Travel 4 minutes 24 March 2017

Taiwan Insider Guide: 11 Hidden Eats to Discover in Kaohsiung and Tainan

Feast like a local with these foodie picks by Taiwan's leading female chef Lanshu Chen.

Travel night markets Taiwan

Taipei might still be trying to get itself listed as a UNESCO City of Gastronomy, but many of the dishes it submitted – such as danzai noodles and minced pork rice - actually have their roots in Tainan.

Located on the south-west coast of Taiwan, both Tainan and Kaohsiung (the two cities are just 50 minutes apart) are known for their street food and family-style restaurants more than fine dining outfits. The challenge: hunting down these places - some don't even have signboards - where public transport isn't as readily available as in Taipei, and many older folks speak only in local dialect.
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Enter Lanshu Chen, head chef at the award-winning Le Mout in Taichung, Taiwan. Chen trained at Thomas Keller's three-Michelin-starred The French Laundry, and is considered one of the top female chefs in Asia.

At Le Mout, Chen is known for combining French techniques with native ingredients such as tapioca pearls (commonly found in bubble tea, a popular Taiwanese drink) and wild amadai fish. Some of her favourite meals include the hidden gems she discovered on frequent food trips to Tainan and Kaohsiung.
“I usually visit Kaohsiung or Tainan when looking for a short break and comforting good food,” says Chen. Here, she recommends her top foodie picks in both cities.

1. Ling Ya Night Market 苓雅夜市
Address: In between Siwei 4th Road and Ziqiang 3rd Road, Ling Ya District, Kaohsiung City 高雄市四維四路與自強三路之間

Just a 10-minute walk away from the iconic 85 Sky Tower in Kaohsiung City, Ling Ya Night Market is where locals head to these days instead of the once-popular Liuhe Night Market.  Chen enjoys coming here as there's a good mix of food stalls and small family-run eateries, and she can fill up on snacks such as sweet dough fritters dusted with sesame seeds or sup on a bowl of fish soup made from fresh grouper. 

2. Ya Rou Zhen 鴨肉珍
Address: No. 258, Wufu 4th Road, Yancheng District, Kaohsiung City 高雄市鹽埕區五福四路258號

There is no signboard for this famous duck rice stall, but keep an eye out for the rows of motorcycles and throngs of people sitting around tables. Regulars here don’t depend on menus either. The tip, Chen shares, is to confidently announce what you want. Her usual order is a plate of sliced duck, as the meat is juicy with a thin layer of fat under the skin, and some rice with a bowl of innards soup. 
Night markets are popular in Kaohsiung.
Night markets are popular in Kaohsiung.
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3. Xiang Zi Nei (In An Alley) 巷仔內
Address: Lane 197, Xin Tian Road, Kaohsiung City 高雄市新田路197巷

Look out for this nondescript food stall if you’re near Zhong Yang Gong Yuan (Central Park) train station. Chen's favourite dish is the pork tongue with glass noodles, as the stall does a good job preparing the offcuts. 

Try these stalls at Guohua Food Street 國華街市場:

4. Xu Ji Shrimp Meat Balls 許記蝦仁肉圓
Address: No. 8, Section 3, Guohua Street, West Central District, Tainan City 台南市中西區國華街三段8號

Shrimp balls are considered a specialty in Tainan, and Chen likes snacking on these as the plump juicy fillings of minced shrimp are encased in paper-thin skins, then steamed to perfection.
Shrimp balls are a popular item in Tainan's food markets.
Shrimp balls are a popular item in Tainan's food markets.
5. Guo Hua Street Minced Pork Rice 國華街肉燥飯 
Address: No. 125, Section 3, Guohua Street, West Central District, Tainan City 台南市中西區國華街3段125號

This stall is known for the simple yet addictive dish of minced pork rice, where cubes of tender, fatty meat is served over white rice. Chen recommends trying the milkfish congee here too, as the silvery fish is popular in Tainan – a museum in Anping District even sells milkfish popsicles – and is enjoyed for its sweet firm flesh.

6. Ah Juan Dumplings/Salted Porridge 阿娟肉粽/鹹粥
Address: No. 87, Section 3, Guohua Street, West Central District, Tainan City 台南市中西區國華街3段87號

The long queue snaking out front is an indicator of how fast the food here sells out. Chen's tip: Go early for a bowl of the salted porridge. The congee is cooked with shrimps, mushrooms and shredded chicken, and usually sells out by 10am.
Fatty pieces of minced pork atop fluffy white rice is a must-try in Tainan.
Fatty pieces of minced pork atop fluffy white rice is a must-try in Tainan.
7. Lu Ji Braised Items 劉記煙燻滷味 at Qing Nian Road Dong Men Market 青年路東門市場 
Address: No. 26, Lane 164, Qingnian Rd, West Central District, Tainan City 

Chen recommends seeking out this stall for some of the tastiest lu wei, a common Taiwanese street food that consists of an amalgam of vegetables and meat, boiled and served with spices. 
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8. Ah Jia Cooked Sausages 阿嘉香腸熟肉 at Qing Nian Road Dong Men Market 青年路東門市場 
Address: No. 26, Lane 164, Qingnian Rd, West Central District, Tainan City 

One of the first stalls you'll see near the main entrance of the market, Chen usually stops to pick up some cooked sausages, which she shares are all handmade by the stall owner. 
9. Ah Yu Beef 阿裕牛肉
Address: No. 525, Section 1, Zhongzheng Road, Rende District, Tainan City 台南市仁德區中正路一段525號

A fan of shabu shabu, Chen heads to this joint when in Tainan as the wafer-thin slices of Taiwanese beef are extra fresh. Best dipped into the pot of clear but rich broth that is boiled using beef bones for six hours.

10. Qing Ping Seafood 慶平海產
Address: No. 462, Anyi Road, Anping District, Tainan City 台南市安平區安億路462號

When it comes to seafood, trust a restaurant that has been around for over 15 years. At Qing Ping Seafood, the freshest catch for the day is displayed neatly on a counter out front. Chen usually skips the sashimi here and goes straight for the wok-fried seafood that comes with a distinctive smoky flavour. 

11. Du Xiao Yue Minced Pork Rice 度小月肉燥飯
Address: No. 16, Zhongzheng Road, West Central District, Tainan City 台南市中西區中正路16號

There are a few branches of Du Xiao Yue, but Chen usually heads to the original shop when she visits. Besides the signature danzai noodles - a dish essential to Tainan food culture, where slippery noodles are served in a shallow bowl of broth made from boiling prawn heads for hours, and topped with minced pork, shrimp and bean sprouts – the flagship outlet also serves other dishes on the menu.


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