Taipei is a powerhouse of innovation, having steadily transformed from industrial to digital in so many ways. No wonder, small as it is compared to the “mega-cities” of Asia, it has been named as one of the 20 top “smart cities” in the world. But innovation has gone beyond the digital realm to the most important of all – food. Taipei’s gastronomy is something that cannot be missed if you are a big fan of Asian food. The combination of Taiwanese, Chinese and hints of Szechuan, Japanese, Malay fusion is really an awesome treat. And Taiwanese sure know how to sell their food.
Last month, my trip to Taipei in search of innovative ideas to help grow smart cities and develop startups and strike a productive interface in between – also gave me the opportunity to sample some of Taipei’s most “talked about” (virtually) “must eats.
Before the food tour, let me whip up some valuable tips –
- Always come to Taipei with a food list. Research to build your list well and do not be easily swayed by just one review. Do some cross referencing.
- Remember Taiwanese Dollar is so high in value. 100 NT is equivalent to 4 USD and to 200 PHP. So check the prices first. (I always but NT dollars in the Philippines outside the airport where there is no service charge – to get the most value of your PHP)
- Do not overbuy. Just a sample of the food you want to taste and always go for the specialy of the house
- Make sure you carry your own water. There are usually no service water so you have to buy bottled water.
Easily my top pick is Lin Dong Fang’s Beef Noodles. We were brought to its original site at Zhongshan District, and I was so glad we had to skip the long queue when we got there since once of our hosts, Linda Huang, a fellow AVPN fellow, already reserved a table. The beef was so tender and special chili paste to add zest to the soup. We really enjoyed the treat.
We also got to sample street food in the different night markets. We were able to go to three night markets – Tonghua, Shillin and Ximending. I could not get to eat the famous “stinky tofu” but just sampled some of the familiar ones. We had to line up for half an hour to get hold of the “torched wagyu cubes”. The streetfood are mosly NT 100 or 4 USD (roughly 200 Pesos).
I had several opportunities to try the “braised” pork or beef with rice – it’s like our rice toppings. I also enjoyed the oyster pancake, which is also common in Singapore, but this time I go to watch how its was cooked.
I had the J & G Popcorn 1973 Fried Chicken on a stick and also watched how it is being cooked. It’s like our “chicken joy” in the streets of the Philippines. I also tried the Popocorn Chicken King, particularly at the Tonghua Market. They actually fried all kinds of edible food – meat, vegetables, tofu, seafood – some I can no longer identify.
At Ximending, we sampled some beautiful shaved ice creations – these are very sweet dessert with different toppings using very finely shaved ice.
We ate at a Japanese-Taiwanese buffet restaurant – Shin Yeh, although it was a timed buffet (around 3 hours) but it was very enjoyable. For the first time, I sampled a smoked salmon, right after it was “smoked” with herbs.
We had our share of fine dining because of the international conference I attended. One amazing event was at Meridien, one of Taipei’s most expensive hotel.
The one thing we cannot miss is going to Din Tai Fung – Taiwan’s pride that’s already in many parts of the world. Looking at all the chefs in action from behind a glassed kitchen is simply breath-taking. My top choices – of course, xia long bao, beef noodles, taro dumpling ang pork bun. All perfect.
And finally, we cannot get enough of Taiwan’s most famous drink – the bubble tea! We practically drank every day.
So there. I am sure there are a lot more that we missed in this trip. But Taiwan is just a stones throw away and I am sure looking forward to another trip in this beautiful city.
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