The Tantalizing Taipei Food Guide
November 05, 2016
Since young, I’ve followed my mum around the world whenever she has seminars or meetings abroad. One of the destinations we frequented was Taipei as it’s just 4.5 hours away by plane. Boasting endless entertainment choices and a wide array of food options, Taipei is a place that I can always return to without finding it boring. Being a foodie, I’m one who doesn’t mind traveling for food or hunting down eateries that are off-the-beaten-tracks. Taipei is famous for their night markets and theme cafés so, today I’m bringing a list of night markets and theme cafés you can check out if you’re traveling there soon. However, let me begin this post with my favourite seafood place!
ADDICTION AQUATIC DEVELOPMENT
Addiction Aquatic Development is a modernized fish market in Taipei, featuring 10 different concepts. This large space houses a live aquamarine area where temperature controlled tanks contain live seafood from all over the world, providing consumers live fish processing and cooking services – freshness guaranteed! You’ll be able to purchase fresh food from their supermarket and be greeted by colourful sights and wonderful fragrance of flowers.
There is also an area with different eateries, specializing in serving fresh seafood prepared with different cooking methods. I was enticed by the 12-metre sushi counter, helmed by Mr. Tadashi Takeda, a major chief chef from Japan but decided to join the crazy queue at the seafood bar. With the choicest ingredients such as fresh raw oysters, shrimps, and crabs, that are reasonably priced, I enjoyed my seafood platter for 2 at $60SGD. And, YES! I finished everything alone and many passers-by were staring at me. There are also eateries serving hotpot, charcoal grilled seafood barbeque and cooked food. I ended my meal on a healthy note at Addiction Aquatic Development with a selection of fresh, juicy fruits.
Here’s some advice
Avoid wearing flip-flops and be careful when exploring the live aquamarine area as it’s quite slippery. Do go earlier, especially before the lunch crowd comes in, or you might have to wait in their crazy long lines for food. You have to go on an empty stomach to be able to feast on their fresh yet affordable seafood. Moreover, going in a bigger group puts you at an advantage as you will be able to try more varieties of seafood. Note that only cash accepted in Addiction Aquatic Development and no credit card services is available. All areas are on a first-come-first-serve basis and only the hotpot takes reservations by phone. Each of the 10 areas are independently operated so don’t bring food from other areas or outside into a particular area.
Address: No. 18, Alley 2, Lane 410, Minzu E Road, Zhongshan District, Taipei City, Taiwan 104
Telephone Number: 886-2-2508-1268
Sushi Bar 9.30am to 12midnight daily
Seafood Bar 10am to 12midnight daily
Supermarket 6am to 12midnight daily
Charcoal Grill 10.30am to 12midnight daiy
Hotpot 11am to 12midnight daily
How to get there
The nearest train stations are Xingtian Temple (Zhonghe-Xinlu Line) and Zhongshan Junior High School (Wenhu Line). It’s about 15 to 20 minutes walk from these two stations.
NIGHT MARKETS IN TAIPEI
Night markets, which are open all over Taipei city in the evenings, are well-embedded in the lives of Taiwanese locals. These night markets offer a huge range of clothes and household goods, but their main draw is the street food. It’s always been a tough choice for me to decide on what to eat at night markets as I find myself always spoilt for choice. With so many night markets in Taipei, I found similarities yet enough differences to set one apart from the other. Here’s a list of the bigger-scale and more popular night markets in Taipei city that I’ve visited for their street snacks.
Hua Xi Street Night Market
Address: Intersection of Guangzhou Street and Huaxi Street, Wanhua District, Taipei City
Opening Hours: 4pm to 12midnight daily
I guess the best part I took away from night markets are all the conversations I had with either the food vendors or local customers who visited the night markets for their meals. One street vendor explained that this night market soared to fame after the success of the movie, “艋舺” (Monga) in 2010, with well-known Taiwanese actor 阮經天 as the main lead. I was so lost with the numerous food choices here that I approached the locals for recommendations and ended up slurping a heartwarming bowl of pork rib noodles. I also tried Scholar’s pancakes, “Eight Treasures Iced Dessert”, salted egg dumpling and fried pepper crabs. Looking back at my Taipei trip, I wondered how I managed to stomach so much food alone!
