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Shenkeng (深坑區) is a district of New Taipei City, adjacent to Nangang and Muzha districts of southeastern Taipei City. Shenkeng means “deep pit”, after the coal mines once active in the area.
Today, Shenkeng is practically synonymous with tofu, and it is considered the tofu capital of Taiwan. It is especially famous for stinky tofu, perhaps the most notorious of the many street foods in Taiwan, which is sold from numerous stalls and restaurants lining the extremely popular Shenkeng Old Street (深坑老街).
The Old Street is lined with picturesque heritage buildings that were preserved at the request of locals in the 1980s, and many of which were restored beginning in 2013. Like the many other “Old Streets” in Taiwan, it attracts hoards of visitors, especially on weekend and holiday afternoons. Combine it with a hike or other things to do in Shenkeng and neighboring Shiding, which I’ll cover at the end of the article, and you’ll have one of the most interesting day trips from Taipei!
While stinky tofu is Shenkeng’s claim to fame, the stalls and shops there sell a variety of other tofu-based foods, such as tofu ice cream and gelato, douhua (豆花 or dessert tofu) and fermented tofu (豆腐乳). There are also many other traditional foods and drinks on offer like o-gui (taro paste dumplings), black sugar cake, sour plum drink, and more.
Below I’m going to share a self-guided walking food tour of Shenkeng, introducing some of the best and most popular stalls and restaurants in Shenkeng, based on multiple visits.
Note that several stalls close on Mondays, while a few take their day off on Tuesday or Wednesday, so those aren’t the best days to come. For more eating tours in Taiwan, see my guides to Ximen restaurants, Little Burma, Addiction Aquatic, and Yongkang Street.
Introduction to Stinky Tofu
Stinky tofu truly lives up to its name. It stinks. But if you can get past the smell, it is surprisingly delicious. According to legend, a food vendor in Beijing invented it by accident during the Qing Dynasty when some of his stall’s tofu went bad. Today it can still be found in China, but it is especially popular in Taiwan.
Shenkeng has long been a center of tofu-making. The tofu made there has an especially high ratio of soybeans to gypsum (the latter is added as a coagulant), giving the tofu a yellow color and distinctive flavor. While it’s most commonly used for making stinky tofu, there are several other tofu-based foods on offer on Shenkeng Old Street.
There are three types of stinky tofu common throughout Taiwan, but Shenkeng specializes in #2 and #3 in the numbered list below.
- Deep Fried Stinky Tofu (臭豆腐): consists of deep fried cubes of stinky tofu served with pickled cabbage. It’s the most common in night markets in Taipei and across Taiwan, but it is not common in Shenkeng.
- Grilled Stinky Tofu (串燒臭豆腐): a slab of semi-firm tofu that is pierced with two sticks for picking up and eating. It is usually grilled, sliced down the middle, and stuffed/topped with various ingredients. Numerous food stall vendors sell it on Shenkeng Old Street.
- Mala Tofu (or “spicy/mouth-numbing”) (麻辣臭豆腐): Hunks of semi-firm tofu stewed in a spicy and flavorful brother, often with duck’s blood, pig’s blood cake and other ingredients. It’s especially nice in winter in Taiwan. It’s sold from many sit-down restaurants on Shenkeng Old Street.
Getting to Shenkeng
While there is talk of extending the Taipei MRT to Shenkeng, it hasn’t happened yet, so the bus is the only way to get there. One option is to take bus 912 from Taipei City Hall MRT to Shenkeng. The other is to head to Muzha MRT station, walk out to Muzha Road and cross it. The bus stop is opposite the tall, multi-story temple. Take bus 660, 666, or 819 (bus 251 also goes to Shenkeng, but doesn’t get as close to the old street).
Shenkeng Old Street runs west to east, parallel to the highway, so you can get off at one of two stops. Get off all buses at Shenkeng stop (深坑站) for the western end (where I will start the food tour below). It’s the stop AFTER Shenkeng Post Office stop (深坑郵局). This is except for bus 251 terminates near the eastern end of the Old Street, but about a 5-minute walk to the south, requiring you to cross Pingpu Bridge across the river.
You can also continue to the next stop, Shenkeng District Office (深坑區公所) for the eastern end of the Old Street. It would make sense to start your tour from Shenkeng Stop, and go back to Taipei from Shenkeng District Office stop, to avoid backtracking down the Old Street, but then entire street only takes about 10 minutes to walk one-way.
