My Dad and I haven’t travelled together in years and our trip to Taipei together last week was wonderful. With me living in Canada, it’s hard for us to find time to do a small trip together and there just aren’t a lot of exciting options that are close by. But in Asia, different cultures and cuisines are just hours away by plane. With me being here for a month now, it turned out that I happened to be at the right place at the right time. My Dad and Karla had bought tickets to watch Coldplay in Taipei ages ago but work got too busy for my sis so as luck would have it, it was I who was destined to watch Coldplay live with Dad in Taipei!
Taipei isn’t just any city, it’s a food haven known for their obsession with street food and simple dishes that hail from the same place as my family’s province, Fujian. We were excited to enjoy the best of our home cooked dishes, familiar flavours elevated to an even higher quality and standard. Sort of like eating the gourmet version of our childhood dishes, made special with local ingredients and authentic, traditional methods without any of the modern shortcuts (e.g. handmade noodles vs dried).
Taipei is a relatively small city and it is very easy to get around. Taxis were so cheap that we didn’t even bother to take the subway. Everyone is extremely nice, polite and gentle, quite the opposite from the Motherland and more akin to their neighbours up north who occupied Taipei for 50 years. Japanese restaurants can also be found everywhere from sushi bars to ramen houses and everything in between.
With only 3 whole days, or 6 meals (we had breakfast at the hotel every morning), I did what I always do. I asked friends for their favourites, merged the lists together, narrowed it down by cross referencing them to see which recommendations overlapped. The final important step is to enlist the help of a local foodie, in this case, my old high school friend, Cindy, to help finalise the list. With a few more suggestions from her, we ended up with an amazing food itinerary that was a home run every day. This was where we ended up going, as well as a few more places we wished we had extra time for.
Du Xiao Yue 度小月 with Cindy. A must on Karla’s list and totally approved by this local and her family (kids 9 and under included). The food here is home cooked food from Tainan with noodles still prepared the same way as it was when it opened in 1895. So many of the dishes reminded me of my grandma and the food that we grew up eating at home. My Dad and I were in heaven eating our version of Chinese comfort food.
Favourites: Qie Zi Mian 切仔面 (thick noodles with shrimp, meat and garlic), Golden Shrimp Rolls 黃金蝦卷, and Braised Tofu in Stew with Soy Sauce 滷嫩豆腐.
No.9-1, Yongkang Street, Da’an District, Taipei City
+886 02 3393 1325
11:30 am – 10:30 pm (Sun – Thurs)
11:30 am – 11 pm (Fri – Sat)
12, Alley 8, Lane 216, ZhongXiao East Road, Taipei City
+886 02 2773 1244
11:30 am – 10:30 pm (Mon-Sat)
11:30 am – 10 pm (Sun)
Taipei Weekend Jade Market 台北市建國假日玉市 and the Taipei Jianguo Weekend Flower Market 台北建國假日花市 which are connected to each other and held on weekends only. The Jade Market, in particular, was what we wanted to see. It is an indoor space filled with tables and tables of people peddling different variations of carved stone, carved wood, and jade. The wide spectrum of green to be discovered here is really quite spectacular. Make sure you bargain because nothing here is worth the first price they quote. I picked up a bracelet for Paul here which they strung to size right in front of me.At the flower market, we bought some Sliced Guava sprinkled with Plum Powder 梅粉 to munch on. Without it, the guava was too sour for me. But with a sprinkle of that magic, grey dust, the slight briny contrast makes the guava taste sweeter! This might be my answer to eating fruits since my ultra sensitive sour taste buds find most fruit too sour to eat.9 am – 6 pm (Sat and Sun only)
COFFEE AND SNACK
Forgood Cafe for a coffee and a slice of their Salted Caramel Chocolate Tart 塩味焦糖巧勊塔. Cute interiors filled with students hanging out. Coffee wasn’t special but the tart was light and surprisingly delicious.
No. 12, Lane 41, Yongkang Street, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106
+886 2 3393 8659
12 pm – 10 pm (every day except Tuesdays)
Yong Kang Niu Rou Mian 永康牛肉麵. In Taipei, Niu Rou Mian or Beef Noodles is so celebrated that there is an annual Beef Noodle Festival where noodle restaurants all over the city fiercely fight for the title of best clear broth and best traditional spicy broth. However, as with all food, Beef Noodles is very personal. Everyone has their favourite and this one is Cindy’s.
Lucky for us (sort of), Yong Kang Niu Rou Mian was to undergo renovation the following day until the rest of our trip. We were lucky we were able to try it, however, I think I will prefer dining there post renovation (think icky bathroom and a very hole-in-the-wall design and feel; the authentic kind). Just expect good food, that much I can guarantee you, and a line. But good food is worth waiting for and this place was GOOD.