However, if you’re a local, you wouldn’t be eating what I had as Hua Xi Street night market is actually famous for the Chinese herbal cuisine cooked with snakes. A pity I’m not gutsy enough and just the thought of eating snake meat makes my tummy churn. Locals also like pampering themselves with affordable foot massages and health-oriented spas at this night market.
Le Hua Night Market
Address: Yongping Road, Yonghe District, New Taipei City, Taiwan 234
Opening Hours: 6pm to 12midnight daily
Le Hua night market is quite an outlier from the city centre so you can expect to mingle around with more locals. There are snacks that are more special here such as my favourite – Marlin fish paste on stick (旗鱼串). The vendor fried Marlin fish paste with a slice of hard-boiled egg filling inside before serving it with sweet chili sauce, salt and pepper. I fell in love with the mix of textures in every bite – soft and chewy inside while crispy outside. You can also find other delightful snacks like the braised meat vermicelli and salted egg taro.
Don’t be surprised to find exotic food from around the world as this is what makes Le Hua night market stand out from the rest. I saw Turkish Döner Kebab, Thai green papaya salad, Japanese sushi and many other kinds of foreign specialties.
Ning Xia Night Market
Address: Ningxia Road, Datong District, Taipei City, Taiwan 103
Opening Hours: 6pm to 12midnight daily
The nostalgic ambience was what charmed me at Ning Xia night market. It also offers the highest concentration of all the best street snacks from the old days. One “ah pek” (grandpa) whom I shared a table with during my meal, explained to me that during the Japanese occupation, this area was a park where food stands were abundant inside. However, this park was rebuilt into water storage when World War 1 broke out, which saw the end of food-related activities here. After the war, the market excelled and expanded but due to fire and urban renewal in later years, the old night market has to be replaced and is currently what we know as Ningxia night market. I really enjoy these conversations with locals and learn so many things about Taiwan from them!
I tried Taiwanese oden and kept refilling the broth as it was a cold and rainy night. I also tried小籠包 and a shaved iced dessert. This night market also sells sesame oil chicken, fresh and juicy oysters and many other traditional local fare. I like the area with old school games as it really brings back a lot of happy childhood memories. This night market is not so commercialized, making it a good place to better experience Taiwanese local culture.
Rao He Street Night Market
Address: Raohe Street and Sec. 4, Bade Road and Fuyuan Street, Taipei City
Opening Hours: 5pm to 12midnight daily
This is a convenient night market for me as I always make a shopping trip to五分埔 (WuFenPu), Taipei’s largest wholesale market for clothes and accessories, which is located just a stone’s throw away from Rao He Street night market. You won’t miss this night market as it is right beside the majestic Ciyou temple that illuminates so beautifully at night. Although this night market only spans 600 meters, it has many food to offer, from pepper meat buns (福州世祖胡椒饼), 玉子烧 (omelette with toppings), pork ribs herbal stew (陈董药炖排骨) to spicy stinky tofu (下港名彭臭豆腐), just to name a few.
When the weather’s cool, I don’t mind joining the queue for pepper meat buns as you get to watch the vendors hand-make each bun right in front of your eyes. I already started salivating before I made my order. Don’t forget to grab a cup of traditional winter-melon tea to quench your thirst! I like it as it makes me think of it as a healthier alternative to Taipei’s popular bubble milk tea.
Shi Lin Night Market
Address: No. 101, Jihe Road, Shilin District, Taipei City
Opening Hours: 5pm to 1am daily
Shi Lin night market used to be my favourite but in recent years, it has become so much more touristy. Imagine thrice the size of our Bugis Street where maze of alleyways is filled with a variety of local, traditional and international merchandize. Well, touristy or not, many of the food vendors at Shi Lin night market are famous for their local flavours and are only available here. You’ll find stir-fried squids, oyster omelette, huge chicken cutlets, shaved iced desserts and many more.
