Travel

5 Reasons Why Taipei Is the Best Food City in the World

Street eats, great regional cuisine and enthusiastic local diners
What to Eat in Taipei
Photo: ronniechua/Getty Images

If you were to make a checklist for a great food city, Taipei would tick every box: Vibrant street-eating culture, stellar regional cuisine that reverberates internationally, and world-class restaurants and bars are plentiful enough you could feast for days and not exhaust its riches. Beyond that, the accessibility and enthusiasm pervasive in the dining culture make feasting in this metropolis an utter joy. Here’s why Taipei is the best food city in the world.

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 The street food is world class.

Taipei’s street food alone puts it in the company of the best food cities in the world. The fastest introduction to this is via one of the many night markets (try Raohe or Shilin), where crowds convene for squid on a stick, pepper cakes stuffed with pork, fried noodles and da chang bao xiao chang (a big sausage wrapping a small sausage, or glutinous rice hugging pork sausage). The best way to tackle a market is to follow the masses and eat what the masses eat. This is good way to approach street eating outside of the markets, too: Nearly every corner in Taipei hosts a cart hawking crispy scallion pancakes, dumplings or ice cream sprinkled with peanut candy and wrapped in a crepe. 

 

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 The regional cuisine is exceptional.

Taiwanese food mixes influences from mainland China with the tempered clarity of nearby Japan. Beef noodle soup may be Taiwan’s most iconic dish; exultant versions feature chewy noodles and strips of tender beef bathing in a murky broth redolent with heady five-spice and speckled with sharp scallion. Don’t miss the lu rou fan, or braised pork rice, nor Din Tai Fung, Taiwan’s best-known export. The original stall on one end of Yongkang Street plays host to daily hordes, who line up for savory and explosive xiao long bao, or soup dumplings. For sweets, check out the mango shaved ice, which buries condensed milk–sweetened ice under chunks of fruit, and pineapple cakes, which wrap a dense, sweet pineapple filling with chewy pastry. 

 

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 The bar scene is endlessly delightful.

Taipei really comes alive when the sun sets; nights are both sultry and frenetic. Bars are worth exploring, whether for craft beer, a classic cocktail or a big night out. Cocktail enthusiasts will find kindred spirits at Ounce, a speakeasy notched in the back of a café. Taiwan is enthusiastic about whiskey, and while good pours grace many lists (including karaoke bars, where you can buy it by the fifth), you’ll find an excellent collection, heavy on Scotch, at MoD. For beer drinkers, BeerGeek MicroPub offers a broad selection of international craft brews in a minuscule space.

 

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 You can eat well at any price level.

Street food occupies the low end of the price spectrum, but there’s recommendable dining at the very top as well. One stunning example is RAW, a restaurant from Taiwanese chef André Chiang, who gives classic Taiwanese food a bit of the classic French treatment. Taipei is home to some of the world’s best sushi restaurants outside of Japan, including RyuGin Taipei, an outpost of a three-Michelin-starred sushi restaurant in Tokyo. In a more centrist range are places like the outstanding Addiction Aquatic Development, a fish market offering an array of dining options, including sashimi, oysters and skewered prawns roasted over a fire.

 

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 The locals are food obsessed.

The joy of feasting in Taipei is compounded by local enthusiasm for great bites. You see this in the nightly crowds at markets, in cheerful lines waiting for tables or snacks, and in blogs like A Hungry Girl's Guide to Taipei, which tracks the food scene in painstaking detail. This city’s denizens are likewise discerning: When I visited, my friend’s elderly aunt waited in line for hours to procure for us freshly made Chia Te pineapple cakes. It’s this infectious love for food that makes Taipei not just a great food city but the world’s best metropolis for eating.

 

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Laura Shunk is a food and travel writer and noodle addict who spent a year researching Asia's food culture. Follow her on Instagram at @laurashunk.

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