To combine your trip with an awesome hike, Bus 666 continues past Shenkeng and Shengkeng District Office stops to Huangdi Dian (皇帝殿山登山步道), one of the most exciting hikes in Greater Taipei (see final section of article).
Food Tour of Shenkeng Old Street
Alighting at Shenkeng bus stop (maked on map above, labeled “Shenkeng”), continue along the road in the direction the bus was traveling, past the 7-Eleven, turn right when you see a large tree growing in the middle of the road, then left at another large tree growing in the middle of the road. You can’t miss it, as there are usually hundreds of people filling the Old Street.
From that point, here are my recommended stalls and restaurants to watch for on Shenkeng Old Street! I’ve taken the liberty of translating or transliterating the shops that don’t have an English name. Most of the names are in Mandarin on the above GoogleMaps map.
Under the Big Tree Grilled Stinky Tofu (大樹下串燒臭豆腐) is a popular stall serving grilled stinky tofu. It’s below the first tree in the road, opposite the entrance to the Old Street, so it will be on your right when you first turn in off the highway, whereas the Old Street will be to your left. There are a few other stalls beside it, including a sugar cane juice stall and a peanut brittle cilantro ice cream wraps (花生冰淇淋卷) stall.
As you first enter the Old Steet, two popular restaurants on the right occupy a photogenic heritage building: Three Tofu Eats Under the Tree (深坑大樹下豆腐三吃, No. 163, on the right in the below photo) and Flavored tofu (味の豆腐, No. 161, on the left in the below photo). Both offer set meals that come with many dishes, including stinky tofu, of course, so I only recommend trying these if you want a large meal with many dishes in one spot.
Opposite those two restaurants, on the left side of the Old Street, is another extremely popular (look for the long line of locals) grilled stinky tofu stall called Jindading Fragrant Tofu (金大鼎香豆腐). It claims to be the original one on Shenkeng Old Street. Topping options include pickled cabbage, cilantro, and peanut powder.
Next, you’ll pass a small temple called Shenkeng Fude Temple (深坑福德宮) on the right with some food stalls around it.
A minute past the temple, the popular Guzaocuo Shenkeng Tofu or “Ancient House Shenkeng Tofu” (深坑古早厝 臭豆腐, No. 140) on the left is a popular, sit-down restaurant with old-time movie posters adorning the walls. It’s housed in a beautiful heritage building (see photo above).
You’ll steaming baskets, huge woks filled with mala stinky tofu, and whole chickens hanging at the front. Their mala stinky tofu is very popular, but you’ll need at least two people to finish one order, and it comes with blood cakes and dried fish. And heads up, when I took my first sip of the soup, including some of the spicy oil floating at the top, it hit me like a bomb…it was so spicy that I became dizzy for a moment, but then I got used to it and it wasn’t that spicy after. So maybe don’t do what I did…
Just past Guzaocuo and also on the left, A-Zhu’s Taro Ball Old Store (深坑老店阿珠芋圓, No. 134) does traditional Jiufen-style taro (芋頭圓), sweet potato (地瓜圓), mung bean (綠豆元), and red bean balls (紅豆圓) served on crushed ice desserts with black sugar syrup.
You can see the ladies making the balls right at the front of the shop. Besides their classic balls listed above, you get to choose two other traditional QQ (chewy) toppings for your crushed ice, which are on display at the front.
Right after A-Zhu’s, also on the left, the awkwardly named Black Person Shop (黑人ㄟ店) is one of the only stalls in Shenkeng that serves the deep fried variety of stinky tofu.
Next up is Jishun Temple (集順廟), whose side wall faces the street on the right side. The temple dates to 1838 and is dedicated to Shuangzhong, the god of double loyalty. It’s worth a quick look inside! (Learn about the best temples in Taipei here!)
Adjacent to the temple’s courtyard are two popular food stalls. Balajiao Qilixiang (芭樂嬌七里香) serves grilled chicken butts (you read that right). They are double roasted to achieve crispy skin. The stall is super popular among locals.
The other popular stall beside the temple is Temple Entrance Tofu Lady Boss Old Shop (廟口老店 豆腐娘餐廳, No, 112, pictured below), which does more grilled stinky tofu.
