Taipei Street Food Scene 2.0
Five Places That Reinterpret Old Taiwanese Tastes with New Creativity
Words by: AYCC
Photos by: April Chen
Taiwan has long been known as a food paradise in Asia, and it is especially famous for its mouth- watering street food and beverages, such as bubble milk tea, stinky tofu, crispy fried chicken cutlets and more. While most people think street food is greasy and unhealthy, Taipei, with its profound cultural diversity and dynamic way of life, continues to surprise us with its never-ending food evolutions. Today, a new wave of enjoying street food is rising in the capital’s culinary scene. TAIPEI takes you on a tour to explore five restaurants that reinterpret classic Taiwanese street food. While maintaining the authentic Taiwanese spirit passed on by previous generations, these restaurants boldly play with different ingredients, taking traditional Taiwanese street eats from their original incarnations to version 2.0.
▲Pork and leek dumplings and crispy pan-fried dumplings, along with side dishes such as pickled cucumber and kimchi, are favorite combos at Happy Dumpling.
The owners of Happy Dumpling (餃子樂) are the second generation of the family which founded Wang’s Dumpling (王家水餃), a restaurant in Neihu District that has a history of more than 30 years. Its three branches in Taipei are all furnished with wooden tabletops that remind people of a traditional dumpling stall, but the simplicity of the interior design differentiates it from the old street vendors. Inheriting the family recipe, Happy Dumpling makes handmade pork and leek dumplings with their firm filling, and these are still most customers’ top choice. Another must-try are the crispy pan-fried dumplings with shrimp, which blend the flavors of minced pork, Chinese water chestnut, leek sprouts, and an entire fresh shrimp in every bite. Happy Dumpling also specializes in utilizing local ingredients. For example, the Dongmen (東門) branch adds the aromatic peeled chili from Hualien (花蓮) into the pork dumplings, presenting a brand new flavor of this time-honored dish.
223-3, Jinhua St., Daan Dist. (Dongmen Branch)
11:30am - 2:00pm, 5:00pm - 9:00pm (Closed on Sunday)▲The bright and warming environment at Happy Dumpling gives customers a comfortable space to dine together.
▲Inheriting and adapting the recipe of the owner’s mother, Shiyu’s signature dishes include beef noodles and a luwei platter.
Hidden on the second floor of an old apartment near MRT Songjiang Nanjing Station (捷運松江南京站), Shiyu (時寓) has conquered the taste buds of Taipei gourmands with its flavorful beef noodle soup. The name “Shiyu” means “clock apartment,” so-named as you will see a wall decorated with antique clocks once you enter the restaurant. In running the restaurant, the owner simply but aptly adapted the old recipes of his mother into healthier versions. The “Lai Jin (來金)” Stewed Beef Noodle Soup, named after his mother, is known for its sweet and clear soup stewed with organic vegetables and fruits, including onions, apples, cabbages, corn, and 12 kinds of Chinese herbs such as dwarf lilyturf and red dates. This version of this cherished Taiwanese classic is actually quite different from traditional beef noodle dishes, which are soy-sauce based. Shiyu is also a stylish bar at night, which allows you to have beef noodles paired with Omar Whisky, an award-winning Taiwan-made spirit.
2F, 68, Sec. 1, Jianguo N. Rd., Zhongshan Dist.
12:00pm - 2:30pm, 6:00pm - 10:00pm (Wednesday to Friday)
12:00pm - 3:00pm, 6:00pm - 9:00pm (Saturday and Sunday)
Closed on Monday and Tuesday, and the second Sunday of each month▲Featuring Chinese medicine in the soup, Shiyu’s counter/bar was also transformed from an old Chinese medicine cabinet.
CHAU WEI JIUE
▲Combining the flavors of luwei and hotpot, Chau Wei Jiue offers the rich taste of street eats with plenty of ingredients displayed at the entrance for customers to choose from.
