It’s no doubt that Taiwan is a fine place for food enthusiasts, with its vast array of snacks, local Minnan specialties and a splendid variety of dishes from all across China.
Night markets are part of the culinary culture of Taipei and other major cities of Taiwan. The island’s cities feature lively night markets, and it is impossible to walk into any neighborhood and don’t see restaurants, food stalls, cafes and drink stores.
If you’re in Taipei and you want to enjoy great food in one place, Yongkang Street should be a definite stop on your itinerary. In this historic part of Taipei, you can try the finest of several Taiwan foods and desserts in its lanes and alleys.
First, try the beef noodle. These are noodles cooked with stewed or braised beef and vegetables in a soup broth and a signature dish in Taiwan’s food landscape. The locals generally agree that the beef noodles along Yongkang Street are the best can be found.
Yongkang Beef Noodles was established in 1953, which makes it a grand old dame of 60 this year. It is well known for its red braised beef noodle, and the flavor is so strong that you can smell it as soon as you line up outside the restaurant. The store’s original owner was from Sichuan, which accounts for the noodles being spicier than normal. But for those who prefer a lighter taste, there is also the lightly braised option which is not spicy and features a clear broth. Apart from the standard orders, you can also add beef tendon to the noodles.
This is not the only shop offering the Taiwan favorite. In a nearby lane, there is also Old Zhang Beef Noodles, a 2006 Taipei Beef Noodle Challenge winner. This is an annual event, which shows how seriously the locals take their beef noodles.
Yongkang Street is a must-visit for more than just beef noodles. There are many restaurants, cafes, teashops, and even the esteemed Din Tai Fung dumplings has its original store here, where its famous xiaolongbao (steamed bun served in a traditional steaming basket) were first sold. Yongkang Street is full of venerable culinary establishments like these.
The Dongmen Jiaozi restaurant opened in 1961, just down the street from Yongkang Beef Noodles. This is where you can satisfy your dumpling and pot sticker cravings. Located in a spacious, elegantly decorated two-story building, the food in this restaurant features a Northern Chinese flavor, thanks to the founder’s Shandong origin. The name Dongmen reflects the fact that this area was the eastern part of old-time Taipei and was where Taipei’s East Gate was located when its city walls were intact. The nearest subway station is aptly named Dongmen as well.
Meanwhile, a very traditional Taiwanese food, lurou fan (braised pork rice) can also be enjoyed in restaurants in the vicinity specializing in Taiwanese Minnan food.
If you would like a light snack, try the cong zhuabing, a layered type of onion pancake in which eggs, cheese or other ingredients can be added. You can have this at the Tianjin Cong Zhuabing, which is conveniently located right at a corner. When you place your order, your pancake is fried right in front of you. It is a sensational snack, with a crisp, crunchy skin and a soft chewy inside.
Finish up your culinary journey along Yongkang Street with a Taiwanese dessert that has also been successfully exported to many parts of China. At Smoothie King, there is a variety of mango shaved ice dishes, delicious concoctions that go beyond the regular mango shaved ice. Here, there are different fruits, and toppings, especially the snowflake ice, a special kind of local layered ice cream which has a smooth. The servings are huge but very much worth the effort.
The whole street is just a few minutes’ walk from the Dongmen MRT station in the middle of Taipei, so it’s very convenient to visit, especially if you want to return for a repeat visit.