One of things Taiwan is best known for is it’s unique and interesting food. However, as a foreigner it can be challenging to actually try many Taiwanese dishes. That’s because you either need to speak/read Chinese yourself or go with a Chinese speaking friend.
The bigger restaurants will often have English menus, but the small hole in the wall restaurants (where locals eat and where the real gems are) won’t have anything listed in English.
There are so many awesome dishes to try and it can be a little daunting at first. So if you don’t speak Chinese (and even if you do) I’d strongly suggest you consider doing a food tour in Taipei. I recently had the chance to go on a food tour run by my friend Mike Lee who manages TaipeiEats.com. I had a fantastic time and even got to try a couple of things that I haven’t eaten in my 7+ years in Taiwan. Because I enjoyed it so much I asked Mike to write up a post detailing one of their typical tours so that you could learn about what you can see (and eat!).
Here’s the post from Mike:
Perhaps it’s the lively bustling atmosphere, or maybe it’s the nostalgic architecture, but one thing is for certain – Dadaocheng is unlike any other area in Taipei. Our walking Taipei food tour takes you on a culinary adventure through the old streets of Dadaocheng where you can soak up the local atmosphere and sample recipes that’s been handed down through the generations.
We start the walking tour at Mazu temple, dedicated to the goddess of the sea. Along the sides of the temple there are stalls of food vendors all serving their own specialties. Our food tour will sample a fried rice dish with tiny anchovies. The taste of the little fish is quite mild and adds a nice savory touch to the fried rice. It is also at the Mazu temple’s courtyard where you can enjoy a nice cold Taiwan beer. This is perhaps the most unique beer garden you’ll ever get to visit!
Then we have our samples of dried pork jerky and traditional Han pastries; two shops located right next to each other. The pork jerky looks and tastes more like pork chips. The jerky house uses a secret house-made soy sauce fermented for 180 days, delivering a satisfying crunch and flavor to the jerky.
The traditional pastry shop has been around for 120 years. Its’ delicious pastries are unlike any western pastries. We will sample the “crusade cake”; the flavor of the jack bean filling is so velvety and the multi-layered pastry sheets are all hand made in house. Both of the shops are must stop shops for locals during festivals.
We then visit a third generation fishball restaurant. Fishballs are a common food in Southern China and the texture differs significantly than European meatballs. Taiwanese fishballs contain minced pork along with fish and flour. You can see the workers smoothly churning the fish paste by hands into little ball shaped bites.
We go on and visit an 80 year old noodles shop where you will taste the best bowl of Chinese dry ramen noodles. It is simply a well-made bowl of fresh noodles with a house special sauce and chives. Simplicity at its best.
Along our tour we will encounter our charming juice man, also known as “the orange brother” to the locals. We will learn his story and see taste what makes his house blend citrus juice so special.
No trip to Dihua Street is complete without a tour of the first house on Dihua Street, the one that started it all. We will take a food break to visit the tea house where we will learn and sip some of the finest teas in Taiwan. You just might feel like a master of Taiwanese tea after our stop.
We then go down the street and pay our visit to the old school dessert shop that has unofficially been a Dadaocheng institution for decades. You will get to taste almond jello made with agar during summer time, or sweet peanuts soup with Chinese doughnut during the colder months.
Our last stop will be a proper sit down “quick stir” restaurant frequented by the locals. Here we will sample a deliciously flavorful tofu dish complemented by some fresh local veggies.
Upon completion of our Taipei food tour, your hunger will be satisfied while have enjoyed a variety of local Taiwanese foods and beverages. You’ll also come away learning a little bit about the history of the city and the history of the foods. We look forward to seeing you all on one of our satiating tours
To learn more about Taipei Eats visit their site at TaipeiEats.com