One of the things I was most excited about my trip was the yummy food, and Taipei definitely didn’t disappoint.
Tian Jin Flaky Scallion Pancakes
One of my first stops was Yongkang Street, home to tons of restaurants (including the world-famous Din Tai Fung). But the first thing I went for were the scallion pancakes, as recommended by a coworker.
The line wasn’t too long:
I actually didn’t mind waiting because I was overwhelmed with choices. By the time I reached the front, I still hadn’t decided so I asked one of the women cooking which she thought was best. She patiently gave me the rundown, and I ended up getting the one with egg, corn, and (get this) cheese.
It was really fucking good. And also super messy.
I also got some “butter” buns from the Sunmerry Bakery, and a mango ice bar and some instant coffee from a convenience store. I absolutely loved the wide variety of instant coffees in Taipei.
Huaxi and Guangzhou Street Night Markets
On my second day, I visited the Huaxi and Guangzhou night markets, which are basically right next to each other. In a nutshell? I didn’t love them.
While I appreciated them, I liked Yongkang Street better. I couldn’t tell what things were at the night markets, and while I knew I should have made like Anthony Bourdain and sat down at a ratty table and slurped up some unidentifiable noodles, I couldn’t bring myself to do it.
I did eat one thing though: a cream-filled “egg cake.”
It was light and tasty.
Kao Chin Xiao Long Bao
Another place I was really looking forward to was Din Tai Fung, the well-known xiao long bao chain. True, they have locations in the U.S. but only on the west coast. Plus I wanted the whole experience of eating at the original location on Yongkang Street, long line and all.
I waited until my birthday, which was near the end of my trip, and got there early. But it was closed! Not only that, all the locations in Taipei were closed that day. Why I don’t know. The apologetic girl told me but I didn’t understand.
I thought, Oh well, guess I’ll have some noodles for breakfast then, went around the corner, and ran into Kao Chi, which I had read online is basically the second best place in Taipei for xiao long bao. And since it was so early — just after 10 .a.m. — the place was almost empty.
I got the pork and they were really good. They seemed fattier than ones I’ve tried in the U.S., in a good way.
CoCo Curry House, Fried Chicken, Family Mart
To be honest, after a couple of days, looking for stuff to eat became a chore, mostly because of the language barrier (while I understand and speak Mandarin, I quickly learned I don’t understand or speak that well). So I got food to go from places where the staff were nice and didn’t mind my terrible Chinese.
My go-tos were CoCo Curry House, a fried chicken chain I can’t remember the name of, and my favorite convenience store, Family Mart. Several times, after a long day of traipsing around the city, I’d stop at CoCo Curry House or the fried chicken place (both in the mall where my hotel was) and get something to eat in my room. I’d shower, fire up Netflix, and pig out. It’s my vacation and I’ll be an introverted bum if I want to.
From Family Mart I’d get tea eggs for something ridiculous like 10 cents each as well as these surprisingly delicious “butter raisins” buns
In fact they were better than the butter buns I got at Sunmerry, but that might have just been that particular variety. Of course I still ate them.
Terrible smell mystery solved
While I loved going to the Family Mart near my hotel, I kept smelling something awful right outside it. I thought it was something like an open sewer. Then my last night, while I was waiting in line to buy more tea eggs and raisin butter buns, it finally hit me: it was chou dofu, or smelly tofu, a Taiwan specialty. I had noticed a guy with a tofu cart but hadn’t put two and two together until then.
I confirmed with the lady who was waiting in line in front of me. At first she looked at me like I was nuts, but then laughed when I said I was visiting from America and had never smelled it before. She reassured me it tasted good. I’m sure she was right, but I was too chicken to try it.
Next up: museums and culture.