Taipei Breakfast: YongHe Soy Milk

Looking for a nicely priced Chinese and Taiwanese-style breakfast selection without any pretense? Then try Yong He Dou Jiang (永和豆漿).

By Stuart Hill

Fresh steamed buns

Steamed buns with minced pork, cabbage or leek, are one of many outstanding options for breakfast in Taipei

My most memorable breakfast was around 5 am in Neihu’s Lai Lai Dou Jiang, or “Come Often” Soy Milk. Some friends had taken me out for the ultimate Taiwan experience: dinner, a night market, and then a hot spring. We came back from Yang Ming Mountain and stopped off for something to eat. With its bright lights the place was like a beacon to the hungry; and it was packed. It was not quite light, and in those days none of the technology park you see today existed. It seemed remote, but the place was buzzing. And the food was great.

While there are plenty of ma and pop-owned breakfast stores selling greasy mock-western sandwiches and Taiwanese fried omelettes, the standard can vary a lot. But one breakfast store you can pretty much rely on is YongHe Dou Jiang.

Originally from Taipei’s YongHe district (which is now a part of so-called “New Taipei City”), YongHe Dou Jiang can now be found all over greater Taipei. Dou Jiang is “soy milk” in Mandarin Chinese, and a typical breakfast drink, but at YongHe Dou Jiang there is a wide range of things to eat and drink other than soy milk.

YongHe Dou Jiang menu

So why YongHe Soy Milk and not XinDian or BanQiao Soy Milk?

One story is that YongHe became famous in the 80’s for its stores selling breakfast and evening snacks. Commuters making the morning trek over the FuHe Bridge to work would often buy something to eat-in or take-out before catching the bus or riding their scooter into the city. After a night on the town, people would also stop off at the snack stores for a quick bite to eat before heading home. Getting ready for the morning trade, they were the only places open.

YongHe become synonymous with dou jiang. Business was great, and as the area become renowned for breakfast snacks, many stores adopted the “YongHe” name as part of their shop title. But with so many stores from YongHe all selling soy milk, no one shop could really lay sole claim to the name.

Steaming buns at YongHe Dou Jiang

YongHe Dou Jiang offers steamed buns and dumplings. With its high turnover of customers, the food is freshly prepared.

However, one enterprising owner did just that, registering YongHe in his company name, to much local protest. Today, stores carrying the “YongHe Dou Jiang” name are arguably the most famous reminders of the 80’s dou jiang explosion — even though many store owners probably have nothing to do with the original boom in YongHe.

Fast forward to today, and YongHe-style breakfast places (actually a mix of immigrant breakfast food from various parts of China) exist all over the city and are produced by various store owners. You can even find YongHe Dou Jiang Da Wang in China. But the concept is fairly consistent — a variety of reasonably priced good quality freshly cooked Chinese and Taiwanese breakfast snacks.

Hot soy milk and steamed buns

Steamed buns and a bowl of soy milk make a great combination. In Taiwan, soy milk comes in hot, cold or warm, sweetened, unsweetened or salty (curdled).

The typical YongHe Dou Jiang store will offer a selection of egg pancakes, fried bread sticks, fried radish cakes, steamed buns and soy milk (either salty or sweet). But you might also find places that do sugared donuts, curry puffs, rice rolls and steamed dumplings.

There are a couple of places that I personally like and regularly visit:

  • On Fu Yuan Street, close to the intersection with MinChuan East Road, near the MinChuan Bridge — does great steam buns either with cabbage, leek or shredded pork.

The boss is always fairly grumpy and tough looking, but she might give you a smile if you say hi.

  • On XingLong Road in the WenShan district, about 2-3 minutes walk away from the intersection with XingHai Road, heading away from the WanFang Hospital MRT. In addition to the usual soy milk selection and choice of egg creations, they do flaky pastry, donuts and curry puffs. The decor is not the reason to go there.

Other writers recommend the store on FuXing North Road near DaAn MRT station. Or your could return to the source by visiting YongHe itself.

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If you have a favorite YongHe Dou Jiang store, I’d like to hear about it. What is your favorite breakfast snack? 

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