Taipei Recommendations - 2011
I noticed a dearth of recommendations for Taipei so I thought I'd share the list I just sent to some friends for an upcoming trip. By no means is this list comprehensive but the places are fairly well known so it's a good start for those who are familiar with Taiwanese food but haven't been to Taipei.
永和豆漿大王 - 復興南路店
I believe they're open 24/7
Recommend: 鹹豆漿, 冰豆漿, 飯團
Note: There are many locations but this one is both very good and tourist friendly.
阿宗麵線 - 西門町總店
週一至週四 11:00 ~ 22:30
週五至週日 11:00 ~ 23:00
Recommend: 大腸麵線 (this is pretty much the only thing they sell)
Note: They have two other locations: 士林分店：台北市文林路101巷24號1樓 and 東區分店：台北市忠孝東路4段17巷2號
洪師父麵食棧 - 建北店總店
週一至週日 11:00 ~ 24:00
Recommend: 紅燒牛肉麵, 清燉白菜牛肉麵, 牛肉乾, 半筋半肉 (you can order this as a side dish)
Note: This place has won various awards for best beef noodle soup in Taipei.
君悅排骨 - 仁愛店總店
週一至週日 10:30 ~ 21:00
Recommend: 排骨飯 (this is pretty much the only thing they sell)
Note: There are many locations but the main branch is one of the most consistent.
週一至週日 11:30 ~ 14:30 / 16:30 ~ 21:30
Recommend: 絲瓜小籠湯包, 蟹黃湯包, 三鮮鍋貼, 大餅捲牛肉, 豆沙鍋餅, 蘿蔔絲酥餅 (it's good only if you are part of the first lunch seating when it's fresh out of the oven)
Note: This restaurant is very close to 杭州小籠湯包 (see below).
週一至週日 11:30 ~ 21:30
Recommend: 乾隆灌湯餃, 小籠湯包, 南瓜糕
Note: This restaurant is very close to 盛園絲瓜小籠湯包 (see above).
鼎泰豐 - 忠孝店
週一至週五 10:00 ~ 14:30 / 16:00 ~ 22:00
週六例假日 10:00 ~ 22:00
Recommend: 松露小籠包 is the new item and it's quite amazing.
Note: I personally think 鼎泰豐 is still the best; this location is not the main branch but the lines are shorter (even though the food is as good).
忠誠山東蔥油餅(此燈亮有餅) - 克強路總店
台北市士林區克強路3號 (near SOGO in 天母)
週一至週日 09:30 ~ 19:30
Note: You can buy 1/4 or 1/2 slice, but if you buy the whole pancake you can request it to be crispier. There are two other locations and the 和平東路店 is open 11:30 ~ 13:30 / 17:30 ~ 20:30.
週一至週日 05:30 ~ 10:30 (三節以外全年無休)
Recommend: 豆漿, 油條, 薄餅夾蛋, 焦糖甜餅, 招牌厚燒餅夾蔥蛋 (the 燒餅 is what they are known for)
Note: This place is very well known so the lines are very long unless you go before 6:00am. It is also open for breakfast only.
Recommend: 奶茶 with your selection of 珍珠, 粉條, 椰果, 仙草, 愛玉
Note: There are many locations (think Starbucks). For more information please visit http://www.50lan.com.
Thanks to KK and Hong Kong Foodie and others for great advice on Taiwan food. This was incredibly helpful for our recent 2 weeks in Taiwan, mostly Taipei and Tainan. Following is summary of places we visited and a link to a site with lots of photos from the trip, mostly foodie oriented, many of places on this thread.
In addition to Chowhound, extremely useful was an iPad, Google Maps, AT&T's (somewhat more reasonably priced than they used to be) roaming cellular plan. And most of all the incredible Pleco Chinese language app with the $15 OCR plugin that allows you to use an iPhone/iPad camera to image a menu or sign. With the characters recognized you can use its dictionary to get a translation. Pleco and Google Translate and a little practice made it possible for us non-Chinese speakers to function. The iPad app, MotionX GPS, is also a gem as it allows you to pre-download OpenGPS and Bing (not Google yet) maps that can be used without paying extortion for roaming cellular service.
