Street Foods in Taiwan
Taiwan has a tremendous impression on most of my foreign friends all because of the food. Interestingly enough, when it comes to food, Taiwan offers not only a myriad of different types of restaurants and eateries but also a variety of street foods, which tend to give visitors a cheap notion of lower quality before they totally fell in love with them.
In 2018, the Michelin Bib Gourmand rating system came to Taipei for the first time, and dozens of “street foods” were enlisted with the honor. Each Taipei resident has, however, his or her own list of starred “street foods”. As a melting pot of people from every corner of the country and every piece of the continent on the globe, Taipei is absolutely an ideal destination for gourmets like you to explore.
Yongkang Street in Taipei
Just a few months ago, the world-renown travel guide Time Out magazine published “the 33 coolest streets in the world” and listed Taipei’s Yongkang Street as the 4th from the top. We are so thrilled by learning that Taipei again gained globe-trotters’ attention after being ranked the 2nd best city for travel in 2022 last year.
As the country’s capital city, Taipei was not a political and economic center until 1894. Tainan City, historically speaking, serves as the political and economic base for much longer than this biggest city in the north. When it comes to food, however, street foods, needless to say, dominate the tables of every hungry household. The history of Taiwan first came along the coast; next, the rivers; and, last, the streets. Like most of the night markets in big cities, businesses and vendors first develop along a specific section of the street and then crawl into the adjacent lanes and alleys. With a growing population, some of the streets were transformed into huge blocks of commercial areas like Shilin Night Market near the Jiantan MRT station.
Yongkang Street and Din Tai Fung
Unlike other traditional marketplaces in Taipei, the growth of tourism has brought prosperity to Yongkang Street, especially in the new millennium. Near the entrance of the street, i.e., the joining point with Xinyi Road, the world-famous Din Tai Fung has its first store opened right by a bookshop. At the moment this award-winning soup dumpling restaurant has branches worldwide as far as the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia. For many Japanese visitors, this Xinyi branch is their favorite spot for dinner rather than the most popular branch at Taipei 101.
Without a doubt, Din Tai Fung triumphantly made Michelin’s Bib Gourmand’s list from the very beginning. They don’t just serve their succulent soup dumplings. If you ever get a chance to visit, don’t forget to try their highly-acclaimed fried rice. If you can eat like a horse, their noodle soup is of excellent quality, too.
Most of the international tourists come to Yongkang Street for Taiwanese snack food or dessert if not for the soup dumplings. While you seem to be interested in the miraculous development of this dumpling house in Taiwan, I’ll recommend Edison Travel Service’s half-day tour Taipei at Night: Din Tai Fung Dinner & Raohe Street Night Market Guided Tour when your time in Taipei is limited. If you simply want to try your country’s branches, you’ll have more space in your stomach to fill in a variety of delightful foods along Yongkang Street, which develops surrounding a pleasant Yongkang Park.
Yongkang Street is basically more of a residential area, especially around Yongkang Park, but eateries and snack vendors start to gather thanks to its proximity to the “lung of Taipei” Da’an Forest Park and Dongmen MRT Station. With the primary success, more and more big restaurants and stylish cafés move into this neighborhood, making it even more appealing to foreign expatriates and travelers. In addition, the area has other Michelin’s Bib Gourmand restaurants, to which the awards are given because of the good quality of food and normally the expenditure of less than NT1,000 per person.
Yongkang Beef Noodle
In terms of beef noodles, Taipei City holds its Beef Noodle Soup competition in a lofty tone every year.
If you only have little time to explore central Taipei and you make it to Yongkang Street, the namesake Yongkang Beef Noodle has its prizewinning red-braised beef noodle soup with heavy seasoning, together with local sides like tofu, steamed pork chop with rice powder, etc.
Hao Kung Tao Chin Chi Yuan (Da’an)
If the beef noodle soup is too heavy and a bit too spicy for you, I’ll recommend my favorite Hao Kung Tao Chin Chi Yuan (Da’an) to you.
This is a Bib Gourmand restaurant, too, with two stories and a narrow entrance due to stacks of traditional bamboo steamers. Yes, these are exactly the authentic steamers that make their dim sum so unique. They offer various items served in small portions, including their signature 18-pleat soup dumplings. Thanks to their one-hundred-percent handmade spirits, this is the restaurant that is always able to surprise you and satisfy your food cravings.
If you happen to visit Taiwan in summer, you wouldn’t want to miss the mango shave ice. There used to be a couple of ice parlors here before the pandemic and the most celebrated one – the Smoothie House – successfully survive the pandemic. Yongkang Street is exactly where these mega shave ice plates start and fresh mango from all over Taiwan is shipped to.
Mata Tofu Pudding
For those who notoriously need dessert after all the greasy stuff, the tofu pudding is clearly a traditional dessert you shouldn’t miss.
Go to the park and you’ll find a comfort station, oh no – I was talking about food – you’ll find, to the southeast corner of Yongkang Park, a nostalgic stall selling delicate tofu pudding. The founder of the stall is a Japanese surfer who visited eastern Taiwan and so much fell in love with this beautiful island – Formosa! Not to our surprise, the name of the instagrammable shop is Mata Tofu Pudding, for your reference.
If you go to Yongkang Street during daytime and want to take a walk for digestion, don’t forget that one of the most impressive landmarks in Taipei, Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, is only one big block away. Rain or shine, you can always find something to do there. If you fancy the changing ceremony of the honor guards, it occurs indoors in the Bronze Statue Hall of Level Four. These well-trained soldiers dazzle visitors with perfectly synchronized performances every hour on the hour until 5 p.m.
For a city explorer, he or she might want to go further west, passing by the renaissance-style Presidential Office Building and heading for the hub of young fashion and a one-stop shopping paradise – Ximending (literally, west gate district).
Yongkang Street is like any other street in the world – it’s definitely 24-7! If you’re visiting any of the shops there, a general guide regarding the business hours is 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. As for the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, the outdoor park surrounding the main building is, however, not open 24/7. It closes at midnight and won’t be open until 5 a.m. In addition, the galleries and exhibits in the Main Hall open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., but the last changing guard ceremony will be at 5 p.m.
Normally free of charge for most arts and cultural exhibitions unless specified at Chang Kai-shek Memorial Hall’s Main Hall. The popular 4F changing ceremony happening every hour on the hour is free!
How to get there?
Metro Taipei is always the bible of visiting Greater Taipei area. The nearest exit to Yongkang Street is Exit 5 of Dongmen MRT Station and the recommended exit to Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall is Exit 5 of the namesake metro station. You’ll see the magnificent Liberty Square Arch, which is the tallest Chinese-style gate in Taiwan and is always a perfect location to take a picture of the main memorial structure. The huge number of the pigeons in front the gate reminds me of the Trafalgar Square in London if you’ve ever been to the U.K.
Useful Tips While Visiting
Too hot in summer?
Dining in a restaurant can always find yourself in a reasonably air-conditioned environment. As for the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, I easily find lots of tourists staying in the ground-level exhibition halls during the hot summer heat.
We’re talking about Taiwanese food and those eateries, vendors, restaurants on Yongkang Street. So, it’s not an issue!
If you’re more than just a gourmet, you might want to follow the current trend of cooking vacations. As an international foodie’s paradise, Taipei can surely bring you the best hands-on cooking classes and cultural tours. You can try Edison Travel Service’s day tours, such as the Private Taipei Breakfast Culture and Cooking Class with Lunch Day Tour or the Taiwan Culinary Exhibition and Market Visit Day Tour in order to have a good mixture of everything and enhance your travel experience in Taiwan.