What to eat in Taiwan – Noodles
March 6, 2020
Noodles are a staple in many Asian countries. In Taiwan, you’ll find locals eating noodles at all times of the day from breakfast to late-night drunk food. Everyone has their favorite and the varieties are endless. Taiwan has taken influence from many parts of Asia including Japan, China, and Southeast Asia. The noodles can be dry, in soups and hot pot, stir-fried, or covered in sauce. Once again most of these places can be found in my Taiwan Food Guide app!
Beef Noodles – 牛肉麵
Arguably the most famous noodle dish in Taiwan is beef noodle soup. This dish came over with Chinese soldiers and veterans during the influx of immigration in the 20th Century. But over the years, this has become one of the most popular Taiwanese dishes. Variations can be found in the soup, noodles, and how the beef is cooked. You can find shops specializing in clear broth, tomato broth, or red roasted broth. The latter has a deep dark color and usually has a bit of spice. You can usually request thin noodles, thick noodles, or a special knife-cut noodle at certain shops. You might be lucky to catch a chef hand-cutting noodles or a noodle-cutting robot!
But undoubtedly, the star of the dish is the meat. You will either find braised beef shank, brisket, or tendon. I usually opt for the tendon and meat combo. Each piece of meat has its own texture and the tendon just melts in your mouth. Not much is added to the dish. But you can usually find some pickled cabbage (酸菜) or some spicy beef butter, which will add even more richness and depth to the soup. You can’t miss the bright orange beef fat sitting in a large bowl.
This no-frills shop dishes out a great bowl of noodles and soup for an amazing price. The broth is deep and rich. I prefer the thick noodles because they have a bit more of a chew and bite. Each piece of meat is tender and juicy with just a bit of tendon. You can get a small bowl, which is quite filling, for 90NT! Don’t forget to add the beef butter.
This is a very popular lunch spot in Songshan District. They offer all varieties of soup and meats including tomato and curry in both braised and stewed (brisket). It’s a bit more expensive but the portions are huge. The beef is super tender and flavorful. I would recommend the tomato broth with brisket. Go with a group to try the different broths and the rice dishes. Either head there early or late to beat the lunch rush.
Barcode is a club, right? Sure. It’s a club/bar/lounge in the nightclub area of ATT 4 Fun. It’s a popular spot with good cocktails, lively music, and views of 101. If you’re cozying up to the bar on a Saturday night after a few drinks, grab the food menu. They serve the usual bar snacks of fried stuff with cheese. But opt for the beef noodles. You might feel strange slurping noodles while people are dancing and getting rowdy, but you won’t regret it. It might be a bit expensive compared to the others but I would go for a bowl over another cocktail any day.
Taiwan has had a big Japanese influence because of Japanese colonization of the island in the first half of the 1900’s. That can be seen in the architecture, railroads, and especially the food. You’ll find Japanese izakayas, yakiniku, high-end sushi, and lots of ramen shops. Here you’ll find authentic and very slurpable noodles that’ll make you think of Tokyo.
Ichiran is one of the most famous ramen chains in Japan. Their first Taipei shop is just as popular. They have a dedicated waiting area for long lines. They serve Tonkostu (pork-based broth) style with different levels of richness, garlic, spice, and various add-ons that you can choose. You’ll be sat in your own personal booth and served through a sliding panel. Don’t forget to order the boiled egg which you have to peel yourself.
This small but refined shop specializes in Tsukemen (dipping) ramen. The noodles come separately from the broth. The broth is super rich; almost like a gravy. The noodles can be cooked to your liking but I prefer a perfect al dente.
Right in the heart of Taipei, Soba Shinn serves unique citrus-infused broth along with their perfectly cooked noodles. The portions are a bit small and the prices are a bit high. This may seem like a deterrent. But the overall flavor of the ramen is top-notch and well worth a try. It’s a small shop with about 15 seats so be prepared for a wait.
Cold Noodles – 涼麵
“Cold noodles” are a staple for the late-night partiers. Shops are open from late evening till mid-morning to serve the after club hoppers and the breakfast crowd. These noodles are smothered in a mixture of sesame sauce and vinegar and topped with cucumber. It’s usually served with miso/egg drop/meatball soup on the side. All combined, it leads to a slurpy, sloppy mess but delicious nonetheless. Try these popular spots to see what the hype is about. You can also find it at many of the local breakfast joints.
Thin Noodles – 麵線
“Thin noodles” are also very popular. In Taiwan, thin wheat vermicelli is cooked in a thick, savory soup. It has a velvety texture that is very satisfying during cool winter afternoons. It’s traditionally served with cilantro, garlic, and vinegar. Specialty shops will serve either blanched oysters or stewed pig intestines. This one is my favorite in Taipei, but you can find a bowl all over the city.
Food from Southeast Asia is also very popular in Taiwan. The area is well-traveled by many Taiwanese because of its proximity and cost. When a craving hits, there are plenty of options. In particular, Vietnamese food can be found in almost every neighborhood and food court. Hanoi Pho is a local spot in the Songshan area, but it’s also my personal favorite. The traditional beef pho comes with either rare steak or beef brisket. Other notable dishes include their tomato beef pho, fried spring rolls, and chicken pho. The soup is definitely the star, as many customers ask for extra soup since there are free refills.
This is a Taida (National Taiwan University) student favorite tucked away in an unassuming location. It’s hard to find since it’s on the second floor of an unmarked stairwell. But the Yunnan noodles here are not to be missed. They serve a small menu of rice or wheat noodles, dry or in broth, with chicken or beef. The Yunnan province is in Southwest China bordering Burma, Laos, and Vietnam. The flavors are unique blending savory, sweet, sour, and spicy. It’s a small place with limited seating so you might have to wait downstairs and wait for people to leave.
This guide is far from comprehensive, but it gives just a little taste of all the noodles that Taiwan has to offer. This doesn’t include amazing Thai and Korean dishes or amazing Italian pasta. Lastly, if you are coming to Taiwan and want more food recommendations, check out my app for all my favorites.