Taiwan was friendly, comfortable, and not expensive (restaurant prices are about 1/2 San Francisco at the same level). Food is extremely important to the culture here. It brings in visitors from two other foodie capitals, Singapore and Hong Kong. This is not surprising after you see two of the registered National Treasures at the Palace Museum, the jade carving of a cabbage and a stone that is cut to look exactly like a small piece of braised pork belly.
First the night markets, certainly a good reason by themselves to go to Taipei:
Shi Lin Night Market(士林夜市) (photos) sprawls over many streets as well as a crowded inside market just across the street from the JIantan MRT stop. Oyster pancakes place is inside (photo) and is very good. Also has stinky tofu, which I tried and that was enough… The smell advertises for a ways around and is unforgettable.
The following were outside, a few blocks away:
Ay Chung Rice Flour Noodle 阿宗麵線 (photo
) Legendary seafood flavor broth and noodles. Seemed similar to Tainan's famous tan tsai noodles to my uninformed noodle palate.
Hao Da Da Ji Pai (豪大大雞排) (photos) has huge flat fried chicken paillards. This is an essential stop. They also have a stand on the front row of the inside market. Long lines much of the time.
Ningxia Road Night Market 寧夏夜市 (photos) is much smaller, all outside, with a very crowded and narrow center aisle:
Yuan(?) Oyster Omelettes (Yuán Huán Biān 圓環邊蚵仔煎) (photos) in a storefront on the W side toward the N entrance. One of the best dishes of the trip was the oyster omelette here. When you watch the chef it seems like everything is being thrown in (oysters, greens, egg, flour batter) and the mess is covered with a tomato colored sauce. It is delicious and perfectly balanced.
There was a tiny stand (photo) where a young woman was desperately trying to keep up with the longest line (photo) we saw anywhere for the apparently very fashionable taro balls, available with a duck egg yolk in the center and pork fluff. It was good, but I didn't quite get what was driving the long line.
It seems that anywhere in Taipei there is a restaurant within 20 yards. Here are the ones we tried, mostly from discussions on this list. First the Xiao Long Bao (AKA soup dumplings, Shanghai dumplings) specialists:
Hangzhou Pork Steamed Buns 杭州小籠湯包 (photo)
Near Chiang Kai Shek memorial. Excellent XLB and other dumplings. Wonderful sweet pumpkin dumpling cake.
Sheng Garden (?) Loofah Pork Steamed Buns 盛園絲瓜小籠湯包
Around the corner from Hangzhou Rd. Loofah squash XLBs excellent as were the crab XLB and the pan fried dumplings and beef roll. Actually we slightly preferred this over nearby Hangzhou Pork Steamed Buns, but both excellent..
Din Tai Fung (鼎泰豐) (photo)
Mother of all Xiao Long Bao places with excellent XLB, even more excellent truffle XLB 松露小籠包. This brought a Proustian moment, memories of Paul Bocuse's truffle soup near Lyon a jillion years ago. Phenomenal! Also excellent were crab roe XLBs and a wonton in spicy sauce recommended by one of the extremely professional, friendly, English speaking waiters. The beef soup was also superb and this is a great place to try this speciality of Taipei, if you can't make it to the others KK et al have recommended. We first went to the original Xin Yi Rd branch, in a narrow building with many floors. There was a very strong request from the SO to go back for more truffle XLB. We found the single floor Zhongxiao location equally good, but a bit tricky to find as it is on a parallel lane a small block off the main Ave. Google maps on an iPad with AT&T roaming cell really helped find this. In both cases we went outside of peak dining hours and had little or no wait.
Enormous Japanese influenced buffet with seafood of many varieties. A big feed and a good deal (we spent something like $80 for 2 at the most expensive time). There are several seatings. If you come too late for one window, you may need to wait a couple of hours for the next. So it is better to check on timings. Multiple locations. We went to the Nanjing Rd place on the 4th floor of the Momo store.
Popular and somewhat hip. Interesting dishes perhaps Sichuan influenced, but nothing memorable. Perhaps I didn't order well. Several locations. We went to the Nanjing Rd place.
1010 Hunan Pop Cuisine (1010 新湘菜)
Wonderful "Pork rib with chile and fennel (sic, actually cumin) spices".
Even more wonderful "Sauteed smoked pork with preserved bean". Now I understand how Hunan food can be so good.
"Steam egg with clam". This is a custard with a few manila clams. Somewhat of a texture play, but not much flavor.