Favourites: Clear broth Niu Rou Mian 清燉牛肉麵, Zhajiang Mian 炸酱面, Steamed Hog Spareribs 粉蒸排骨 (that’s what they call it on the menu!), and help yourself to the Xiao Cai (appetisers) display. The Spicy Noodles 红烧牛肉麺 is supposed to be the best dish here but we weren’t feeling like eating something super spicy that day.
No. 17, Lane 31, Section 2, Jinshan South Road, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106
+886 2 2351 1051
11 am – 9 pm (Mon–Sun)
Omotesando Foot & Health Massage Club 表參道足體養身會館. When you book through the hotel the massage place will pay for your cab fare going and returning to your hotel. But we also found out that they also deduct 150 from the masseuse’s fee. We booked a 75-minute body massage each, it was so good I was bruised for days!
No. 348-4, Changchun Rd., Zhongshan Dist.,Taipei City 104
10 am – 2 am (Mon–Sun)
LIVE MUSIC AND DRINKS
EZ5 Live House 音樂餐廳. A bar with live music that Dad had discovered a few weeks ago when he was in Taipei for a golf trip. For NT$850 you get 2 vouchers each which you can use for a drink or a snack plus the enjoyment of 3 live performers. I stuffed my face with chicken wings and fishballs, all the while clapping and swaying to a Chinese impersonation of Bruno Mars. Pretty good! EZ5 is a great place for local and emerging artists, check it out if you enjoy live music.
No.211, Sec. 2, An-Ho Rd, Da-an District
Lao Zhang Beef Noodles老張牛肉麵 with Dad’s old friend Uncle John who he hadn’t seen in almost 30 years. This was on Karla’s Taipei favourites list and Uncle John’s personal favourite for their tomato-based broth 炸酱面. FYI, this place is MUCH cleaner than Yong Kang Niu Rou Mian 永康牛肉麵 with tables that you don’t have to share with other patrons. No wonder people like Jacky Chan are all over the walls! Their beef noodles are DELICIOUS!
Favourites: Spicy Beef Noodles with the tomato-based broth 炸酱面 and help yourself to the Xiao Cai (appetisers) display.
No. 105, Aiguo E Rd, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106
+886 2 2396 0927
1 am – 3 pm, 5 pm – 9 pm (every day except Tuesdays)
Smoothie House思慕昔本館. Uncle John said this was one of CNN’s top 10 best desserts around the world. Quite a statement! Others seemed to agree because there was a line of people waiting to devour their famous sky high mango dessert of mango chunks, mango shaved ice, and mango ice cream. It was a HOT day and I wolfed that mango pyramid down like there was no tomorrow. They might as well have given me a large straw instead of a tiny spoon.
Favourites: No. 11 Super Mango Snowflake Ice with Panna Cotta
No.15, Yongkang St., Da’an Dist., Taipei City 10650
10 am – 11 pm
Toasteria Cafe 吐司利亞 for coffee. Beautiful building in the loveliest shade of blue with gorgeous art deco meets hipster interiors. I didn’t get to try their food but I heard from a friend that it’s great. On their website they boast of having the largest panini menu in Taipei so that would be a start if you’re craving something to eat.
Eslite, the majestic bookstore of Taipei. Some of them are department stores, the one I went to had a large music section in the basement, others are open 24 hours a day. I picked up a Taiwanese cookbook by a local famous Chef all in Chinese. I’m going to challenge myself to improve my Chinese reading and writing by making each dish in the book. Wish me luck!
Xiao Cui 小粋, one of Cindy’s favourite Omakase places. Lucky for us, she was able to get us a seat at the sushi bar at the last minute. Japanese food to Taipei is like Wonton Noodles to Hong Kong, Uncle John explained. The standard is so high that you really can’t go wrong, but there are those that take it to a higher level. And Xiao Cui is certainly one of them. We got to sit in front of the Chef and Owner as he prepared a special meal for us, at Cindy’s request, while interacting with us. The dishes are selected based on what is available that season so be prepared to enjoy the bounty of the season’s best.
No. 12號, Lane 233, Yanji Street, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106
+886 2 2700 2777
12 pm – 2:30 pm, 6 pm – 10 pm (every day except Sundays)
**There are limited seats at the sushi bar so make sure to book ahead.
Fei Qian Wu 肥前屋, highly recommended by Cindy for their eel rice. Clearly, it was everyone else’s favourite as well. The line was out the door when we got there and it never stopped. We ordered a small eel rice each and the egg eel roll to share. The eel literally melts in your mouth like butter. And you know how most of the time eel rice has that thick, sweet sauce on top? Not this one. This one has just enough that you still get that wonderful grilled umami taste coming through. No wonder people were willing to line up on a workday lunch break. They must also get extra long lunch breaks?