What I always eat at Shi Lin night market are王子起司馬鈴薯 (Prince Cheese Potato) and 牛魔王 pasta and steak. The former consists of fried potato drenched in truckloads of cheese and covered with generous amounts of your desired toppings while the latter offers succulent beef steak served on a hotplate, accompanied by pasta, a sunny-side-up egg and a mushroom soup bread bowl. Such a hearty meal at affordable prices!
Tong Hua Night Market
Address: Linjiang Street, Da-an District, Taipei 106
Opening Hours: 6pm to 2am daily
This is the closest night market to Taipei 101 and smacked in the middle of a residential area. I was surprised to see the young and old locals mingle around at Tong Hua Night Market as the young crowd comes here for trendy clothing while the older generation comes here to purchase their daily necessities. Among the mouthwatering dishes sold here, one can find 甜不辣 (Taiwanese Tempura), oyster omelette, beef noodles, barbequed sausages, fried chicken feet, braised duck tongue and just about anything else you may be hungering for.
I went alone and didn’t know what to expect as I didn’t think I’d be able to try a lot of food but the stall vendors are extremely friendly and approachable. The甜不辣 aunty left the deepest impression on me as she shared with me some historical and cultural background on Taiwan and its food and kept introducing local flavours that I would come to regret not savouring. The beef noodles uncle cracked jokes and invited me to capture more shots while he posed with the ingredients, while in the midst of preparing the food. I really like their hospitality and how Taiwanese locals make me feel so welcomed.
There are other night markets such as Gong Guan Night Market that I’ve introduced in my previous article on Taipei. So, if you’re a budget-traveler or are curious about local street food and local culture, night markets are the perfect place for you!
Here’s some advice
Take extra care of your valuables and belongings and it’s best to carry your bags in front as the night market can get extremely crowded. Remember to bargain for your purchases too, with the exception of food as prices are fixed. Bring loose change and smaller notes as it’s easier to handle these at night markets.
Taiwanese girls are known to be cute and girly, so it’s not surprising to have the Hello Kitty Café and Barbie Café around. However, the Taiwanese loves hanging out at theme cafés as well and you’ll be able to find cafés with a toilet theme, air-plane theme, even prison and hospital theme. It’s true that the interiors of theme cafés are decorated very well but personally, I feel that’s the only draw as the food served at these cafés taste mediocre. I’ve no intention to return after my first try.
Address: No. 128, Zhongxiao E Road, Section 4, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106
Opening Hours: 11.30am to 10pm daily
You’ll see an explosion of pink upon stepping into Barbie Café. The waitresses are dressed according to Barbie theme and the furniture are designed in line with the theme as well. Barbie’s huge face is planted on the cover of the menu and all the food looks Barbie-ish. Unfortunately, it was too much for me!
The over-the-top dessert came in the form of a tower of sponge cubes, topped with ice cream and strawberry sauce, with a few Barbie-themed chocolate pieces stuck in the ice cream. Looks good but didn’t taste that good. I picked another safer option – chocolate and blackcurrent cake – but it was too sourish for my liking. As for drinks, the latte was extremely milky and there wasn’t any coffee flavour in it. Do note that Barbie café required you to spend a minimum of NT300 ($13.20SGD) per person, so not worthwhile!
Modern Toilet Restaurant
Address: 2nd Floor, No. 7, Lane 50, Xining S. Road, Taipei City
Telephone Number: 02-2311-8822
Opening Hours: Mon-Thu 11.30am to 10pm. Fri 11.30am to 10.30pm. Sat 11am to 10.30pm. Sun 11am to 10pm.
This café truly resembles a toilet but their service level is commendable. All foods are served in their customized toilet-bowl plates and bowls and their soft-serve ice cream dessert arrives in the shape of poop. Although the standard of food here is average, I still prefer this café to the Barbie Café and the Hello Kitty Café. It was not a bad sight to serve food in toilet bowls but I ordered curry beef, which arrived looking alright but after devouring a few mouthfuls, the sight of my messed-up curry served in the toilet bowl reminded me of real poop – not sharing pictures with you guys to avoid grossing you out. Overall, I would recommend checking out this café once if you happen to be in the vicinity.
