In the early days of our relationship, my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed watching a food travel programme about Taipei and vowed to one day go there together to enjoy the many culinary delights which the Taiwanese capital city has to offer. It took longer than expected to get round to taking the three hour flight from Tokyo but it finally came to fruition at the end of last month when we took a short break in Taiwan.
A decade on from my first visit to Taiwan and how things have changed since then. Food certainly wasn’t a major part of that trip as I spent the majority of my time outside of Taipei amongst the more natural parts of the country. This time we were in town to sample a good amount of tasty treats and the number one spot (other than the Modern Toilet restaurant!) has to be Din Tai Fung; the legendary soup dumplings place with four restaurants in Taipei and a number of others in many Asian cities.
Neither of us were particularly hungry when we found ourselves in the Zhongshan district but opportunities are scarce when on such limited time so we had to sample the speciality which it is famed for. Pork XiaoLongBao (US$6 for 10 pieces) are quite simply perfection. There are instructions on exactly how to eat them for maximum effect but piercing the hole was quite difficult so why not just throw them down your throat whole! We felt we couldn’t just have the soup dumplings only so also ordered some noodles with minced pork sauce ($4) which were also absolutely delicious.
Our eating adventure really started on the first night though and no sooner had we checked into Changhua Hotel and we were out to explore the local area. NingXia Night Market was the destination and amongst the dishes we had that night was oyster omelette (below). Have to say that it was way, way better than I thought it would be and the sauce covering it really added to the taste.
Who ever thought that something called turnip cake (below) would turn out to be so nice! On our first morning we sampled some of these from a local bakery as we arrived too late at my wife’s choice of breakfast place. I’d seen people raving about this on a YouTube video but struggled to believe it but it was indeed delicious and better than any hash brown!
Bubble tea is one of Taiwan’s most famous exports and we had our fair few of them during our three night stay in Taipei including at the place seen above which also sold kakigori; basically a dessert made up of shaved ice with syrup and condensed milk. More on that type of dessert later…
On our return from Jiufen later that same night we stopped off at Keelung Night market for a bit. We had pigs feet (below), one-bite shrimp and noodles but it was already getting late and, on the back of a very long day, we didn’t have so much time to spend at this place.
Our third day was a pretty full-on food day starting with some noodles at a popular, local place (below) close to our hotel. It was busy which is usually the basis for something being good so dropped in even though it wasn’t in a guidebook! Crazy!!
The rain really started to lash down after that but thankfully we didn’t have to walk too far to our next place. Our Japanese guide book informed us of two dessert-type places in close vicinity to each other. First up was Bears Village (below), open since 1965, which serves annin tofu; a soft, jellied dessert made of apricot kernel, agar and sugar with taro imo on top.
Not too far from there was a place dealing in the ultimate mango kakigori (below) which tasted like nothing else and I can quite clearly state that it’s the best I’ve ever had.
The aforementioned Din Tai Fung soon followed after that and then in the evening we went to Shilin Night Market. I witnessed blowtorched steak but didn’t get any as the line was too long. My wife bought some delectable chicken and other meat which we ate as we wandered what is considered to be the largest and most famous night market in Taipei.
Pepper pork bun’s were on my list of foods to try and it took a while to find a stall selling them. The bun was really nice and I kind of wish I’d bought another one but I didn’t as I wanted to save room for other stuff. Sadly that other stuff didn’t include purchasing a pineapple cake in the shape of a penis as I just didn’t have enough spare change left to splash out the necessary $6 on one.
It was a now-or-never moment after that as we queued up for the ridiculously-sized star fried chicken (more than A5 sized!) at just $2. Far from healthy but good stuff and too big to even finish it. I generally hate the idea of wasting food but it was done a few times on this trip due to our keenness to try other things.
Unbelievably that still wasn’t the end of my eating as I wanted to check stinky tofu off my list so on our way back to our hotel we took a slight detour and returned to NingXia Night Market to taste a few pieces of this local delicacy which can be very divisive among people due to it’s pungent smell.
Braised beef noodles round the corner from our hotel the following morning was to be our last meal before taking the bus to the airport and was a fine way to round off a trip that was packed with so much mouth-watering food.
Click here to read ‘Taiwan 2016 Pt II: Modern Toilet Restaurant’