It would take months to try all the incredible food that Taipei has to offer, such is the abundance of choices available. But for those with only a short stop in Taiwan’s capital, here are some of the best dishes to try and the restaurants at which to find them.
Yong He Dou Jiang is one of the most famous breakfast brands in Taiwan, and there are a few locations in the city. Here, you can experience what a real local breakfast tastes like, with the most popular items being a cup of frothy soy milk combined with fried youtiao, which is a kind of churro. For something a little more filling, try the steamed pork dumplings.
Hotpot is one of the most popular meals in Taiwan, and shabu shabu is often top of the hot pot list. Diners each get their own pot filled with a flavored broth of their choice, in which they can boil meat and vegetables. Ben Shabu Shabu is one of the best places in the city to try it out for the first time, but remember – try not to eat too much, as there’s still a snack and dinner ahead.
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.
Din Tai Fung specializes in steamed soup dumplings, or xiao long bao. Originally a cooking oil retailer, Din Tai Fung’s owners served steamed soup dumplings on the side from their original Xinyi Road location. Now, Din Tai Fung has become the go-to for dim sum. If you fancy some vegetables, the pea shoots, Taiwanese lettuce and water spinach are all excellent accompaniments. At many of their restaurants, you can watch the chef’s xiao long bao-making skills. The food at any of their restaurants is usually of a very high standard, but for convenience the Taipei 101 location is the place to be.
Tonghua night market is the perfect place to end a day of eating your way through Taipei. Although this night market has plenty of vendors selling clothes and all kinds of goods, locals really come here for the incredible street food. Try some green onion pancakes, some egg tarts, or even a little more shaved ice. And for the really adventurous diner, there’s always stinky tofu. Open till late at night, this is the ideal last stop on your first day.
Day 2: Dan bing for breakfast at any local breakfast shop
There are hundreds if not thousands of breakfast stores throughout Taipei, and between the hours of 5am and 12pm at least one can be found open on every street. Each store usually has a similar menu, and every single one of them will serve up the legendary Taiwanese breakfast item, dan bing. It’s a thin pancake with egg and a variety of fillings from bacon and tuna to cheese and sweetcorn, so there’s a dan bing to suit everyone’s tastes. It’s the staple item of a local breakfast, and for that reason it’s a must-have.
Food lovers the world over know that it’s in Taiwan where you’ll find the best beef noodles. And at Niu Ba Ba, only the best is on the menu. In fact, this is where you’ll find the world’s most expensive beef noodles that sell for a whopping US$330. Don’t worry though, there are many more affordable items on the menu. A nice hot bowl of Taiwan’s most famous dish is the best midday meal for a day of exploring, as it’s not too heavy but filling enough that you won’t go hungry.
Pearl Milk Tea is fast becoming the official drink of Taiwan, and no self-respecting local will go more than a week without having a cup. So for an afternoon snack, it’s time for a taste of the drink that is also a meal. Also known as bubble tea, this drink is available everywhere, but one of the most famous and popular chains is Chun Shui Tang. Here, you’ll find the classic drink of Taiwanese tea with milk and those incredibly filling tapioca balls.
As one of the most popular restaurants in Taipei, getting a table at Shin Yeh in Taipei 101 is no easy feat, but it is well worth the wait. Here, they cook up classic Taiwanese dishes, but to a level of perfection that is quite simply beyond compare. It’s no surprise that it is many locals’ favorite restaurant, and once you add the fact that the view is spectacular, you have found yourself the perfect location for your final big meal in Taipei.
Shilin is the most unmissable of all the night markets in Taipei and with good reason. This is the hub of Taipei street food. Sure, there may be some places that have better vendors or dishes, but for variety and selection, Shilin is one of the best. Try the oyster omelette or the interestingly named “sausage in a sausage.” You can even have a steak here if you’re that hungry. With Taiwan being so famous for street food, it’s fitting that your final snack should be here.