Day 1: Chinese Breakfast at Yong He Dou Jiang
Chinese breakfast is a favorite in Taiwan. The Chinese equivalent to French toast, buttermilk pancakes and the full English, is fried crullers dipped in frothy hot soya milk, steamed pork dumplings, sticky filled rice wraps and fried cruller and egg wraps. Yong He Dou Jiang is one of the most famous breakfast brands in Taiwan with numerous shops across Taipei and abroad. Whilst you can go on the lighter side for breakfast with soya milk and fried cruller, it’s hard to say no to starting the day with a steamer full of steamed pork dumplings filled with soupy goodness.
Day 1: Lunch at Ben Shabu Shabu
Hotpot is a standard communal dish across East Asia, with a tremendous range of soup bases and styles. Taipei is a prime place for hot pot, whether of the Sichuanese split-pot variety, known as ‘mala hot pot’, Japanese style shabu shabu and sukiyaki, or Taiwanese hot pot with shacha sauce and raw egg yolk. Whilst traditionally communal, individual hotpot has become popular in Taipei and can be found in shopping centers throughout the city. Ben Shabu Shabu is a high-end hotpot restaurant that is amongst the most popular in the city.
Day 1: Afternoon Snack at Ice Monster
Taipei has perfected the art of chilled out food for a hot summer day. Hot and humid in the summer, Taipei residents find creative and tasty ways to stay cool. Having invented and popularized bubble tea and shaved ice desserts on a global scale, Taiwan’s icy desserts just keep getting better. Capitalizing on two of Taiwan’s best products: fruit and icy summer desserts, Ice Monster offers a tantalizing combination of shaved ice topped with fruit slices and ice cream, drizzled over with syrup. Ice Monster’s mango shaved ice comes as a small mountain of shaved ice covered in fresh mango with a dollop of mango ice cream. Perfect to stave off the sweltering Taiwanese summer.
Day 1: Dinner at Din Tai Fung
Din Tai Fung specializes in steamed soup dumplings, or xiao long bao. As with the founders of Taipei’s beef noodle soup shops, Din Tai Fung’s founder immigrated to Taiwan in 1948 as the Nationalist government withdrew from mainland China. Originally a cooking oil retailer, Din Tai Fung’s owners served steamed soup dumplings on the side from their Xinyi Road location. Now, Din Tai Fung has become the go-to for dim sum. If you fancy some vegetables, pea shoots, Taiwanese lettuce and water spinach are all excellent accompaniments. At the Taipei 101 location, you can watch the chefs masterfully making the xiao long bao behind a glass divider. Chinese desserts are often an acquired taste, but are well worth a try at Din Tai Fung. Its superb dessert options include steamed red bean dumplings, eight flavored sticky rice and steamed red bean rice cake.
Day 1: Late Night at Tonghua Jie Night Market
At nine o’ clock, it is time to head out for shopping and the requisite evening of Taiwanese street snacks. Just a normal street in the daytime, at night, the area became a hub of activity as street hawkers set up shop. From cassette tapes to Doraemon alarm clocks, Tonghua Night Market had a bit of everything. In addition to the lights and noise, Tonghua Night Market is filled with the distinct smell of taipei. Come hungry and grab a seat at a teppanyaki stall or, better yet, follow your nose and the crowds to the stinky tofu stands. If you’re up for something sweeter and with less of a stench, pick up a crepe-like wrap with shaved peanut brittle, ice cream and garnished with coriander. It is a strange combination, but an unmissable one.
Day 2: Breakfast at Mister Donut
A cheeky addition to the list, Mister Donut is actually a Japanese import, and one of the most popular. Cute to the core, Mister Donut has been immensely popular in Taipei. With its mascot Pon de Lion dancing around its store windows and shop signs, as well as bear doughnuts and pon de ring doughnuts. Mister Donut is actually more of a snack on the go. Doughnuts aren’t commonly eaten as breakfast items in Taiwan, and as far as doughnuts go, the flavors are so-so though the texture is nice and chewy. Catering to an Asian clientele, the doughnuts tend to be less sickly sweet than those from America. However, stop by Mister Donut to see what the buzz is about, take some photos of its cute display windows and grab one of its more unusual flavors, including matcha, almond and peanut.
Day 2: Lunch at Tao Yuan Beef Noodle Soup
Beef noodle soup is comfort food for Taiwanese. Whereas the Italians aim for al dente, in Taiwan, the sure sign of a good bowl of noodles is whether or not it’s QQ. Pronounced with a slight upward lilt, QQ describes the feel of the noodles, the perfect, just-right texture, not too soft and not too chewy. Accompanied by sides of pickled vegetables and pork ribs in glutinous rice, beef noodle soup is a must-eat on a trip to Taipei. Tao Yuan Beef Noodle Soup is a no-nonsense restaurant whose sole purpose for existing is to serve up the best beef noodle soup in Taipei. There’s no shop sign advertising its existence. In fact, the shop doesn’t even have a name. It’s just the ‘beef noodle soup place on Tao Yuan street’. Whilst most restaurants offer beef and tendon soups, Tao Yuan makes its soup with succulent chunks of beef, noodles that are, of course, very QQ. The tender meat and cooked-to-perfection noodles swim in a soup that’s beefy, greasy and spicy. Lighter soup broths are available, but the Taiwanese signature beef noodle soup is hong shao style, which comes from a combination of soya sauces and spices, infusing the beef and noodles with a dark, savory color and giving the soup a rich full-bodied flavor.
Day 2: Afternoon Tea at Chun Shui Tang | 春水堂
Bubble tea, also known as boba tea and pearl milk tea, is a uniquely Taiwanese cultural phenomenon that has spread to the rest of the world. Afternoon tea in Taiwan could mean English-style tea and cakes, or the Taiwanese variation of bubble tea and Chinese snacks. Chun Shui Tang is the original creator of the bubble tea craze, having come up with the idea of serving cold tea with milk and tapioca balls. Chun Shui Tang’s bubble tea with perfectly chewy tapioca balls can be accompanied by any number of tasty savory and sweet small dishes, including steamed shrimp balls, shao mai, sticky rice, Taiwanese sausages and red bean mochi.
Day 2: Taiwanese Dinner at Shin Yeh
Shin Yeh is where the Taiwanese go for authentic Taiwanese food. Gua bao, Taiwanese pork sandwiches with pickled vegetables, coriander and peanut crumble, may also found at night markets, but Shin Yeh’s is wonderfully compact with flavors that complement each other in perfect proportion. Three cup chicken and three cup calamari are both distinct Taiwanese dishes. Cooked in an iron pot, Chinese sauces are combined with basil and ginger to give the chicken or calamari a mouth-watering burst of flavor. Oyster omelet is also a classic Taiwanese dish worth a try. To end the meal, Shin Yeh offers complimentary sticky peanut-covered mochi that are deliciously chewy and textured.
Day 2: Late-Night at Shilin Night Market
Shilin Night Market is Taiwan’s foremost night market, popular with locals and tourists alike. Come for the bargains and the souvenirs, but save some cash for the cheap eats that line the streets. Stinky tofu makes its home here, of course, but so too do deliciously crisp pan fried dumplings, steamed gua bao (pork bun with peanut crumble), heaping bowls of shaved ice, sausage-wrapped-sausage and more. The streets are notoriously packed so come prepared for the tight squeeze.