Must-Eats in Taipei!
We are visiting Taipei from Jan 7-10 and we would appreciate your suggestions on the best places to eat for first-time visitors like us. We are primarily looking for reasonably priced Taiwanese or regional cuisine.
From what I've researched, here is our list so far:
-Din Tai Fung - is it worth it to to go the original Xinyi branch?
-Modern Toilet - where are the branches in Taipei?
-Taoyuan Street Beef Noodle
-Tu Hsiao Yueh
-Yong He Dou Jiang
-Shilin Night Market - big big chicken, shen jian bao, pork pepper bun
Any other suggestions? We are staying in San Want Hotel so places nearby would be great. Also appreciate recommendations for places to get stinky tofu, sausage, oyster omelette, and other Taiwanese delicacies. Thanks!
For a first time visitor, Shihlin night market will serve your snack and street food fix no problem, plus you can browse the shops nearby for hours of fun. Shihlin Night Market also has a location of Ay Chung Flour Noodles. You can also find stinky tofu, sausage, oyster omlette and a ton of other eats there.
However if you prefer to venture off to someplace less touristy but yet the food is more old school (like Taipei from 30 years ago), then take a cab to Ningxia Road Night Market (perhaps the hotel can help you further on how to get there). You can also get to there by MRT, followed by 5 to 10 mins of walking, but the exact station to get off escapes me at the moment. Ningxia Road night market will have even better oyster omlettes. There's stall there called Niu Mama that specializes in Islamic Chinese beef and beef parts dishes that's very old school good. Also the stall that sells the red bean pancake that looks like a large hockey puck (two pancake like eggette puffs with filling inside, also have taro and buttercream flavors). Then the unusual salted duck yolk, taro, shaved pork floss, deep fried ball combo that is one of Ningxia's highlights. You'll spot it by the blue sign with white text, and the long lines.
What you also want to do is head to the MRT underground station after you arrive, take a walk in their underground metro mall. Somewhere there is a tourist office/visitor center with a lot of freebies (maps, guides) in both English and Chinese. Very useful to learn how to get around.
If you have time to spare and if the weather is good, take the MRT to the red line end station Dan Shui and walk along the old street. Sample local delicacies like preserved egg (tieh dan), fishball soup (made with shark meat paste and ground pork inside the center), Ah Gei (stuffed tofu with broth), grilled squid on a stick, Yu sou (puffy chips made with dried fish, soooo good), black bean tofu custard dessert and many more.
Can you speak Mandarin and/or read Chinese?
We passed by Xinyi branch of DTF on a rainy cold Monday around 2 pm and the front entrance was packed with at least 40 people. It will be extremely busy with tourists from Hong Kong and Japan (and environs) so if you go there be prepared to wait. I hear the same for the Zhongxiao branch near one of the Sogo's. I have not been back to Xinyi DTF since 2004 but the crowds will indicate they are still in top form. There's Gao Ji around the corner, much less of a wait, but it isn't DTF.
Tu Hsiao Yeh is right around the corner from DTF Xinyi down the next block although they have other locations. THY Xinyi has been taking in the overflow of customers who don't want to wait at DTF. We went to THY for the 2nd time and it is as good as ever. Short wait, but well worth it. They've updated the menu to include English, Japanese, and Chinese, complete with photos. Stick with their signature offerings and you'll do fine. Unfortunately they eliminated the pristine chawanmushi from the menu. Get the grilled milkfish belly, perhaps the shrimp roll (fried) but definitely the dan jai mien (try a bowl with broth, and either one without or with a different noodle).
Didn't go to Modern Toilet but it seemed way too gimmicky and expensive.
Not too far away from Tu Hsiao Yeh around the Yongkang st area, is Lao Zhang Beef Noodle (there's also a Yongkang Beef Noodle nearby but they say Lao Zhang is better, even though both are 30 to 50 yrs old).
Try Ice Monster down the street from Tu Hsiao Yeh. Very famous for shaved ice and fresh Taiwanese fruit.
By the way Hizen-Ya's checkbox paper menu is entirely in Chinese. I suppose you can always point to what other people are eating.
re: K K
A shame it's not mango season so they won't have mango shaved ice at Ice Monster.
I would recommend shaved snow ice. A few places just popped up in the LA area the last year or two, but it's something you don't see here often. Instead of shaving a big block of ice, they shave a big block of what looks like frozen milk. The shavings end up incredibly soft and feathery. I remember there were 2 places right across from each other smack dab in the middle of Shilin night market that specialize in it. I'm sure there are fancier and better places elsewhere in Taipei that I never discovered.
Also, get some bags of fruit from the fresh cut fruit vendors you see everywhere. A great way to sample lots of different fruits. Also try smoothies from the ubiquitous stands. Papaya milk is very popular, but there's lots of others to try. If you don't know how to order, just point at one of the fruits(or veggies) you'll see decorating the stand.
While it is convenient to get pre-cut and ready to eat fruit in clear bags from street vendors, there have been random incidents in the past where shady folks add some sort of agent or preservative to make the fruit last longer and still look fresh. If you want to play it safe and not get it from a night market, perhaps for the OP, try City Super probably the best Asian supermarket in town that stocks imported Japanese groceries as well as plentiful local Taiwanese. You pay a higher price sure, but you can get good whole fruit as well. As of late Dec, these more upscale markets have also been importing Japanese oranges (mikan) by the small bag. Or if you happen to pass by a residential area market (non night market vendor with a storefront), get it there.
Many diehards bite the bullet and let the mosquitoes bite them during the warmer/hotter months of the year, but savor the fantastic local lychees and longans.
Can't remember if I ever had a mango but I'm sure they're wicked
Wintertime you can still enjoy the following fruits in Taiwan
- something that looks like Cheramoya but is way way better.
- Lien Wu (wax apples)
- Liu Ding (local oranges, less flavorful than Sunkist Californian, more fibrous and smaller, but it makes for good natural juice too, lots of seeds)
-dragonfruit (plentiful if you go to a buffet like Jogoya not too far away from Taipei 101)
-Taiwanese grapes that are similar to Japanese style Kyoho
-local Taiwanese bananas, smaller than the Del Monte variety but quite tasty
-local Taiwanese papayas, as sweet as the best from Hawaii, elongated and redder meat, and excellent
-local green lemons that look like limes but they are actually lemons. The best is if you get a drink at the night market made from fresh green lemons and kumquats from Yilan county, or a tea drink with lemon and kumquat.
The apples sold there look like Fuji apples, but strangely some are imported from Washginton State, and are even sweeter than the ones I can get at my local organic foods market or California Costco :-/. My MIL says the imported Chilean apples are even better.