Our travel writer Lucy Hewitt lands in Taipei, Taiwan…
Taipei is known as the street food capital of the world and is also home to some of our fave London eats – shout out bao buns, soup dumplings and bubble tea. We put as many things in our mouths as was humanly possible when we were there. Here’s our top ten:
- Gua Bao
These guys need no introduction. Pretty much the reason we had Taiwan on our list for the trip. The original version is bigger than ones we’ve sampled in London – but with the same pillow-soft bun filled with melt in your mouth pork belly, topped with fried cabbage, fresh coriander and the obligatory Taiwanese crack aka peanut dust. You can choose what ratio of meat to fat you want too.
Soup dumplings began in Taipei. Mr Yang Bingyi first started making them in 1972 and now has over a hundred Din Tai Fung restaurants worldwide. The trick is to poke a hole in the top to let some steam out and avoid 3rd degree burns in your mouth. Which is definitely what we did because we are not greedy or impatient. At all. Ahem.
- Ice Cream Rolls
Summer rolls filled with ice-cream, more Taiwanese crack and fresh coriander. Traditional ice cream flavours are sweet bean, carob and pineapple. Even if you think cozza is the herb of the devil you gotta try this in all its glory, it really works.
- Custard Donuts
Dreamy deep fried balls of fresh dough filled with creamy custard. Nuff said.
- Fried Squid
Known as the fried chicken of Taiwan, there’s SO much of the tentacled good guys everywhere. It comes in all sorts of guises, but our fave was stuffed with raw cucumber, then lightly battered and served with lots of chilli sauce.
- Blood Cakes
Trust us on this one – these were ace. A gelatinous rectangle of sticky rice on a stick that has been cooked in the red stuff, then sprinkled with fresh coriander and Taiwanese crack (can you see the theme here…).
Super simple, super tasty. Taiwanese are big into omelettes (WINNER! – we love eggs) and the traditional kinds are with spring onion or oysters. They’re made fresh to order and lightly brushed with a sweet plum or chilli sauce. Yes. Please.
- Taiwanese Breakfast
If there was a competition for the best breakfast – Taiwan would be a strong contender. Expect anything from a bowl of sweet soy milk (chilled or warm) with a donut stick to dip in, to savoury soft tofu with seaweed and peanuts. Or how about filo pastry wrapped around fluffy eggs? We were also very happy to discover that it is perfectly acceptable to eat bao buns for brekkie. We obvs got one of everything.
- Beef Noodle Soup
Another big name in the Taiwanese street food game is beef noodle soup. Made with fresh thick noodles, beef short rib and a surprisingly light broth. Just add chilli and coriander to taste.
- Black Tea with Brown Sugar
Not the kind you’re forced to drink when the milk’s off – this stuff is ice cold and super-charged with half a pound of Demerara sugar. It’s traditionally served with gau bau and other meaty / fatty street food and works a treat cutting through all that richness.
We totally fell in love with Taiwan. Stunning mountains and lush green rice paddies, wild beaches to yourself, the friendliest, most helpful people, oh and we ate quite a lot too… not to mention a surprising and very welcome lack of other tourists. Get there before the secret’s out!