I love Taipei. I've only been twice, in 2014 and 2015, and only for a few days each time, but I foresee many return visits in the future.
One of the reasons it's a great place to visit is the food. It goes without saying that Taiwan's capital is one of the THE places is to eat Chinese food. Every type of cuisine from China's mainland is represented there, to say nothing of the island's own unique specialties.
Where to begin? With tea, of course.
Taiwan is a tea-growing land, in fact there are tea fields on the edge of Taipei -- along with hot springs -- so you should definitely start with tea. I had my first Taiwanese tea at the National Taiwan History Museum, which is not to be confused with the more famous National Palace Museum. The history museum is in the city centre and features a beautiful garden, which the tea room overlooks through plate glass windows. I couldn't get a window-side table because all the seats were taken by art students sketching the garden. I ordered a tea set with snacks (see below). I enjoyed the lotus root tea, the cookie, and the rice snack, but I wasn't so keen on the flowery-soupy concoction in the bowl at left.
On both of my visits to Taipei, I stayed with my friend Mark, who lives in Danshui. Most visitors come to the area to visit Danshui Old Street, which is at the river mouth. Mark's apartment is a train stop or two before the tourist area. The walk from the station to his place goes through a local shopping area, where we stopped one day at a small neighbourhood buffet restaurant (pictured below). You can eat in or take out. Either way, you pay a little and get a lot!
Speaking of buffets, how about a congee buffet?
Now, I've never been a big fan of congee (rice porridge), finding it too bland to be of much interest. Turns out I'd been eating it the wrong way. If you go to a full-scale congee buffet, as we did one night in Taipei, there's lots to eat and while you can certainly put things in your congee bowl, you can also eat the other things and treat the congee itself as you would a bowl of rice. The congee buffet pictured below offered a multitude of tasty dishes to choose from. Best of all, the place was open -- and jumping -- at 2am after my friends and I had terminated our pub crawl. One of the reasons I love Asian metropolises is that they're so 24/7.
What about better known places?
I would be remiss not to mention Din Tai Fung. For those who might not know it, Din Tai Fung is a chain of dumpling restaurants in Taiwan. There are also overseas branches, including one that I've subsequently visited in the Myeongdong district of Seoul. I had never been to Din Tai Fung before, but Mark insisted that we had to go there because the dumplings were to die for. I was not disappointed. Sadly (or sensibly?), I was too busy eating to take a photo of the food. I did, however, snap a photo of the dumpling masters at work (see below).
And what's the coffee situation?
I was delighted to find a small coffee shop in Mark's street that uses Lao coffee beans. Ever since my days working in Ho Chi Minh City in the early '00s, I've liked the taste of coffee grown in the highlands of mainland Southeast Asia. This place, located in the arcade of a residential building, serves very robust Arabica coffee brewed any way you like. Cheap, too. I think I paid the equivalent of $2 for the cup pictured below.
Plus, one more image of tea and sweets.
Since this post is called 'Eating in Taipei,' I suppose it's cheating a little to include the pic below, which I snapped in my Seoul apartment, but I did buy these mini-mooncakes at Taoyuan International Airport in Taipei. The tea, high mountain Oolong, was also from Taiwan. I purchased it at a tea emporium in Danshui Old Street.
That's it for eating (and drinking tea) in Taiwan. I hope you're enjoying the 'Eating in ----' series. Next up: Eating in Chiang Mai!
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