Favourites: Eel Rice and Egg Eel Roll.
No. 13-2, Lane 121, Section 1, Zhongshan North Road, Zhongshan District, Taipei City
中山北路一段121巷13-2號 Taipei, Taiwan 104
+886 2 2561 7859
11 am – 2:30 pm, 5 pm – 9 pm (every day except Mondays)
Sogo. After lunch, we went to the oldest Sogo branch to check out the local wares. I loved the local brand Jia for their beautifully designed products for the modern Taiwanese kitchen. Check out the steamer, I fell in love at first sight. Oh, the things I could make with that steamer…
Favourites: Jia Kitchen Products
Still full from lunch we skipped dinner and headed for the Coldplay Concert. The concert was amazing, they started on time!!! We were given wristbands that all lit up at the same time once the band came on stage and the lights were synchronised to change colours and light up to the beat of all the songs. It didn’t matter that it rained, it didn’t matter that we had to stand throughout the whole concert. Clapping, singing, and dancing along to Coldplay live with colourful light effects, bouncy giant beach ball balloons, and rainbow coloured giant confetti blowing all around and above us made for one magical, unforgettable night. #bestdatewithDadever #handsdown
Raohe Street Night Market 饒河夜市. It was still raining after the concert but it didn’t stop us from going. It was our last night and we were determined to squeeze one night market in. There are a lot of night markets to choose from but this one was the closest to our hotel. My favourite from the few that we tried (a lot had closed down early because of the rain) was the chicken roll. Chicken wrapped in chicken skin grilled on an open fire until crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside, topped with lemon pepper. How can you go wrong?
If you are going to Taipei for longer than 3 days, these are the places we wished we had time for and that you should seriously consider checking out:
Addiction Aquatic Development 上引水產 This is a seafood market with restaurants that serve seafood fresh from the market. My favourite is the sushi bar where you can gorge on beautiful, fresh sushi and sashimi. Since we already OD’d on sushi and sashimi at Xiao Cui 小粋 this trip we skipped it this time around. But this place is a must.
No. 18, Alley 2, Ln 410, Minzu E Rd
11 am – 5 pm
Shin Yeh 欣葉. One of our favourites and a great one stop shop for all of the best of Taiwanese classics. Since it was just my Dad and I this trip we didn’t go because this is the sort of place that I think is best enjoyed when you go with more people so that you can order more dishes to share. They have many branches but the original is supposed to be the best.
11 am-1 am
10 am – 8 pm (every day except Sat and Sun)
Din Tai Fung. Xiao Long Bao, Xiao Long Bao, Xiao Long Bao. Only the best in the world. Original location a must.
Xinyi Store, No 194, Sec 2, Xinyi Road, Taipei City
10 am – 9 pm (Mon-Fri)
9 am – 9 pm (Weekends & Holidays)
Tianjin Onion Pancake 天津蔥抓餅. While exploring Yong Kang Street’s tiny lanes filled with eateries and food stalls we could easily spot the local favourites because of the long lines outside. Tianjin Onion Pancake was an obvious local favourite, I wish we had time to try it.
No. 1, Lane 6, Yongkang Street, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106
+886 2 2321 3768
9 am – 10:30 pm (Mon–Sun)
Raw. I had read about this fine dining, modern Taiwanese concept by Chef Andre Chiang. However, since we only had a few days in Taipei I wanted to get as much authentic, traditional Taiwanese food as I could. I set this place aside for another time because it requires advanced booking and at least 3 hours to sit for a meal (confirmed by a friend who ate there).
A few tips:
1. Get a pocket wifi. We got ours at the HK airport and you get wifi wherever you go. Extremely handy for looking up addresses and info while wandering around.
2. While the cabs were incredibly cheap, not all of them were as clean and in good condition as we would have liked. Uber had been cancelled when we were there but it’s currently been reinstated. In case Uber is not available again, try this car service recommended by a friend. High end, clean cars like S-Class Mercedes Benzs, polite drivers and cheaper fares than the cabs. Taipei Car Service: 092520160
Thank you, Cindy, for all your spot on food recommendations! And thanks, Dad, for taking me on this wonderful trip. Travelling is the best quality time you can have with someone, especially when you both like to explore, discover new things and eat like we do. It was relaxing, it was so easy to get around the city, we had amazing food, and everyone was so nice and polite! What more could we ask for? You’re the best travel companion, Dad, and I can’t wait for our next trip! Tokyo, here we come!
What are your favourites places to eat and visit in Taipei? Do let me know because there will definitely be many more next times for me!