"Fried shrimp skewer". Looks wonderful but a huge plate of ~17 skewers would have been too much for us two.
We went to the place near the 101 Building on one of the top floors of the Eslite Store.
Xiao Wei (小魏川菜餐廳)
Right near the main train station, this was a convenient rainy night place (near the Sheraton) after returning from Tainan. Sichuan, popular with expats and locals, listed in the Rough Guide. Old style restaurant with acceptable but not spectacular Sichuan dishes, not as good as Spices II in San Francisco or Little Sichuan in San Mateo.
We made a few day trips:
Shi-Yang Culture Restaurant 食養山房 is a famous place (reserve well in advance), a Taiwan take on kaiseki in the forested hills north of Taipei. Take the train to Xike 汐科 Station and then a taxi. An interesting experience with good and creative dishes, beautifully presented, worth the journey and the extremely reasonable price for something of this standard (~$80 for 2). The experience was not as zen as I was anticipating. We were in a cave like room with no view of the beautiful surroundings and next to a noisy party of (ahem!) ladies in the next cave. So this did not live up to memories of a great ryokan in Kyoto. Dishes were described as:
"Hand made peanut tofu"
"Assorted hand rolls and [memorable] home brewed [fruit based] vinegar"
"Salami ([talian!] Hand Roll" Salami around wild mushroom rice.
"Lotus stew of chicken and assorted wild mushrooms and veggies". Beautiful broth, a fine chicken.
Jiufen is very touristy and somewhat interesting, fine tea and views (photo), lots of sweets. About an hour by train and bus N of Taipei. Our visit was thoroughly dampened by pouring rain. While waiting for the train back in the evening, we wandered around rainy Ruifang.
Most interesting was the night market (photos) near the Ruifang train station (2 blocks S of where the bus stops). There are stalls on the street leading to what looks to American eyes like it is going to be a supermarket, but is actually an indoor night market. It was fun to watch many ladies arrive on motor scooters, dressed full length for the rain, then come in to shop for their family's dinner, helmet still on. (photos) On the street, there was even a scooter drive-in tofu stall (photo). At the entrance to the inside market is an excellent stall selling tandoor cooked hu jiao bao (pepper bun) 胡椒餅 (photo).
Overnight trip to Wulai, easy to reach by bus from the end of the MRT line. Stayed at Fullmoon Spa 明月溫泉, in a room with a hot spring bath with a view, great after a long hike in pouring rain. Forgettable dinner/breakfast included. Interesting aboriginal influenced food on the main drag. Delicious fried local river shrimp and little fishes. Also wild boar. Nothing much over a US$ like the night markets.
Tainan far in the south of Taiwan (via most efficient high speed railroad):
Hua Yuan Night Market (Huāyuán Yèshì 花園夜市)
An incredible large outdoor market on Thursdays (and Saturday, I think). Extremely well organized, large aisles. Huge variety of stalls. (photos). Most memorable: candied fruit skewers with superbly ripe strawberries. Also coffin cake (棺材板; guāncáibǎn), a dish apparently invented when US troops were in the neighborhood accompanied by US bread. A fried thick white bread, cut in the shape of an open coffin, with what looks like some school cafeteria cream of turkey, but is really seafood and delicious. Also, a chef carefully making large perfectly spherical seafood balls (photo). I believe this comes from Japan, but I don't know the name. Amazing technique and quite tasty.
Other Tainan restaurants we visited:
Chou's Shrimp Rolls 周氏蝦卷 half way out to Anping, the shrimp rolls are fried and bad for you, but irresistible - and worth the voyage (from SFO).
Another place, 陳家蚵捲 (Chen Oyster Rolls), out in Anping itself also has good shrimp rolls, but their speciality are great oyster rolls. It is at the NE corner of Anping Rd and Gubao Rd
Tu Hsiao Yeh (度小月) is the National Treasure slack season soodles (tan tsai noodles, 擔仔麵) place. The more visited and atmospheric location (photo) is on Zhongzheng Rd. We first went to a more typical Tainan open front location next to Chihkan Tower. The broth and noodles at both places were first class, but I think the shrimp and oyster rolls and the whole night market scene in Tainan are even more worthy national treasures.
