The Two Must-Eat Dishes in Taiwan
There’s much more to snacking in the Taiwan capital than oyster omelets and stinky tofu, by JENNIFER CHEN
Taipei’s oyster omelets, stinky tofu and ji pai—a chicken schnitzel on steroids—have entered the pantheon of Asia’s great street foods. But for those who find ji pai gimmicky, prefer their oysters on the half-shell, and feel that there are foods that should smell like sweaty socks and those that shouldn’t, there are other roadside snacks to please the palate. Below, two dishes not to miss.
Cong You Bing
Outside of Taiwan and China, cong you bing, or scallion pancakes, are usually hockey puck–hard disks of greasy fried dough. True cong you bing should be lightly seared and crispy outside, while inside are many light and greaseless layers. And it’s never, ever dunked in sauce—at least not among purists. In Taipei, there are several versions of cong you bing. Zua bing, a more pliable cousin, are fried with egg for breakfast or used as tortilla-like wrappings. But most scallion pancakes fall under the two basic categories, the chewier Chinese version, often sold by weight, and its lighter Taiwanese cousin, which you buy by the slice.
Bi Deng Liang You Bing—which means “more pancakes than the light”—in the posh Tianmu neighborhood produces a definitive version of the latter. (No. 3 Keqiang Rd., near Zhongshan N. Rd., Sec. 6; +886 28 866 1626)
The famed Qin Jia Bing Dian uses cold-water dough to make Shandong-style pancakes, which are fried on a well-seasoned circular griddle. Be sure to bag some of the dense jiucai hezi, or Chinese chive pastries shaped like empanadas. (No. 12, Lane 6, Siwei Rd.; +886 22 705 7255)
Every great cuisine has its version of meat wrapped in some form of carbohydrates. In Taiwan, it’s the gua bao—slow-braised pork belly and pickled mustard greens stuffed inside a pliant steamed bun and topped with chopped cilantro and finely ground peanuts. (The name translates as “cut bun”; in Taiwanese, they’re more evocatively called ho ka ti, or “tiger bites pig.”) Traditionally eaten at the end of the year, they make a handy, fast meal. At the celebrated
Lan Jia Gua Bao in the Gongguan night market (No. 3, Alley 8, Lane 316, Roosevelt Rd., Sec. 3; +886 22 368 2060), you can chose fat, lean, mixed, mixed with extra fat or mixed with extra lean. Our tip? Err on the side of indulgence and splurge on full-on fat.