Food in Taipei: 7 tips on eating your way through the city…
Taiwanese people take food very seriously. It seems to be a national pastime of sorts, with two floors of every shopping mall or department store dedicated to food, and entire markets, running both day and night, dedicated to selling produce or street food. You can even window shop, FOR FOOD! Here is what I wish I'd known before starting.
1. If I could do it all over again, I’d say to take a food tour the first day you arrive! The Taipei eats tour helped me get my bearings — too bad I was leaving the same day, and gave me a good introduction to dishes I had tried and hadn’t liked. I also got to see parts of the city I wouldn’t have had time to explore on my own.
2. Follow the long lines. Taiwanese people know their stuff. They know who is cheating you with cheap fillings, and who is the real deal. They are also willing to patiently queue for 15 minutes to get the right skewer. Go to the places with no line at your own peril — it rarely ended well for me. Shoutout to Auntie Susie -- yeah, I still haven't learned...
3. Don’t be afraid to look at what other people are eating. At the Ningxia night market, one of the best things I did was order what the people in front of me had ordered. The same trick worked in a tiny hole in the wall noodle shop not far from shandong temple.
4. Make sure you have a traditional breakfast… I stood in line for 40 minutes, but it was soon good. Again, these folks didn’t speak any english, so I had the lady at the hostel reception desk write my order out for me in Chinese characters. By the time I made it to the front of the line and handed them my little note, they were all smiles.
5. Don’t skip the department stores basements! I was upstairs looking for some clothing bargains when a Taiwanese lady grabbed my arm and steered me away from that particular section. She said it was too expensive there, and that there wasn’t anything to buy anyway. Then she dragged me down tot he basement, where I found miles of displays chock full of foods. From delicious beef and pork jerky, to dried fruit, etc., I saw the most beautifully presented food, and free samples too!
6. Din Tai Fung has locations all over Taipei: don’t wait in line, pick the least crowded branch. I’d been told that the branch inside the Taipei 101 should have a shorter line, but when I got there, the line was extremely long. The next day, I saw that there was a location in the basement of the Sogo Department Store. The line there was mostly for carry-out, so I was seated in ten minutes. Once the food arrived, the lines forming at every location made sense. The dumpling skin was delicate, and there was a soupy liquid inside the dumpling, with the pork. Another tip would be to study the menu carefully, these are the best English language explanations you’ll get anywhere in the city.
7. Beef Noodle Soup is Taipei’s staple food, and it comes in two variations, a reddish broth and a clear one. Both are excellent, so please don’t skip out on this. It’s sold everywhere, but Taiyuan or Tao-Yuan Street, located near the Presidential Office Building is THE place to seek it out.