JJ-W Hotel 佳佳西市場文化旅店 in Tainan is a conveniently located small designer boutique hotel with fine local breakfasts and comfortable 5* rooms at very reasonable prices. One of the best places we have stayed anywhere in a long time.
re: Thomas Nash
Thanks for the report! Glad we were able to help and it is always a pleasure hearing such wonderful and detailed feedback.
How about that SF Mission Street Food? Haha..
What amazes me is that Ay Chung had several SF Bay Area outposts (as well as Southern California) and pretty much all but a handful of them closed (and who knows if those are still around). They never got close to the original, but it was still the best fix around. Some gripe that Ay Chung would be perfect if they added baby oysters in, but that's how they've been doing it all these years. The thick broth enhanced with a ton of bonito flakes, is quite the experience. Did you try their chili sauce? It's delicious but super damaging if you put in too much. The black vinegar splash in the noodles is a must.
The Hao Da Ji Pai is now a franchise...and has expanded to China and Hong Kong...but many say they are nowhere near as good as in Taipei (well Shihlin for that matter). The only thing I don't like about it is the size...takes up a lot of valuable stomach space :-) Which is why I've only eaten it once, years ago, then saved up space for other things. Delicious though.
Yes 圓環邊蚵仔煎 and 賴蚵仔煎 are the two top oyster omlette shops in the area, with the latter on the outer edge of the other side of Ning Xia Road Night Market. I've passed by the former a few times and it is always packed, and they too have been around over 30 years...so they have got to be really solid. I've never eaten at 圓環 but was curious if they used tong ho/chrysanthemum garlands in their prep? I know 賴 does, and I think they use a different green during the summer (or whatever is in season). The name 圓環 if I remember correctly used to refer to an area, a roundabout like structure, where vendors used to gather, somewhere in the 50s in Taipei. At some point that structure had to be torn down, and many vendors either closed or found restaurants/storefronts to move inside. So it is possible this place used to operate by that circular gathering of vendors. Fresh baby oysters + range chicken eggs...quality products...it's gotta taste really good. The oyster soup was something I regret not saving stomach space for.
I've been to the fried taro ball, salted duck yolk, and pork floss stall before. The lines there are crazy... it is great to try just once but for me not something I would have again. They don't seem to fry in big enough batches to make the lines move faster, and some folks get multiple balls to go, versus one or two. I'm sure the owner has a Lexus, or Mercedes or 5 parked somewhere.
Authentic Tainan coffin bread (棺材板)...it is said that the old time traditional receipe calls for chicken livers and gizzards (which you can find at places that lay claim to have invented the dish), but modern interpretations including ones found at Shihlin Night Market in Taipei, changed the receipe to be more mainstream (chicken meat instead of parts). Places in Southern California that offer this (or that place in Cupertino Village) make it look like they used Campbell soup for the interior...
We went to Wulai in 2005. That "old street" has tons of great stuff to eat. Apparently we missed out eating the local delicacy of bee larvae. Wild boar is amazing, but the local mountain veggies are super delicious (山蘇 and 川七). Ditto for local mountain bamboo shoot....either in stewed dishes or served in soup. Sooooo good.
Again, thanks for your reporting back.
re: K K
Yes, I forgot to mention the mountain wild veggies at the little places along the main street of Wulai. They are wonderful. Huge variety that those in the know could select from. Restaurant lady picked out a nice mix for us.
The small coffin cake we tasted in Anping (at Anping Gui Ji Local Cuisine Cultural Restaurant on Yanping St, if my memory is right) was seafood oriented, and might have had chicken parts in it.
I was wondering what the name 圓環 stood for. I don't know my greens well enough to tell you what they were using. Don't think I saw chrysanthemum garlands, but I will look at some of my pictures and see if there is enough detail to blow up. If there is, I will post one and you can try to identify. [Edit: nothing clear enough to blow up. Looks like cut greens, almost like a lettuce, rather than a cabbage.]
The chicken at Hao Da Da Ji Pai is certainly large and worth the experience. I have a photo on my site of a stall at the Huāyuán Yèshì (night market) in Tainan which seemed to be doing something similar. We were too full to try it, but it looked like it might be spicy and really good. Looks like they were using a grill in addition to a frier?? Maybe it was pork and not chicken?
And yes, I did add their chili sauce at Ay Chung - which really worked well.
