a city where these dishes are a dime a dozen, where can you sample Taipei's best renditions? We've got you sorted!
1. Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup at Liu Shandong
You'll be hit with the fragrant whiff of beef broth as you step into the dining room at Liu Shandong. Don't expect anything fancy - communal tables are the go here and it's not a place to linger. People hunch over their bowls, slurping and chewing- too lost in their noodles to socialise much with their dining companions. This 70-year-old family run restaurant is a favourite with the locals. Their broth has a robust beef flavour, the house-made wheat noodles are thick and bouncy and the braised beef so tender you don't need teeth. You'll find an array of condiments on the communal tables with which to adjust the noodle soup to your taste. We suggest adding a dollop of fermented black beans, pickled mustard greens and some chilli oil to ramp up the flavours and spice. Do yourself a favour and eat here.
Liu Shandong, No. 2, Lane 14, Section 1, Kaifeng St, Zhongzheng District, Taipei. Open 8:00am to 8:00pm. Closed Sunday.
2. Gua bao-pork belly bun- at Lan Jia Traditional Taiwanese Snack
Where there is a modern Asian menu, you can guarantee the gua bao-pork belly bun is on it or has made an appearance in the past. This popular Taiwanese street food is cropping up on menus all over the world. And for good reason- the braised pork belly bun is damn delicious. Lan Jia is widely regarded as having the best gua bao in Taipei. Pork braised in garlic, soy and rice wine - half fatty and half lean, is stuffed into a fluffy steamed bun together with crushed peanuts, fresh coriander, sugar and pickled mustard greens. It's a riot of texture and flavour and the best we've ever eaten.
Lan Jia Traditional Taiwanese Snack, No. 3, Alley 8, Lane 316, Section 3, Luosifu Road, Zhongzheng District, Taipei. Open 11:00am to midnight. Closed Monday.
3. Bubble milk tea at Chen San Ding
Bubble milk tea is one of Taiwan's cultural icons- tea shops are ubiquitous all over Taiwan and every second person on the street is slurping on a bubble milk tea. Conveniently located opposite the gua bao stall is Chen San Ding. Join the queue to taste one of Taipei's most famous beverages. Contrary to its name, Chen San Ding's bubble milk tea doesn't actually contain tea, but is instead made up of fresh milk and warm tapioca boba that are cooked in a thick, sweet, brown sugar syrup. Give your "tea" a hearty shake before drinking to mix the sugar syrup and milk. Soft chewy boba and caramelised, almost smoky flavoured sweet milk- we guarantee you won't find it hard to jump on the bubble tea bandwagon after this!
Chen San Ding, No. 2, Alley 8, Lane 316, Section 3, Luosifu Road, Zhongzheng District, Taipei. Open 11:00am to 9:30pm. Closed Monday.
4. Stinky tofu at Peng Kee Tsai Noodle
You'll smell this street food long before you spy the stall selling it. Stinky tofu gets a bad rap for its sewer-like aroma but we urge you to get past the smell as it is by no means an indicator of its taste. You can eat it fresh, in soup or deep-fried, which we reckon is the best way to enjoy it. Peng Kee Tsai Noodle serves up an incredible version. Squares of fermented firm tofu are deep-fried and then a hole is punched in the middle to hold a puddle of soy sauce. Swipe the tofu through chilli sauce and eat it topped with sour pickled cabbage. Crunchy, vinegary and intense. If you are a fan of pungent flavours like durian or strong Stilton, you'll be into this!
Peng Kee Tsai Noodle, No. 177, Lane 1, Lane 30, Yongji Road, Xinyi District, Taipei. Open 8:00am to 8:30pm. Closed Sunday.
5. Lu rou fan- braised pork on rice- at Jin Feng
Lu rou fan is a mainstay of Taiwanese cuisine. Available at virtually every restaurant, this dish of white rice topped with a ladle of meat sauce is eaten throughout the day- breakfast, lunch or dinner. Originally devised as a way to make a small piece of meat stretch in large households, pork bits are cooked long and slow in soy, rice wine and spices resulting in a fatty, rich sauce. This dish is comfort food at its finest- eat it at lu rou fan powerhouse Jin Feng together with stir fried water spinach and soy braised tofu and eggs.
Jin Feng Braised Pork Rice, No. 10, Section 1, Roosevelt Rd, Zhongzheng District, Taipei. Open 8:00am to 1:00am.
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