There’s two food carts that set up each morning outside the hotel I’m staying in. they’re only there for the breakfast commuter trade.
One sells pan fried pork buns, filled with luscious pork juiciness, the other sells green shallot pastries.
The other morning I approached the first and asked ‘pork?’ He held up four fingers, so I gave him 40 NW$ (about $1.50AUD). He gave me four buns. Hmmm. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I only wanted one…
Anyways, it leads me to a foodie post. The street food here is great and even the small restaurants are affordable. Some words of caution:
- Most of the street carts sell just one or two items
- Most of the street carts advertise their wares in characters only
- The same goes for many of the small restaurants- learn to recognise your food…or be game enough to take a chance on something new.
- Most small restaurants will have at least one staff member who does speak some English- the same doesn’t apply for street carts. That’s ok- it’s fun eating in a place where the menu is entirely in character with no English subtitles.
- The Taiwanese eat a lot more parts of the animal than what most westerners do.
- Most Taiwanese bread is sweet- this means that the desserts are super sweet.
On my first day in town I ordered a pork noodle soup. When it arrived, in addition to the sliced roast pork (sliced thinly across the grain, rather like a sandwich slice) there were bits in there that resembled the tripe my husband insists on ordering at yum cha, but which I never touch. It tasted very porky, but wasn’t- surprisingly- unpleasant…in small doses 🙂
Beef noodle soups are on the must have list here. The broth is rich and deeply flavoured and the meat tender.
Not exactly noodles, but fish ball soup falls into this category too. Not, as you might think, made out of the balls of very large fish, it’s fresh seafood made into balls and dunked into broth.
Din Tai Fung
Ok, this is going to make me sound a little pretentious, but I’ll say it anyway…I’ve eaten at one of these in Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Sydney. Of course I had to visit a Taiwanese branch- after all, this is where the chain originated!
The specialty here is Xiao Long Bao- or soupy dumplings.
Din Tai Fung do a number of versions- the original pork, a chicken version and a crab one. All are good. All are the perfect size to pop in your mouth in one go. I defy you not to close your eyes as you get that explosion of soupy yumminess.
Yes, I know that you can get your dumplings (and my other favourite- Shanghai drunken chicken) cheaper elsewhere, but Din Tai Fung is a Taiwanese institution. Also, I’m well aware that xiao long bao is Shanghainese in origin, but for my money, Din Tai Fung helped bring them to the attention of the rest of the world- and something this good deserves to be shared.
Ok, street snacks are the reason this post is labelled part 1. Where do I start?
With the pan fried pork bun? In all of it’s doughy, fluffy, porky wonder? One will cost you around 10NT$
What about the pepper cake? It’s a crispy pocket filled with yet more juicy pork and the added spice of peppercorn. These are baked flat in a clay oven and are perfect snacks on the go at between 20-30NT$.
If your fingers aren’t quite greasy enough, or your tummy sufficiently satisfied, try a green onion flaky pastry. Great value at 15NT$ or 25NT$ with an egg fried in the centre.
Then, of course, there’s the sausage on a stick. Yep, more pork, this time eaten with extra garlic just so that you can be guaranteed of tasting it for the rest of the afternoon. This is the snack that keeps on giving. Expect to pay around 30-50NT$- depending on where you are.
Want more? Trust me, there is…next time…