If you are looking for the best gua bao in Taipei, you go to one place, Lan Jia Gua Bao (藍家割包). Gua bao, sometimes called the Taiwanese hamburger, is usually made by stuffing a steamed bun with braised pork belly, pickled vegetables, cilantro, and peanut powder.
Nowhere prepares this popular Taiwanese snack better than Lan Jia Gua Bao. Popular with locals, tourists, and pork lovers, you will usually find a line of hungry people waiting patiently out front of this tiny restaurant and street food cart.
Out front of the restaurant was a small cart. If you don’t feel like waiting for a table to sit down at, you can grab a gua bao to go or corn spareribs soup to go and eat on the street.
If you decide to order from the cart, make sure you stand in the correct line. On my visit, there were two lines, one for the cart and one for the tables behind the cart.
Behind the cart was a small open room with every table taken. Friendly workers in green aprons were taking orders and running around with food. Luckily, as soon as I walked in, a table opened up. It seemed like most people would eat and move on, so with a high turnover, the wait for a table was never too long.
The decor was simple with white walls and bright lights. But I didn’t come here for the decor, I came for the tasty Taiwanese food.
Lan Jia Gua Bao Menu
I was happy to see an English menu with pictures. This made ordering much easier.
On the menu, you will find an assortment of soups with pig intestines, a corn spareribs soup, rice tamale, and the famous steamed pork bun.
Everyone comes here for the gua bao. This is what you want to order at the minimum.
They were also famous for their corn spareribs soup.
Corn Spareribs Soup
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I ordered the Corn Spareribs Soup (60 TWD or about $2.00).
The soup was simple. Chunks of pork spareribs and sweet corn in a light, golden broth. For something so simple, the flavors of the broth surprised me. The broth tasted distinctly of sweet corn as if the liquid was infused with fresh sweet corn. Even though it was sweet, the broth was well balanced with salty flavors from the pork.
If the broth wasn’t sweet enough, floating in the broth were large chunks of fresh sweet corn along with pork spareribs.
The kernels of the bright yellow sweet corn were crispy yet tender and you guessed it, added more sweetness to the soup.
Complimenting the rather sweet broth and corn were thick pieces of salty pork spareribs. The easiest way to eat the ribs was to pick each piece up with my hands and rip the meat right off the bone like a caveman. The pork, tender with just the right texture, was a good mix of meaty and fatty.
While gua bao might be the king of Lan Jia Gua Bao, I was pleasantly surprised by the flavors and textures of the corn spareribs soup.
Gua Bao (Steamed Pork Bun)
I was extremely excited to finally try the Gua Bao (55 TWD or about $1.83) which was stuffed into a small plastic bag.
With my gua bao order, I had the option of fatty pork, lean pork, half and half, partial lean pork, or partial fatty pork. Almost everyone orders the half fat and half lean, which I think had the most flavor. This is what I ordered and what I recommend for a first time visitor.
Inside the bright white steamed bun were thick pieces of fatty and lean pork, pickled cabbage, peanut powder, and coriander or cilantro.
The thick and sticky steamed bun was unlike any other I have had before. It was so delicate and fluffy. The flavor was neutral with a hint of sweetness. Though light, the bun managed to hold its texture as it soaked up all the delicious juices of the pork.
What set this gua bao apart from all the others in Taipei was the rich braised pork. Both the lean and fatty pieces of pork were packed with so much flavor, the perfect combination of salty and sweet. The tender lean pieces had just the right texture and bite while the soft flavorful fatty pieces literally melted in my mouth. It was truly amazing.
The pickled mustard greens, sweet from being braised in the same liquid as the pork, added acidity and texture to the gua bao. The crushed peanut powder added a crunchy texture to each bite along with even more sweetness. Topping the gua bao off was fresh, aromatic coriander, or cilantro, which makes practically any dish better.
The gua bao at Lan Jia Gua Bao was straight up delicious. Though on the sweet side, it was well-balanced thanks to the fluffy steamed bun, tender braised pork, salty pickled vegetables, crunchy peanut powder, and fresh cilantro.
I’m hungry just thinking about it.
After you are done eating, pay at the front.
All the workers at Lan Jia Gua Bao moved quickly around the restaurant, ensuring people ordered and received their food as fast as possible. After receiving your order, eat and move on. Nothing fancy here, no table service.
I really enjoyed how nice the lady at the front was, who I assumed was the boss, She always seemed to have a smile on her face, even while dealing with crowds of people moving in an out.
Gua bao is at the top of my list of must-try foods in Taipei. It’s the king of Taiwanese snacks and nowhere else does it better than Lan Jia Gua Bao. The flavor and texture of the pork were outrageous. All packed inside a hot, fresh steamed bun. If you are looking for the best gua bao in Taipei, look no further than Lan Jia Gua Bao.
And don’t forget about the sweet and salty corn spareribs soup which was equally as delicious.