Taiwan was one of those places that I had never thought of visiting despite its proximity to the Philippines. Admittedly, I didn’t know much about it prior to my trip aside from its famous skyscraper, the Taipei 101. Needless to say, I had no regret spending almost two weeks on this island because of one thing—food. Delicious, gratifying Taiwanese food.
Before deciding to go to this beautiful country, my initial choices of destination to take my holiday break were India, Vietnam, or Indonesia. I ended up going to Taiwan because it had the cheapest flights that I could find at that time. I am a frugal traveler which translates to I want things cheap. It was a fortunate accident, so to speak, because I had an amazing time discovering this nation that is rich in ancient history, friendly people, and delicious foods.
And delicious food it was! I was floored by the variety of tastes and flavors that this small country has to offer. Taiwanese street food is simply one of the best in the world. A myriad of Taiwanese dishes—greatly influenced by Chinese, Japanese, and other neighboring Asian countries—envelops every street and corner of every city and county on this tiny island. Each one boasts of its unique version or speciality. And for a good reason. Every food scene showcases the best and freshest ingredients that the local communities can offer to its hungry visitors.
The Shilin Night Market is arguably the most famous night market in Taipei, but I spent my first night of food tripping in a less touristy place—the nearby Shipai Night Market. My Taiwanese/Canadian friend, John Leno, toured me around and introduced me to the local street food scene. I met John in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia a few years back during one of my backpacking trips. He took me to Shipai Night Market where many of the locals go (less touristy too!). In this market, I had my first taste of Taiwanese cuisine, such as spring roll, shaved ice, and stinky tofu!
Ita Thao Village can be found in Sun Moon Lake, one of the popular tourist attractions in Nantou County. It’s a charming village along the magnificent lake, surrounded by the rolling mountains of central Taiwan. Its laid-back streets are lined with shops and restaurants which offer a variety of local specialties that I wish I can all devour.
Another popular tourist destination is Jiufen Old Street, about two hours east of Taipei. This village is a labyrinth of hilly streets and staircases. Lots of popular food to eat here, such as tea eggs, taro balls, and peanut ice cream roll. Jiufen became popular because of its resemblance to the setting of the Japanese animated movie Spirited Away.
It’s almost impossible to travel to Taiwan and not experience their street food and night market scenes. It would be like traveling to Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower. To give you an idea on what street foods to try in Taiwan, here’s a list of the ones that I was able to taste and enjoy: