There is a definite glut of recommended food types to take in during your time in Taiwan, and the longer you stay the more you could eat. This insiders guide wants to put readers on the path to new(er) finds with a more local clientele than some of the more celebrated places found in guidebooks.
Taiwan's 麻油雞 culture is well worth a full investigation for any intrepid food tourist. It should be right up there with dumplings, beef noodles, and fried chicken as a Taiwanese must eat.
麻油, or black sesame oil makes up the base of a soup stock which is then used to concoct some tasty, (relatively) cheap, and filling meals. There seem to be a few famous stores which have mayouji in every city, so asking at your hotel, school, or work will help you get to a great one. For the closest fix, copy and paste 麻油雞 into a map app and you'll find something nearby. Expect the place to be busy, because this stuff is very popular and locals won't support a place that serves up a sub-par product.
Everyone in this photo is waiting for take away sesame soup. The upstairs was packed to capacity.
In most cases you'll smell the soup before you actually get to the restaurant. On a winter day in Taiwan, with gray skies and driving rain, saddling up to the steel table in a 麻油雞 restaurant is a warm respite to recharge and enjoy some quality comfort food. In the blazing heat of summer restaurants turn up the AC and cooling down over a bowl of sesame broth tends to fix all those heat related discomforts. If you don't feel hungry when it's super hot sesame soups are at once light enough to be eaten but rich enough to be nourishing. A great year round food.
One word of warning - the soup is oily, possibly more so than you're ready for. If you're health conscious or worried about oil intake, this shouldn't put you off to trying the soups. You can easily enjoy the good stuff while leaving the oil in your bowl.
Word of warning to the squeamish - The primary choices besides chicken meat are blood cakes, organs and oysters. If you're really not ready for something new, most stores offer sesame noodles for around 30NT for a small bowl.
If you're not sure you're ready to go headlong into the sesame soup, but want to try some delicious innards, stores usually offer a "clear soup" 清湯 version of everything on the menu at a 15 - 20 NT discount. Below is a clear soup pig heart soup.
Don't be surprised to see a heap of organs and oysters in the front of the store. Below the cheese cloth is a huge block of ice to keep things fresh.
Pictured below, noodles and oysters. Lots and lots of fresh and delicious boiled oysters. Cost was 75NT, and would be a good afternoon snack, but not quite main course.
Here is a pig heart soup that has tons of delicious and meaty pig heart. Better than liver, more robust than regular pork. If you're a carnivore, try pig heart somewhere in Taiwan! This bowl was 100 NT with the noodles and was filling enough to be a meal.
The menu was taken from an 阿圖 in Taipei and reproduced here in part so it can be reviewed. Not everything on this page came from there, but one thing about 阿圖: everything they sell is delicious, so long as you like black sesame oil and organs.
The only one with chicken meat in it as a western eater would know it is the first entry: 麻油雞湯.