The Taipei holiday is now over and we’d soon be back to work, so it’s time for some due diligence! All in all, 2015 has been a great year for travel and capping it off with a visit to our neighbour up north turned out to be the sweetest, juiciest mango on top of the shaved ice–yeah, sorry for forcing the metaphor.
Now TWT has always blogged about hiking and mountains and how to basically f*ck your body up with extreme physical stress, but this one’s going to be different. In a span of six days, I may have eaten twice my body weight and burned the food down just as fast (the Apple tracker says I made at least 16,127 steps, peaking at 25,492 with a max distance of 21.81 kilometres a day, just walking).
How do you eat in Taipei? Three words: in reckless abandon.
There are a lot of great food guides online including one from Taiwanvore, which did a recap of Bourdain’s Layover Taiwan episode. It mentions some of the staples like the gua-bao, milk tea, noodle soup, shaved ice, stinky tofu, so on and so forth. For everything else, scroll down.
Taiwan is the birthplace of Hot Star Large Fried Chicken (and no, they don’t serve it with rice). This branch at the Ximending area is always full of people, so have the patience to line up. Side note: the reason why we impulsively booked a flight to Taiwan in the first place is because of lunch at the Eastwood branch.
To all the seafood lovers out there, this city is for you. You will find squid, oysters, conch, prawns in virtually every night market with prices that are dirt cheap.
Grilled mushrooms! This, to me, is an instant hit! They cut it up in small pieces and flavour it with chili, lemon and pepper, and even barbecue powder. Mushrooms tend to have a really weird texture, so they’re not for everyone. Haha!
These sugar-coated tomatoes are oddly delicious, precisely because of the sweet-sour contrast and whoever thought of this is a genius. Taipei night markets actually offer a lot of sugar-coated things like pears and strawberries. And if I sugar-coat my heart and display it at Shilin or Rou He, then maybe some love-god could finally send a Filipino-German beauty queen to take it home. HAHAHA. Fucker. This is worse than toilet humor.
Minced pork, scallions, and pepper. Do not miss the pepper buns. Don’t.
Chinese / pork sausage on a sticky bun with your condiment/s of choice. This is what your wet, calorie-stuffed dreams are made of. Look again. You need to eat right now.
Have fresh fruits for dessert and wash the sin away with bottles of beer. You can apologize to your liver much later on in life.
My bit of advise: do not make dinner reservations–instead, spend your nights going around the city, eating out in markets and small alleys. From my POV, Taipei is so much more interesting in the evening regardless which area you’re in (Ximending, Tam Sui, Banquiao, whatever). Lunch is the time to check out the restaurants with rave reviews.
Din Tai Fung (No. 194 Sec. 2, Xinyi Road, Taipei City)
House of the legendary xiao long bao that has already traveled the world through a franchise. We ate at the Taipei 101 branch, but I figured, a visit to the original one near the Dongmen station is still worth the MRT ride.
James Kitchen (No. 65, Lane 31, Yongkang St, Da’an District, Taipei City)
There are some things that only locals can confirm, for example, the claim that James Kitchen is the go-to place for the best of Taiwanese home-cooking (with Japanese ballads playing at the background!). This small, inconspicuous restaurant is also found near the Dongmen Station. What we tried: garlic friend bread and oysters, bean curd mushroom rolls, onion lard rice, some chicken dish (I forget the name). Clams for the appetizer. Hahaha!
And now for the bomb!
Tian Wai Tian (2F., No.76, Kunming Street, Wanhua District, Taipei)
Sweet baby Jeezusss. Tian Wai Tian is the mother of unlimited hot pot places (or maybe not because there’s another barbecue and hot pot place in Ximending called Rakuya haha). Two hours of my last day in Taipei were appropriately spent stuffing myself out in this food paradise. It has a very good selection of meats (duck, lamb, and more duck), seafood (like four different kinds of crabs), and vegetables, unlimited Haagen-Dazs, tea-coffee-juices-yakult-soda.
The challenge: you have to find it because there is no English name plate. Just look for a glaring red sign across Just Sleep Hostel.
Trust me on this. The above photo does not give justice to the glutton’s gateway to hell. There are a lot of other places that we had to forego because of lack of time and space (newsflash: your stomach can only expand four times its size).
Still, about half of my travel money went to food. Just food. Just walking around or sitting down, attacking what freaking looks edible. If you ask me if a second or a third visit to Taipei would be worth it, I’d say yes because of the food. If somebody would give me a plane ticket now, I’d gladly take it and eat again, until the Philippine embassy is forced to ship me back home in a box or on a stretcher.
I regret nothing.