Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Taste of Taipei

Ron wearing some
traditional Taiwanese garb
Here’s a post by my friend, Ron, who lived in Taiwan for 9 years between 1994-2002 and returns annually to see his family and gorge himself with the “best food on the planet.”  Hence his focus on Taiwanese cuisine!

From the airport - hitch a ride by bus to get into Taipei. It costs about $5 and takes a little more than an hour. They'll even load your bags for you too. The trick is to identify which bus will take you straight to your location. Good luck. 

Around Taipei - take the MRT. It's super clean and located practically everywhere. Get a card from any station or convenient store and swipe in and out (by sensor) into the stations. And, it’s cheap to travel in Taipei, around 70 cents for a quick trip around the city! Beware though, this will make you hate the US public transit systems for their inefficiencies.

Bus - You'll need a lot more local knowledge and time to figure the system out.  If you have established a route, taking the bus will save you a few cents.  FYI - If you connect from the MRT to bus, you can save around 20% on the bus fair.

High speed rail - Connects Taiepi to some other major cities and will cost around $45 for the cross-country ride.  It doesn't yet go down the beautiful eastern half of Taiwan though.

General Tips:
Night Market with Street Vendors
Eating is cheap. Standard lunches are $3-4 and high end meals go for around $8.  And, no tipping at restaurants. You’ll be ostracized!  Importantly, item prices are almost always clearly labeled and there's no reason to fear getting scammed or ripped off. If you buy something from street vendors, you might be able to get a bargain, especially if you buy larger quantities.

Rice Balls
In Taipei, every block is filled with stores and restaurants. Life really revolves around food. Without fail, a typical conversation will include "Where are you? What did you eat?" I have friends who return to Taiwan just to eat the instant meals from the 7-11 chain! There are $1-2 items ranging from simple Taiwanese rice balls to full meals. At these convenient stores, you can do everything from paying bills, buying transportation cards, purchasing concert tickets, and getting a half decent cup of coffee!

But, if you're doing a blitz of Taipei, don't eat too much in one place. Snack all over: grab potstickers here, noodle soups there, and shaved ice somewhere else.  How do you know where is good to eat?  Unlike in the United States, word of mouth (i.e. asking someone what's good) is usually accurate. I find recommendations from elders generally better than my peers (maybe due to more refined taste?).  Here are some cheap good eats: Mcdonald's fried chicken. Okay. I know you don't want to eat McDonald's abroad, but the fried chicken is unique and seriously worth it!  Two pieces for $2.

Regarding local restaurants, Din Tai Fong (鼎泰豐) is my first stop in Taipei. You'll only spend $15 and get enough food for 3 adults (i.e. my hungry belly)! There are a few locations within Taipei and while some swear that the quality is different between them, I think they're approximately the same. I also like the classic feel of the original Xin Yi Lu Store (信義路店).  They're known for their soup dumplings, but I usually go for their chicken noodle soup and shrimp fried rice. Get their small appetizer plates too! You can read in the bookstore next door while you wait for your number to be called, but be careful - they force you to walk up a narrow staircase which my sister swears she’ll fall down someday.  

For a classic lunch meal in Taiwan, I recommend Hu Xu Zhang (鬍鬚張) and their braised pork over rice. A full meal with soup and side dishes will cost $3.  Finally, I recommend Overseas Dragon’s (四海遊龍) delicious potstickers for about 15 cents each. Their hot and sour soup is excellent too!  Even if you don’t make it to these specific restaurants, everywhere around Taipei you’ll find good traditional beef noodle soup. The older the store, the tastier and more unique the meal. I find the best places also serve these yummy steamed side dishes:
                                                                 Enjoy Taiwan!


  1. Food are exciting indeed in Taipei. Great post thanks for sharing these info.

    1. Thanks for stopping by the blog and for the positive feedback!

  2. I love Taiwan! Go Taiwan! My question: how safe is Taipei? Can you give safety tips? Thanks!!!!

  3. As an elderly person, I don't travel much anymore. but I used to enjoy traveling so much, and now, through these entries, I find myself feeling that excitement all over again. It's delightful! Thanks!