- 永和豆漿 大王 on Fushin +1
I always have their 鹹豆漿 and 燒餅夾蛋餅
- 鼎泰豐 +1
松露小籠包 is truly amazing. Don't forget to try their fried rice
-For 牛肉麵, I like 林東芳 on 八德路/安東街. If you are staying at Sheraton and do not care of cost/performance, their 牛肉麵 in the lobby cafe is pretty good too.
-For 蚵仔煎, 蚵仔湯, 炒腰花 go to the entrance of 寧夏夜市 (賴)
-藍家掛包 in 公館
掛包 and 四神湯
-For sushi, my all time favorite is 遊壽司 II near 麗水 and 金華
- Fifteen - Napoli pizza
Yes, pizza in Taipei. While truffle and Florence are very popular
林東芳 is a solid choice for beef noodles, even though they did not win any Taipei Beef Noodle Festival awards. It has a very low key feel to it with incredible local atmosphere, and the fact they are open 16 to 18 hours a day makes it even more desireable (they say the food tastes better there midnight and after....and is absolutely perfect if you are visiting from out of town, arrive at TPE on a late evening flight and need some food). In terms of being tourist friendly, it is pretty much recommended you come here either with a local speaker or know how to read and order in Chinese (nothing is in English). There is no MRT station nearby.
藍家割包 doesn't have any English on the menu either, but the food is consistently amazing and is one of the best gua bao's in Taipei. Their 大腸麵線, while not good as Ay Chung, is not bad either. Some people prefer the other gua bao king at 通化夜市 (Tong Hua St night market) at 石家割包 (the oldcomer). Can't really go wrong with these two places.
+1 for 寧夏夜市 (賴蚵仔煎), even better than Keelung Night Market's charcoal grill oyster omlette. These guys here use range chicken eggs, and keep the 1950s original Taipei flavor alive. Also love the fact they use tong ho during winter months. I love this night market overall as it is less touristy than Shih Lin.
Great starter list, thanks.
The first 24 hour Yongho soymilk restaurant is actually in Yongho township, about a modest 5 min walk from Dingxi MRT station, at World Soymilk King 世界豆漿大王. The soymilk there has the original signature "burnt" taste that no one else has been able to replicate exactly, but I think it is more earthy than it is "burnt" (but it isn't burnt actually). 永和 (Yong Ho) is famous for 豆漿 soymilk, and pretty much is synonymous with another, also used in many brand and restaurant names. But in reality the original YH soymilk is World Soymilk King. Maybe you can try it if you are in the area and let us know.
世界豆漿大王 (World Soymilk King) http://www.soymilk.com.tw/
台北縣永和市永和路二段284號 (Taipei County, Yongho township, Yongho Road, 2nd portion #284
It is worth noting that (2) 阿宗麵線 (Ay Chung Rice Flour Noodle) at the Xiemending flagship location is a true standing noodle bar, meaning there are no seats, you eat entirely standing up. It attracts tourists from Hong Kong, China, Japan etc, but the bowl of noodles is solid and excellent. Website is http://www.ay-chung.com/. The one at Shihlin Night Market tastes virtually the same as the flagship store, the benefit being that once you purchase your noodle (choose large or small size basically), you can go into the back bench seating area where they have fans (when it gets too hot) and a flatscreen TV. It has been almost 2 years, but the flagship store uses these green plastic bowls with the Ay Chung logo, while the Shih Lin branch assumes you are generally eating to go and even if you dine in, give you a cardboard soup container. Delicious either way, especially the bonito flakes presence. Some people complain that they should add oysters, but the founders insisted in not doing that.
阜杭豆漿 seems to be the latest entry into a good solid breakfast place, the 燒餅 appears to be charcoal, almost tandoori oven roasted. The pictures online by bloggers are surely drool worthy.
For shaved ice, the best place at Shih Lin night market is S.F.T (Shin Fah Ting) 幸發亭, which is over 30 years old. Tons of blog writeups and droolworthy pictures by searching.
Once you find the Yang Ming movie theater, SFT is very close by. Enter 陽明戲院 in maps.google.com.tw and it should be result "B". Magnify to see it better. Now what to get....this is always the dilemma. I'd probably try a shaved snow (there's even peanut flavor). Way too many choices that all look great.
Have you tried the restaurants at bellavita? http://www.bellavita.com.tw/
Like the speciality xiao long bao shop that does a chocolate version or the scallops one?