Hello Kitty Kitchen and Dining Café
Address: Do check their Facebook for the updated address and opening hours as they have recently moved.
I’m not a huge fan of Hello Kitty but well, I’ve got to check this out once in a lifetime since it’s so highly raved about. What I don’t understand is how people can continuously return to the café when the food isn’t fantastic. The ambience is so Hello Kitty-ish, somewhat childish and too girly. When I was dining at this café, I noticed a few bunch of school girls squealing in excitement and taking crazily lots of selfies with Hello Kitty. Unfortunately, this isn’t my cup of tea.
You’re required to spend a minimum of NT300 ($13.20SGD) per person at Hello Kitty café which I felt was not worth it. I could easily get better food at better prices elsewhere. The desserts are plated well and beautifully decorated but it just don’t taste good. After this experience, I don’t think I’ll be checking out any more themed cafés in future.
Besides themed cafés, you’ll be able to find other normal cafés around Taipei as the hipster locals have also instilled the café-hopping culture in Taiwan. I only had enough time to visit three and I approached the locals for suggestions.
Address: No. 462, Section 4, Ren’ai Road, Xinyi District, Taipei City, Taiwan 110
Telephone Number: 886-2-2345-7669
Opening Hours: Tue-Sun 9.30am to 6pm. Closed on Mondays.
Micasa Dolci sounds a little “atas” (high-class) but it’s actually really cozy and serves up delectable desserts, made in-house. The desserts served here are created using Japanese techniques with European influence to give them unique flavours and textures. The dessert chef uses high quality ingredients from around the world with seasonal fruits grown locally to bring out the true essence of fusion desserts.
This café is a really good place for high-tea and I enjoyed the Sabayon – a homemade caramel gelato on a bed of sliced bananas and toasted praline amande, served with Micasa Dolci’s own blend of creamy, cascading blow-torched sabayon sauce. Each mouthful gave a burst of rich flavours, so pleasurable! They are also serving Castella Honey Cakes in different flavours, ranging from chocolate to brown sugar to matcha red beans to Taiwan taro.
Address: No. 15, Yongkang Street, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106
Telephone Number: 886-2-2341-8555
Opening Hours: 10am to 11pm daily.
I’ve always loved mangoes and strawberries so the huge picture of Smoothie House’s iced desserts, featuring generous chunks of mangoes and sliced strawberries stole my attention immediately while I was walking down Yongkang Street to look for another café (which I didn’t go eventually).
Fruits obtained from local suppliers, used at Smoothie House, are carefully selected, washed and sterilized so as to provide customers with the freshest taste. I love the shaved ice here as they were so smooth and totally melts in your mouth! The dessert is not too sweet, just perfect and I love how generous the servers are with their fruits! Look at the amount of mangoes I got!!! This is definitely a café I’ll return to on future trips to Taipei.
VVG Bon Bon
Address: 13, Lane 161, Dunhua S. Road, Section 1, Taipei
Telephone Number: 02-2711-4505
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 12pm to 9pm. Sat&Sun 11am to 9pm.
Walking into this café is like entering a wonderland. The interiors are designed with vintage-looking furniture and many jars of colourful sweets are displayed on the counters. The cakes, especially, look very delicious. I had a cup of hot chocolate which I found not thick enough and a tad too sweet (but that’s ‘cause I prefer the bitter-sweet kind of dark chocolate drink). On the other hand, the carrot cake and strawberry cupcake were enjoyable.
You’ve finally reached the end of my food guide in Taipei. Are you drooling already? Although the cafés are gorgeously decorated in Taipei, my tastebuds still prefer Taipei’s street food, especially the ones at night markets. Hope this eating guide will be useful if you’re travelling to Taipei soon!
What is the sesame dish from the Hua Xi Street Night Market? Looks sweet and delicious!
Hi Kevin, it’s called the Scholar’s pancakes (:
Thanks for the info Alexis!
Hi Kevin, you’re most welcome! (: