Taipei - need recs?
Hey - I've got two friends going to taipei who needs food recs. I never know where i'm going in taipei b/c i always end up going to night markets and little restaurants in alleyways and stuff like that.
I definitely wanted to get them the following:
- niu rou mian (beef noodle soup)
- gua bao
- oh ah jian (oyster pancake)
- bao bing (shaved ice)
- unagi: this is a weird request, but i remember taiwan having places that do real deal japanese grilled eel (unagi) which is impossible to find in the US. If anyone else knows a place that'd be awesome
- taiwanese food: most of the the stuff i just mentioned is street food type stuff, but i always love little restaurants serving really good taiwanese food (i need to keep track of where i go next time)
- anything else you think is worth trying
Any recs would be great. Thanks.
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Beef Noodle Soup:
How much time do your friends have? Lin Tung Fong is a great standby, although no MRT station nearby, especially if they are arriving late at the airport (LTF is open 18 hours a day). While not recognized by beef noodle festival judges, it is a local favorite late night haunt, very tasty broth, thicker chewy noodles, delicious beef and wonderful assortment of side dishes (including beef intestines that looked like chopped up sausage). 72 beef noodles is an absolute must for trying the clear stewed beef noodles, although to be fair it isn't clear because the ox bones are boiled down into a creamy white liquid over 3 days, no MSG added and just a supreme experience overall. Some like Master Hung's (and they got more business since winning the 2010 beef noodle competition).
Gua Bao - There are really two kings of gua bao in Taipei. 藍家割包 in Gong Guan which is pretty much the safest bet (and just a few mins walk from Gong Guan MRT station). The other place is 石家 which has been around much longer, located somewhere in or near Tong Hua street night market. I haven't been to the latter, but have visited 藍家割包 practically every time I travel to Taipei. I like the fact you can pick 5 variations of pork belly (lean, all fatty, combo with more lean, or combo with more fatty). At around or less than US$1.50 it's the perfect snack.
Oyster Omlette - Have not had many renditions inside Taipei city, but 賴記雞蛋蚵仔煎 inside 寧夏夜市 Ninxia Road Night Market is probably the best one I've had. They've been around at least 30+ years and has been very consistent everytime. They also stick with a traditional receipe and don't deviate from it. One of the highlights is their use of range chicken eggs. I'm told that during winter they use tong ho (chrysanthemum garlands) for the veg, and during the warmer months, it might be taiwan bai tsai/bok choy that resembles napa cabbage or other seasonal green. There is another 30+ year old place in that night market that specializes in oyster omlette (you will see if with blue logo and white chinese characters). I would say one cannot go wrong with either, and literally picking Ning Xia Road Night Market as a stop.
Unagi - This one's easy. Just go to the most popular place even visited by Asian tourists...肥前屋 / Fei Chien Ou (or Hizen-Ya in Japanese). The place is run by a Japanese family (the current owner I think was born in Taipei or came when he was very young). The prices are very reasonable, a large unaju is less than US$10 and made with fresh eels, likely from an eel farm in Taiwan somewhere. They prep the eels from scratch and go through a process of grilling and steaming to make the exterior crispy puff pastry like with a moist juicy interior. The restaurant also carries a bunch of other side dishes, appetizers, and mini courses like tempura (done Japanese style with a supremely done dip sauce), unagi dashimaki (egg omlette with unagi inside), grilled unagi liver skewer (usually sells out by lunchtime), grilled or stewed fish, sashimi. This restaurant is in a district where there is a lot of Japanese run Japanese restaurants and eateries, catering to a lot of Japanese expats and J-food lovers. Not too far from FCO is another restaurant that specializes in fresh unagi set dinners, think it is called Kyoto Una Ryori 京都鰻魚料理 or something like that, but is much less crowded. Quality may be similar, but FCO when busy usually has a line (and moves fairly fast, wait can be 20 to 40 mins when really busy).
Shaved ice: It's easy to tell tourists to go to Ice Monster's replacement "Yong Kang 15", but instead of going that expensive real estate shop, take them to a more grounded tourist joint...straight to Shihlin Night Market to 30+ year old S.F.T 辛發亭冰店. Cannot go wrong. I sent a friend there earlier this year and he loved it to bits, especially the shaved snow. Pair that with fresh local fruit and it is unbeatable.
I forgot to mention, most of these places don't have English on their printed menus. Hopefully that's not a problem.
With regards to sit down Taiwanese restaurants, here are two examples of humble street food eateries that expanded indoors into nice sit down restaurants with a cool atmosphere to boot.
Taipei also has several locations of Tu Hsiao Yeh Tainan Peddler Noodle
I've been to the one at Yong Kang street a few times, just around the corner from flagship store Din Tai Fung. I think the Hong Kong tourists caught on to this place as well, or perhaps got disgusted with the waits and seeing each other there and thus go to the like of Gao Ji or here. A small bowl of peddler noodle is a great wonderful experience, like a key to the past (over a century ago), supposedly the receipe has not changed...dried shrimp heads and shell broth, fresh noodles (pick between 3 kinds), broth or without broth, and a minced stewed pork that is consistently being stewed (where the pot looks nasty from all the cooking and wear but gives it a very characteristic aged special look). While it is touristy, it is not as touristy as Din Tai Fung (as least not yet). The Yong Kang street location looks like a Japanese kaiseki restaurant. Lots of other upscale looking Tainan street food and delicacies, like grilled bangus/milkfish belly (a must try), amongst many other things.
Formosa "Bearded" Chang's http://www.fmsc.com.tw/ is famous for their minced pork rice that started off as a street food stall (just like Yung Kee in Hong Kong) and they even have locations in Japan. Haven't been, but I hear it is pretty good. There is one location in Ningxia Road Night Market. Prices are reasonable, maybe just a slight tad higher than in the streets, but you get indoor seating and table service.
Another good local Taiwanese experience is to visit one of their fresh seafood restaurants. While most of the fish isn't exactly swimming in the tanks like Cantonese places in HK, the fish is typically trucked in from Keelung Harbor, resting on ice, and still very fresh. Point and decide how you want it prepared. With that said I had a great experience at 鵝肉城 (Goose Meat City) at 77 Liao Ning street. The nearest cross street is Ba Der Road, not too far away from there is Lin Tung Fong Beef Noodles. Try the local abalone / clam called 9 holes 九孔 (because the shell has nine holes on it), or pick a fresh fish for steaming. Pair it with maybe raw prawn sashimi (utmost fantastic), and a salty duck egg with bitter melon and pork stir fry, maybe a beer or two, or the local honey aloe canned drink, and it is an unbeatable combination that even expense account folks take Japanese businessmen over to enjoy.
These places are also covered in the blog in a bit more detail.
Thanks. If your friends want to try some creative xiaolong bao, there's a place called 三源 at the Bellavita (where L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon Taipei is located).
Seems a bit gimmicky but also looks like a lot of fun. They have a chocolate dessert XLB, and their high end XLB has scallops and another has abalone in it. There's another place whose name escapes me, that does a oolong green tea XLB (where the skin is green and the soup/juice looks a tad bit green tea).
Here's another beef noodle shop worth checking out...it is run by a Persian immigrant named Davod (David) who married a local Taiwanese woman and opened up his own fusion beef noodle shop where he incorporates Middle Eastern secret blend of spices and herbs
The shop is called 老外一品牛肉麵 (Lao Wai Yi Ping Niu Rou Mian) or Foreigner Beef Noodles. Website: http://persian-gulf.web66.com.tw/
It might be walkable from MRT, but could be at least 20 minutes or more. Davod's noodles won runner up in the last 2 beef noodle festivals. I've been wanting to check it out but never had the opportunity. I bet the guy speaking English to Davod in that video probably went to school in New York (hence his familiarity with the flavors...maybe those tasty shwarma/wraps from the trucks).
beef noodle soup is a must, but i found out i quite enjoyed other kinds of noodle soup as well.
here comes the smell...... stinky tofu is no big deal, actually i like it more than oyster omelet thingie.
i really love sliced goose in Taiwan. found these places only by chance and in small alleyways.
(just got back from Taipei a couple of hours ago and am missing the fantastic food! :( )
taiwan has lots of soups i like, i gave them recs for certain other soups, but beef noodle soup is particular for me in that i think there are huge differences in the quality of a decent version vs a really good version
ive always liked stinky tofu, i love the fried version
sliced goose is awesome!
Yeah this is the place that is just a few minutes walk away from the more famous and heavily visited 肥前屋 and you will pass by it especially if walking in the direction toward the nearest MRT station (some 10+ mins away). Thanks for pin pointing the location and proper name which I miswrote above somewhere. You can see the kitchen from the outside window, and see the chefs grilling the eels (some on skewers). Really cool. Definitely can't go wrong with here or 肥前屋, and it pretty much boils down to a matter of personal taste, value, and the willingness to wait. It is said some people end up here because of the wait at 肥前屋 ....I think there are a few other fresh eel restaurants in the area.