One of our favourite things to do when we explore a new city is to take a food tour to explore the different local dishes and get to know the heart and soul of the city. So on our recent visit to Taipei, we teamed up with Taipei Eats and put ourselves in the hands of our knowledgeable guide Jean, to indulge in a fabulous Taipei food tour.
We kicked off our Taipei street food tour with a wander through Hulin Street Market, taking in the sights, sounds and smells of this bustling local market. There was so much to take in here, and the kids were fascinated by all the different foods there were to see – from exotic fruits to seafood, to chickens feet… to one stall that even had an entire pig chopped up and on display!
We started at the tame end, stopping at a colourful fruit stall to sample some local fruit – wax apple and green guava dipped in plum salt. The kids loved rummaging through the various fruit on the stall, trying to name them all.
From here we wandered further through the market until we arrived at the moachi stall. If you have spent time in Japan you may be familiar with mochi – a popular sticky sweet treat made from pounded glutinous rice. The Taiwanese moachi is even softer and stickier, and ours came stuffed with sesame powder and peanut dust. An interesting sweet snack.
Thousand Layer Scallion Big Bread
Next up in the market came the Thousand Layer Scallion Big Bread. Such a grand name, and such a delicious mouthful, with its crunchy salty crust and soft chewy inside. We ordered an extra couple as a takeaway, they were so good (although we were fooling ourselves if we thought we would have any room left for more food after the tour).
We left the Hulin market and headed round the corner to a Gua Bao (gua bao literally means ‘cut bun’) stall on Song Shan Road. Here the stall owner plucked a freshly steamed Chinese bun out of the steamer, and stuffed it with braised pork belly, preserved mustard greens, peanut powder, sugar and coriander. The result was a completely delicious soft and chewy pork belly burger – and an absolute bargain at just $1.50 USD.
Of course it wouldn’t be a Taiwan food tour without trying Stinky Tofu.
Dai’s House of Stinky Tofu on Yongji Road is one of the most famous Stinky Tofu shops in Taipei, and featured on Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods programme on Discovery Channel. According to the Taipei Times, it is also the only place in the world where you can eat raw, cold stinky tofu. Oh joy! We were in for a treat.
Stinky tofu is prepared by fermenting the tofu in a brine mixture, together with milk, vegetables, herbs and sometimes meat. Thankfully Dai’s tofu is strictly vegetarian so at least I didn’t have images of rotting meat in my head.
So how did it taste? Ok, stinky tofu does not taste as bad as it smells, but I’m afraid I just couldn’t separate the two – and embarrassingly gagged as soon as it hit my tongue. My husband did much better, managing to maintain a neutral face throughout his mouthful. The children just hid under the table hoping we wouldn’t notice them.
The fried tofu was much better, and really didn’t have too much flavor. Unfortunately by this stage I was a little over the whole experience and was ready to move on to more tasty pastures. But I am pleased I tasted it – and got to tick that bad boy off my culinary bucket list.
Oyster Misua (oh ah mee sua)
Our next stop was at an oyster misua shop – a type of vermicelli soup laden with both oysters and pig intestine. Hmmmm… not really my kind of dish, but we gave it a good go, and Jean also ordered some more palatable noodles for the kids, so it was great to finally see my fussy little ones dig into something with enthusiasm.
Xiao Long Bao and Pan Fried Pork Dumplings
You would think we would be pretty full by now – but we had done a lot of walking on our tour, and our final stop was to eat one of our favourite things in the world – Xiao Long Bao (steamed Shanghai pork dumplings).
Din Tai Fung is the most famous place in Taipei (the world?) to indulge in xiao long bao, and we had already made the pilgrimage to the original Din Tai Fung a couple of days earlier. But before Din Tai Fung made its debut in Taipei, there was Kao Chi, which opened its doors in 1949 – eight years before Din Tai Fung.
We had already spotted Kao Chi on Yong Kang Street and earmarked it as somewhere to try, so we were delighted that our Taipei Eats tour brought us to another branch – in the Eslite Spectrum shopping mall.
The xiao long bao were indeed delicious here, but the biggest hit for us at Kao Chi were the Shen Jiang Bao – pan fried pork buns. Oh my goodness, we could have eaten these all day, despite our bulging bellies. Lightly fried until golden and crisp on the bottom, with juicy flavourful pork on the inside. These were simply stunning, and highly recommended.
We literally couldn’t fit one more mouthful into our stomachs by this stage, so we gratefully accepted a takeaway gift from our guide Jean – pineapple cakes from Wu Pao Chun.
Pineapple cakes are traditionally given as wedding favours in Taiwan, and are a popular souvenir for tourists to take home. Wu Pao Chun is the most famous bakery in Taipei – you can find it in the basement of the Eslite Spectrum shopping mall – just look for the long queue outside!
Our Wu Pao Chun pineapple cakes did not disappoint – they had deliciously crumbly pastry on the outside, with a sticky sweet inside and made for the perfect snack on the plane home.
Thank you to Taipei Eats for showing us around the fabulous street food of Taipei!
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Mum on the Move were hosted by Taiepei Eats for the purposes of writing this review. This in no way affected my review, and all opinions as always are honest, and my own.