After the temple, there is a string of popular sit-down restaurants on the left. For traditional Hakka desserts like black sugar cake and mochi balls, watch for Little Cousin’s Hakka Foods (表妹客家美食, No. 106, on the left, pictured below, not on GoogleMaps).
Just past that, but on the right, I recommend Tangshanbo Traditional Sour Plum Drink (唐山伯古味酸梅湯, No. 109). A glass of their signature sweet osmanthus sour plum drink (hot or iced) goes for NT30. The plums are smoked, so the drink is sweet, sour, and smoky all at once.
Big Fatty Tofu Ice Cream (大胖子豆腐冰淇淋, No. 62, left side) sells traditional flavors of tofu ice cream like black tofu, sesame, taro, and plain. They go for NT35 a packet. Heads up for vegans, they do contain a little milk. Watch for the large freezer at the front, otherwise the shop is easy to miss. There’s a single chair out on the street if you want to sit.
However, see two entries below for a shop that sells different flavors and has a lovely sit-down interior.
Just past it on the right side, a super narrow hole-in-the-wall shop called Shenkeng Taro Balls (深坑芋ㄚ包芋ㄚ, No. 77) sells traditional Taiwanese foods liked o-gui (taro paste dumplings).
Oli Cafe and Dofu Gelato (歐里人文咖啡) serves tofu “gelato” that is (in my opion) the best in Shenkeng. They come in little packets just like at Big Fatty Tofu Ice Cream, but the flavors here are more varied, including caramel, lavender (made with real lavender flowers by the owner), and strawberry. They also contain a little milk, and olive oil!
The owner is very friendly, the sit-down interior contains beautiful paintings and even a comic book themed on Shenkeng’s tofu history, and it’s housed in a beautiful heritage building.
Mr. Soybean Soft Tofu Ice Cream (老街頭炭燒豆腐霜淇淋, No. 51, right side) does super tall soft serve ice cream, with rotating flavors that have included tofu, chocolate, matcha, strawberry, or combination. These are tall, for sure, but in my opinion they can’t compare to the delicious soy milk soft serve ice cream at Soypresso on Yongkang Street in Taipei, which is totally vegan, by the way.
Nearly at the end of the street, on the right side, Ding Street Tuquecuo Grilled Stinky Tofu (頂街土埆厝串燒臭豆腐, No. 41) is my top recommended grilled tofu spot on Shenkeng Old Street. They have unique topping options like Hakka pickled greens, century egg, cucumber, or pickled cabbage.
There are chairs and tables inside, with old black-and-white photos of Shenkeng covering the walls. And unlike the popular grilled stinky tofu stalls at the western end of the street, there’s seldom a long line at this one.
At the end of the Old Street, watch for the beautiful heritage building at the corner on the left side, called 淡蘭古道深坑街. It houses a shop called 木財 selling carved wood items, and a popular douhua (dessert tofu) shop called Big Valley Douhua (大谷豆花).
If you turn right at the end of the street, there’s a decent playground for visitors with kids on the opposite side called Shenkeng Children’s Playground (深坑兒童遊戲公園), while further down will bring you to a bridge across the river with some scenic foods looking up and down the river valley.
Going left at the end of the Old Street will take you up to the main road (Beishen Road), which you can cross and go left to find the bus stop for busses back to Muzha MRT in Taipei City.
Other Things to Do Around Shenkeng
If you’re interested in historical architecture, 三級古蹟深坑黃氏永安居, a grade 3 historic site, is a heritage sanheyuan (3-sided traditional courtyard home) across the road from the gas station and large parking lot 150 m west of the western entrance of Shenkeng Old Street.
You can also take bus 666 to Shiding Old Street (石碇老街), which is a small, quieter Old Street in the mountains. It would be heading in the same direction as when you arrived in Shenkeng, that is, on the same side of the main road as the Old Street.
The same bus continues on to Huangdidian hiking trail (皇帝殿山登山步道) , a long vertical climb that reaches a fun and dramatic series of ridges on the mountaintop.
If you’ve got your own wheels, I recommend a visit to Shiding Hsu Family Hand Pulled Noodles (石碇許家手工麵線), a small family-run noodle making facility where noodles are hung out on large racks to dry in the sun. It’s a 20-25 minute drive from Shenkeng Old Street.