There are all sorts of tasty – and even unusual – treats you should sample while there. Make sure to explore the gastro-jungle that is Taipei and nibble your way around town. (READ: 9 places to visit in Taipei)
Taipei night markets: eat, walk, love
Food lovers should head straight to one – or all – of Taipei’s night markets and eat where the locals eat. It’s a famous food destination for both residents and tourists, as it has a lot of unique food finds. Wear comfy shoes, take the metro and make your way to Shilin, Raohe, Shida or Ximending.
Probably the largest and most famous one is Shilin. Just a short walk away from the metro station, you’ll see hordes of foodies strolling around the area, stopping from stall to stall, and snacking their way around the marketplace. The place is so huge that my hubby and I didn’t know where to start. We simply picked one spot and walked from there.
Along the way, we devoured some grilled Taiwanese sausages, large deep-fried chicken cutlets, crunchy squid morsels, beef noodle soup, For those with more adventurous palates, do try some stinky tofu and skewers of mystery meat that you can find in selected kiosks.
It’s a good thing that most stalls have product pictures and prices on its signages so all we had to do was point out what we wanted since there was a bit of a language barrier.
Aside from food, the Shilin Night Market also had entertainment options. There’s a place where you can go shrimp fishing and eat the catch-of-the-day, and also an area with some sort of mini-carnival games that the kids and children-at-heart would enjoy.
The place could get really crowded but that’s part of the fun, I guess. We didn’t realize that we spent a couple of hours there just walking around and ogling the food finds. Before leaving, I bought some boxes of pineapple cake to take home. (Make sure to haggle and you might just get a free box for every five that you buy!)
The tea cuisine at Maokong
One of the highlights of my Taipei trip was traveling to Maokong via gondola and tasting its tea cuisine. Riding the gondola was a delightful experience for me. I enjoyed the picturesque views from the crystal cabin with the see-through glass flooring, and the cool breeze from the high-altitude ride – an elevation of almost 300 meters.
Tourists have the option to join tea tasting or tea plantation tours in Maokong but my husband and I decided to go sightseeing on our own. We were able to control our time and stop at the food stalls along the main path, but we chose to eat in a sit-down restaurant where we can get a taste of the specialty cuisine.
Since this locale was well known for its tea production, we made sure to order tea-infused food, and of course, some hot tea for drinking.
I’m used to sipping on instant teas at home, but I was able to taste the difference between the freshly brewed tea in Maokong and the one from tea bags. The one in Maokong was very light and floral – even in its scent.
Every time we would order, the server would tell us how many minutes we should wait before pouring the tea. It was a nice dining experience because we also had a good view of the city, which included a faint silhouette of the Taipei 101 building.
Delicious dimsum and dumplings at Din Tai Fung
You must not miss dining in Din Tai Fung where you can bite on the best xiao long bao (soup dumplings) you’ll ever taste. Instead of going to the original branch, we opted to go to the one in Taipei 101, and thought we made the right choice since there was a really long queue. We waited for over an hour to get a table at this world-famous restaurant!
Good thing the establishment has a number system and there was a decent mall where we were able to walk around and work up our appetite. When we finally sat down, we indulged our hungry tummies and ordered two kinds of dumplings, pork buns, and a noodle dish each.
We didn’t need to bring take-out bags since we finished every morsel on our plate. It was that good. The food was truly worth the wait.
The novelty of themed restaurants
Have a unique dining experience in themed restaurants like Modern Toilet and Hello Kitty Sweets. I have seen the Modern Toilet featured in international television shows and I couldn’t let the chance pass so I searched for its location with gusto. My manly hubby was kind of hesitant to eat from a toilet bowl, but I was able to make him eat sh*t anyway.
Despite being served from a mini-toilet bowl, the food was well presented, but just tasted so-so. I ordered fried chicken while my husband got the curry meal, both of which included a soft-serve chocolate ice cream for dessert (resembling the real thing you would normally see in a toilet bowl).
The dining experience was something new for us – our seats were covered toilet bowls, and there was a toilet theme all around the place. Restaurant patrons could even buy one-of-a-kind souvenirs.
I admit, the concept might be pretty gross, but it was especially fun to take pictures all throughout the meal. Eating there once was enough. I definitely want to try new stuff next time around.
As a freelance writer and editor, Nikka Sarthou-Lainez enjoys being her own boss and having the flexibility to indulge in her other passions like food and travel. Every year, she vows to visit places she has never been to and tick them off her bucket list. She hopes to be like chef/host Anthony Bourdain someday who journeys around the world to sample different cuisines, one plate at a time. Find out more about her travel and culinary adventures and follow her on Twitter @nikkasarthou
This story was first published in Rappler.com, a Manila-based social news network where stories inspire community engagement and digitally fuelled actions for social change.