As you know one of my major reasons for deciding to come to Taipei was to try out some of the food I’d heard others raving about. And I have to say that I haven’t been disappointed. Here’s a quick round up of some the dishes you must check out when in Taipei.
First up is Beef Noodles. Immigrants from China brought this dish over, but like Teppanyaki (more of that later), Taiwan has really made this dish its own. Every year there is a fiercely competitive Taipei Beef Noodles Competition. Yong Kang Street is known as the home of beef noodles but some of the shops can be a little pricey. I found a great little spot round the corner from Yong Kang Street near my hotel. The shop is in bustling Dongmen traditional market and also serves as a discreet butcher shop, using all Taiwanese beef, so the cuts of meat are really good and fresh. The restaurant is simple, but nicely done, and the meat counter is tucked away in a corner, I only noticed it because a customer came in and placed an order while I was there. I chose a random dish (handily the only one priced at NT$120) and was pleasantly surprised when the thinly sliced meat was brought over raw in the bowl, and then a uniformed waiter poured the broth over the meat at the table. The beef is so finely cut it cooks perfectly in just the heat of the broth. You could also help yourself to side dishes at the front of the restaurant.
Taiwan was a colony of Japan for around fifty years at the start of the last century, and the Japanese influence lingers on. At Teppanyaki, ostensibly a Japanese style of cooking, you sit around the edge of a large griddle, order food, and it is cooked up by a chef right in front of you and served on the side of the griddle. In Japan, this is a done in minimalist way, but in Taiwan, they go all out on the sauces, slathering them with a mixture of soy sauce, garlic, chilli (as desired or not), rice wine and basil. The result is a flavour explosion and the whole experience is fun! These places are dotted all over the city. I tried out an inexpensive one in Shida , which has an English and Japanese menu available (my meal was a mere NT$120). Teppanyaki is also a great choice as a solo diner as the counter-style seating means you won’t feel awkward.
HJs Fresh Grill, just behind Shida University, offers Xingjian style barbeque. The restaurant is small and super friendly. I enjoyed myself there so much I went by a couple of times, and the staff remembered me! This also allowed me to explore the reasonably-priced menu. Particular favourites were the super tangy Tiger Salad (Onions and mixed bell peppers), and the lamb kebabs. The Mutton rice was also superb! There are a couple of veggie options (including the exotic sounding Orchid Tofu), but this is mainly a place for meat lovers. They also serve sake (either warm or cold) and beers to accompany your meal. An English menu is available (with plenty of pictures), and the staff are super friendly. The owner, TC, speaks pretty good English and is always around. Judging by how busy they were on the times I went by, they are a popular choice for the locals and, perhaps unsurprisingly, seem to have a good base of regulars, which is always a great sign in a restaurant.
One of Taiwan’s most (in)famous foods is Chou Dofu, or Stinky Tofu, as it is often referred to in English. I was super curious about this and I sampled a couple of types in night markets before I headed over to Dai’s House of Unique Stink in the east of the city, a little north of the 101 District. This long established family-run place was made famous outside of Taiwan, when Andrew Zimmerman, who, as you probably know gallivants, around the world trying odd foods such as cockroaches, came to try their Raw Chou Dofu, served cold salad style. I couldn’t resist going to see the stuff which defeated him. The shop was simple and the owners (and their dogs) were friendly and spoke a little English. I simply ordered the items on the menu on the wall with the crowns over them (handy tip for non-mandarin readers, the foods marked with a crown on a menu in many places means the most popular house dishes.) I was pleasantly surprised to find I liked the raw stuff! It was like a very pungent cheese, but I imagine that the slightly milder soups and deep fried options might be an easier entry point for the less adventurous. It’s reasonably priced too, so even if you find you don’t like the raw tofu dish, for NT$40 it’s worth a try. The soup I tried, San Gu Liu Por, made with three different types of mushrooms and tofu, was excellent.
had heard from a friend about a local ice cream parlour, Snow King, over in Hsimending. The shop was opened up 65 years ago by Mr Gou, who, judging by the menu, has a fantastic imagination. I was blown away by the 73 different flavours, which included classic fruit (some seasonal), herbal teas, nut and taro flavours. However, the real surprise was the savoury flavours, which included Chilli, Gingli Chicken, and a wickedly zingy Wasabi flavour! They also had alcoholic flavours such as Taiwan Beer, Grape Wine and the local spirit Kaoliang. They also offer non-dairy options, and the menu was in both English and Japanese. I strongly recommend checking this out, for it really is quite a unique dessert experience.
It’s often said that Taipei locals prefer to eat out rather than cook at home, and after sampling the cuisine and realising that you really can eat an amazing range of foods at a pretty low cost, I’m beginning to understand why – this city really is a food lover’s haven!
Ice Cream Parlour
65, WuChang street, Sec. 1, Ximen
(02) 2331-8415 (MRT: Ximen)
HJs Fresh Grill
139 Chao Zhou Street, Taipei, Taiwan (near the intersection of Chao Zhou Street and Yong Kang Street) 02 2322 5169 (closed Sundays) (MRT: Taipower/Guting)
Dai’s House of Unique Stink
2, Lane 30, Yongji Road, Xinyi District (Closed Tuesdays) (MRT: Taipei City Hall)
70, Linyi Street, Zhong Zheng District, Taipei 02 235 63468 Near the Junction of Xinyi Road and Linyi Street - closed Sundays) (MRT: CKS Memorial Hall- or from September 2012, Dongmen Market)
58, ShiDa Rd., Taipei 02 2369 8085 (MRT: Taipower Sation)