We love a good food city, and that is exactly what Taipei is. In fact, we did nothing cultural the entire time except eat. And eating is cultural… Right?
We have several guides who hail from Taiwan, as well as one who married into the island and one whose dad was born there, so we’ve rounded up everyone’s recommendations. Here are some of UnTour’s favorite places to eat when they’re visiting across the Strait:
Night Markets: The first time I visited, we arrived around 10 p.m. and went straight to Raohe Jie 饶河街 for the night market. There’s a huge temple on the east entrance that’s lit up very nice at night too and is next to the 胡椒包 (pepper buns) vendor (most night markets have a few dishes that they’re well known for).
Shilin is the most famous market and gigantic, but I try to spend as little time there as possible. Still, the 大鸡排 is worth going for. It’s on Wenlin Lu, so you don’t actually have to go into the market lanes to get it (yes, they have stores in Shanghai but they’re not as good). Around the corner on is my favorite 雪花冰 place called 辛發亭. I switch between strawberry and peanut.
Ningxia Night Market — Even though it’s a smaller night market, it’s a local favorite for food. Deep fried taro balls, oyster omelette and sesame oil chicken noodles are all great.
For 热炒 (rechao – a big get-together-like meal), I often find myself at 品鱻 (Pin Xian) on 乐利路 (Leli Lu) near the Liuzhangli stop. The portions are small so you can try a bunch of different dishes, plus the seafood’s all out front so you can get an idea of what you’re ordering (dishes in Taiwan don’t always go by the same name, e.g. squid is 花枝 (huazhi) instead of 鱿鱼 (youyu).
Aquatic Addiction (上引水產)
This place is kind of in between a nice seafood market and a number of Japanese restaurants. It’s also become a tourist mecca for Singaporeans and folks from HK. The owner of this place actually started out at a tiny little restaurant called Mitsui (also very good Japanese food) that we started eating at maybe 15 years ago, and it’s grown into a huge Japanese cuisine empire including this ‘market’. It’s a little difficult to get to, so would recommend taking a cab. They have options for raw bar, hot pot, sushi, and bbq. The wine by the glass option makes it particularly lovely, and they have a nice shaded patio.
Known by most people as the “Taoyuan” st. Beef Noodles, the actual restaurant name is: Lao Wang Ji Niu Rou Mian. Here, the main thing you want to get is just beef noodles, with actual beef in it… some people prefer just soup and noodles, but their beef is usually pretty good. Of course it’s possible to get a bowl with a less tender cut, but overall it’s usually very good. I also like getting their pickled cabbage. This is the beef noodle that I grew up with and it’s been consistently delicious for the past 20+ years. This place also showed up in one of the NYTimes articles about good eats in Taipei. No. 15號, Taoyuan St, Taiwan 100
Da Wan Yakiniku (大腕烤肉)
A Japanese Yakiniku, this place doesn’t come cheap – but then again when does A10 Wagyu ever? The restaurant is tiny, the meat is grilled to order in front of you and the staff is beyond friendly. As my friend said recalling the last time we visited, “I think I had the best two mouthfuls of meat of the past 10 years in that place.” (The seafood ain’t bad either!). Just trust the recommendations from the staff and you’ll have a great meal.
Din Tai Fung (xiaolongbao aka soup dumplings)
No trip to Taiwan is complete without visiting one of the Din Tai Fung stores. Sure, they have chains all around the world now… but the stores in Taipei (maybe all of Taiwan) are significantly better than the ones elsewhere, maybe because of the pork suppliers. I now live in Shanghai, the actual birthplace of xiaolongbao, and I honestly think that the ones at DTF (in Taipei, and not SH) are much, much tastier. Most of the items on their menu are really good. Of course you have to get the original xlb, but their beef noodles are actually pretty good too, as well as their hot and sour soup (so much better than the crap you get at American Chinese restaurants) their fried pork chop, their stir-fried water spinach, and their fried rice (you can get it with shrimp or with the fried pork chop, both are excellent).
You can go to their original location, but all their other locations in Taipei are just as good, and the wait might be a tad shorter. There are a lot of good eats in the area around the original DTF, except after eating at DTF, you’re not really going to have room for anything else.
The original store was located on Yongkang st. (near the flagship DTF) and is famed for creating fresh mango shaved ice over a decade ago. The couple that owned it got divorced or something and sold the original store on yongkang to someone else (it’s still a very popular tourist attraction for HK folks and the Japanese), and I think maybe the husband moved over to this new location. There is always a line – especially in the summer.
The mango shaved ice is very good of course, especially now that it’s mango season. I would also recommend the bubble milk tea shaved ice… it’s different and also really delicious, but can be a little cloying in the summer. There’s also a shaved tea and citrus ice that isn’t as awesome of a photo op, but more refreshing to consume in the heat. Either way, I suggest you bring someone with you so that you can try more than one type of shaved ice. They’re pretty big bowls too.
Taiwan’s First Popcorn Chicken Store(台灣第一家鹽酥雞創始總店), No. 530-1, Bei’an Road, Zhongshan District,Taipei City
This style of popcorn chicken (and fried other things – squid legs, fish cakes – my favorite!, chicken cartilage, mushrooms, etc.) is a very, very popular street snack in Taiwan. This place is more of a store-front and they’re really good even though they’re a bit out of the way. That said, they’re right around the corner from an MRT station so it’s not impossible to get to.
The city’s best Gua Bao (Taiwanese hamburger with peanut powder, omg so goood). You can order half-fatty, half-lean or full-on either way. We recommend going right as it opens and you’ll get a seat, no problem. Also do try the black sugar boba milk from the vendor across the street.
Address: 台北市中山區羅斯福路3段316巷8弄3號. Roosevelt Blvd Sec. 3, Lane 316, Alley 8,
No.3 MRT: Gongguan station. Hours: 11am-10pm, closed on Wednesdays.
The places listed here are fairly solid too:
In Taiwan, bubble tea is a must, the place they mention for bubble tea on the CNN list is supposed to be the store (now a chain) that created bubble tea. Other solid options include chains like ComeBuy and 50Lan. You can always adjust the sweetness/how much ice in each drink too. You can also say more or less boba depending on your preferences. =)