I’ll be sharing about some of my food experiences in Taiwan in this 5 part series. It will mostly reflect our most recent trip (Oct 25- Nov 8), but will also talk about some places I went to on my second trip by myself, back in 2011. I didn’t capture all of the places we went to, but I did my best! We spent time in Taipei, Gaohsiung, Hualien, Yilan, then back to Taipei. I’ll post in order of where we went.
Don’t worry- recipes will still be posted!
If you are traveling to Taiwan with USD, you will feel rich. Note that T and I prefer mom and pop, no frills places, with some exceptions for fancier places. Taiwan is like a culinary mecca, so I know there are thousands of restaurants and food stands we missed. It would probably take a lifetime to explore them all, and have enough stomach to try everything! Do you have a favorite place to eat in Taiwan?
阜杭豆漿 fu hang dou jiang
Hua Shan Market, 2F
We attempted to go here for Taiwanese breakfast (soy milk, fried dough, flaky pastries, egg pancakes, and the like), but as you can see, even at 7 something on a Sunday morning, it is packed.
National Soldiers’ Hotel (Taipei Hero House)
No.20, Changsha St Sec 1, Taipei
Overall comments: Updated 2015- They did away with the egg station, which made me sad. Then, the quality of food went down. There is still a large selection of hot foods to choose from, but the food is not seasoned well (bland), and some items, like congee, that should be hot, were only lukewarm. At first, I thought they were having an off day, but after going again the next day, our whole family decided that it was just not good anymore.
I love how the Taiwanese cook. They understand how to prepare non-oily tasty foods that don’t rely on loads of meat for lots of flavor. Most of the dishes are vegetable-centric, but you would be amiss in thinking that you will not be able to get stuffed on the grub here. Be prepared to bus your own plate and fork after you finish eating. I assume this is how they keep costs down. There are a variety of hot foods here, along with soymilk, red bean soup, 1-2 varieties of in season fruit, and toast, for the American. Beware, unadventurous eaters! This is for the locals. Favorites:
-Egg station- choose from a fried or scrambled eggs, or scrambled eggs with salted radish! Yummy.
-Hot foods- YUM! So many choices- it’s almost like having dinner for breakfast 🙂
Breeze Taipei Main Station
How to get there: MRT Red line- Taipei Main Station 台北車站
Overall comments: You know how in or near most train stations, airports, and malls, the only food offerings are either 1) meh 2) overpriced or 3) both? Think again. At Taipei Main Station, not only can you catch the HSR (High Speed Rail 高鐵), TSR (Taiwan Railways 台鐵), buses, and subways, but you can and should come here to dine. When you walk into the ground floor of the train station, you see food everyone- everything from custards sold in eggshells, to Japanese style cheesecake and American-inspired cupcakes. Breeze Station Gourmet Heaven, as they call it, is located on the second floor, and it is a big maze of food and more food.
Go upstairs and find stall after stall of food, sorted by food type, including but not limited to: beef noodle soups, ramen, curries, international (non-Taiwan) foods, as well as bakeries and other specialty shops. If you came with a friend or friends, that’s great news for you. My proposed strategy is to dedicate one person to sit and reserve a table (if it’s crowded that day, which it was when we went on a Sunday), then send others to grab different items from different sections. Share and taste the different cuisines!
Update 2015- The food areas have expanded to include even more cuisines! If you find yourself missing American food or just want some toast and eggs, you can stop by Aunt Stella’s to get coffee and breakfast. You can also get Ippudo if you want some ramen.
Our favorites from the Taiwanese food section:
1) Beef (shank) noodle soup with handmade noodles, from a stall with a friendly and jolly chef who was offering samples of the New Zealand beef with some stock. The stock was not too salty, very refreshing with a clean aftertaste, the beef tasted like beef, and the noodles were chewy and substantial. There was another beef noodle soup from a different stall that we didn’t like as much.
2) Fish congee from a stall featuring Tainan specialties (not shown, sadly). The fish was beef noodle soup- new zealand beef- with a friendly chef offering samples.
SiChuan Wu Chao Shou
No. 250之3號, Section 4, Zhongxiao East Rd, Daan District, Taipei City, Taiwan
Overall comments: This translates to Sichuan Wu (surname) Wontons. This is a Sichuan restaurant that my grandma first took me to that I enjoyed enough to remember the name for my trip 3 years afterwards. I definitely had some favorites, and did really appreciate that none of the dishes we got were swimming in oil, a common thread among US Sichuan restaurants. The food was more expensive (thanks Uncle Edward, for paying!) than we were used to paying in Taiwan. However, the restaurant was very clean, the food was quality, AND it was in the expensive part of Taipei, so I forgive them 🙂
-粉蒸肥肠 (Steamed pig intestines with seasoned sticky rice bits) because they make it a little spicy with hot bean paste.
-腐皮卷 (Stuffed beancurd sheets)-You may have had these during dim sum, but most of the beancurd sheets we found in Taiwan not nearly as oily. The ones in question were stuffed with perfectly aligned blanched mung bean sprouts. They were designed to go with a delicious, somewhat nutty and sweet sauce. You will find these on the appetizers section.
-熏魚- Smoked fish. Fish is cooked then soaked (marinated?) in a sweet, soy sauce based sauce, which results in meaty tasting, hearty fish. I’m not sure why it doesn’t take smoked, like bacon would, but that’s how it translates over..This particular fish was cooked (Deep fried, we thought) until even the bones were edible. Normally, this is not the case, so I thought this was really special. Talk about 工夫菜(gongfucai)- which means a dish that involves great technique or time, or both.
-小菜 (little dish/ side dishes ). One of my favorite aspects of Taiwan is that there is always the chance to get affordable side dishes. This restaurant was no exception, so, get some side dishes! (the fish and the beancurd sheets were considered side dishes).
ZhongXiaoDongLu Sect 4.
Overall Comments: Outrageously expensive mango shaved ice! It was good, but not memorable, and it cost something like 220 NT, which translates to around 8 USD. For one order. Oh yea! We did really like the chunks of mango, but that says more about Taiwan’s produce (and God’s handiwork) than the restaurant. I partially blame the high cost on the location- the east side of Taipei is the swanky and luxurious side of town, so I’m sure rent is expensive.
216 粉圓大王106, Taiwan, Taipei City, Da’an District, Alley 40, Lane 216, Section 4, Zhongxiao East Road, 3-1號1樓
Overall Comments: I was expecting a shaved ice shop, but unfortunately, the ‘shaved ice’ is not like what I’m used to seeing in the US. It’s more like different items like soymilk pudding, huge tapioca, sweetened red bean, yuanzi, grass jelly, etc etc, topped with ice chunks. After I told my mom, she remarked that that’s how most shaved ice is in Taiwan. Some of the toppings were far too sweet for me, such as the taro. While creamy, its sugaryness dominated any taro taste. This was a recommendation from a friend, but unfortunately neither T nor I were fans of it.
Can’t wait to go to Taiwan to eat these goodies? Try my recipes for some of the dishes you saw…