Luwei (滷味) is an interactive delicacy that requires customers to select meats, vegetables and other local ingredients first, then ask the vendors to braise them in a soy sauce-based marinade. In Taiwan, a luwei vendor usually shows up in a dining car. However, Chau Wei Jiue (潮味決) subverts the framework of traditional street food and the dining environment with innovative ideas. “Chau” means “trendy,” and “Wei Jiue” is a pun which has the meaning of both “tastes” and “battle of flavors.” As the name suggests, Chau Wei Jiue pits traditional luwei against another food that Taiwanese are obsessed with — hotpot. This new combination provides different hotpot broths beyond soy sauce for customers to choose from. The most popular one is the spicy hotpot broth, which is full of the aroma of chili. If you want to try something lighter, pork stock or sesame oil stew are both great choices.
124, Jiangnan St., Neihu Dist. (Neihu Jiangnan Branch)
11:30am - 9:00pm (Last order at 8:30pm)▲Combining the flavors of luwei and hotpot, Chau Wei Jiue offers the rich taste of street eats with plenty of ingredients displayed at the entrance for customers to choose from.
▲Third Floor is known for classic “re chao” dishes, and don’t forget to pair them with special cocktails featuring Taiwanese flavors such as soy milk and Osmanthus flower.
Third Floor (弎樓) is a hipster-friendly bistro where people enjoy re chao (熱炒), aka stir-fried dishes that Taiwanese share among friends and family. It is in an old three-story building that preserves the original interior decor such as the red brick walls and the old-fashioned window grills, adding a cool retro atmosphere to the place. Signature dishes include three-cup duck breast (三杯鴨胸), stirred luffa with salted egg yolk (金沙絲瓜), and spicy braised beef shank (麻辣滷牛腱). While people enjoy these favorites with beer, Third Floor also serves cocktails. Soybean Milk With Fried Dough is a drink mixed with vodka, creating a cocktail with Taiwanese flavors, while Osmanthus Alley combines whiskey with dried Osmanthus flowers, lemon juice, and a dash of egg white on top.
156, Tonghua St., Daan Dist.
6:00pm - 2:00am (Tuesday to Thursday, Sunday)
6:00pm - 3:00am (Friday and Saturday)▲The features of traditional houses in Taiwan such as wooden tables and brick and mortar walls, are well-preserved at Third Floor.
TIAN CHUN UMAMI
▲Bestsellers such as braised beef shank with zucchini pickles are served in a steamer, a distinguishing feature at Tian Chun Umami.
When it comes to Taiwanese street food, guabao (刈包, otherwise known as the Taiwanese hamburger), is definitely at the top of the list. Tian Chun Umami (天淳津品) is a small but exquisite place that provides fusion guabao combining classic Taiwanese flavors with elements of the Western sandwich.
Guabao, praised by CNN as “taking over the world,” usually consists of braised pork, peanut powder, and cilantro sandwiched within a steamed bun. Tian Chun Umami, on the other hand, mixes flour with charcoal to make buns with fewer calories, replaces cilantro with fresh lettuce grown in an aquaponics system, and accents the juicy pork belly with honey mustard. The unconventional burger is served in a traditional steamer dish, making it all the more instagrammable. The other three options include spiced chicken, braised beef shank with zucchini pickles, and egg with honey mustard. All transform traditional guabao from a classic dish to a newfound fusion sensation.
38, Ln. 290, Guangfu S. Rd., Daan Dist.
11:00am - 7:00pm (Closed on Monday)▲Tian Chun Umami is a small but exquisite space with less than 10 seats in the restaurant.
Although Taipei is embracing cultural diversity and creativity, it is also starting a new chapter for Taiwanese cuisine that is demonstrating how traditional street food can retain the classic spirit while evolving with modern society. These places aren’t just providing delicious Taiwanese cuisine, but also delivering something new. Come and visit Taipei to discover what else the Taipei street food 2.0 scene has to offer!
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