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Food & Dining in Taiwan
 
 
 
 
 

General

Culinary styles in Taiwan come from all over China including Canton, Hunan, Mongolia, Peking, Shanghai, Szechuan and Taiwan. Taiwanese cuisine is known for its seafood dishes and flavourful, slightly heavier sauces. Sweet desserts and bubble tea are also ubiquitous and worth a try. Most hotels have restaurants offering both Western and Chinese cuisine, and some of the larger hotels offer several styles of Chinese cooking (the Chinese word for hotel, fan-dien, means ’eating place’).

Most cities and towns in Taiwan are famous for special foods because of the Taiwanese passion for food and influences from many different countries. For example, Ilan is famous for its mochi, a sticky rice snack often flavoured with sesame, peanuts or other flavourings. Yonghe, a suburb of Taipei, is famous for its freshly made soy milk and breakfast foods. Taichung is famous for its sun cakes, a kind of sweet stuffed pastry and the best place to buy some is arguably Taiyang Tang along Freedom Road (where the pastry was supposedly invented). In Chiayi, it's square cookies, also called cubic pastry, crispy layered cookies cut into squares and sprinkled liberally with sesame seeds. Tainan is particularly famous among the Taiwanese for its abundance of good food. The most famous dish is arguably the coffin bread. Virtually every city has its own famous specialities; many Taiwanese tourists will visit other cities on the island simply to try the local foods and then return home.

Taiwan also has remarkably good bakery items. Most specialise in sweet Chinese pastries or Western pastries adjusted to local tastes, but look out for We Care bakeries which also offer Western options such as whole wheat loaves, sour breads and ciabatta.

Places to Dine

Taipei

Taipei probably has one of the highest densities of restaurants in the world. Almost every street and alley offers some kind of eatery. In addition to Chinese cuisine, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean and Italian cuisines are also popular. Basically, East Taipei, especially around Dunhua and Anhe Roads, and also the expatriate enclave of Tian Mu are where to clash chopsticks with the rich and famous, whereas West Taipei offers more smaller, cosy restaurants.

Jingzhao Yin in Zhong Zheng and Wang's Tzungzu in Bei Tou offer traditional Taiwanese dishes, but the variety of regional Chinese food does not stop there. Sung Chiang Hsien Ping Porridge in Tian Mu and Jiang Huang Beef Noodle in Da-An both go beyond dim sum to include northern favourites as well as southern comfort foods often served for breakfast. Many find them are suitable for any time of the day. Cantonese style traditional cuisine is found at Silks House in Zhong Shan and the old-school Wanhua I Tion Lung Dumpling House.

Taipei's native cuisine with a new twist is a much celebrated phenomenon, with top accolades going to the designer-created Fifi. The whimsically constructed Driftwood is part bar, part restaurant and lots of fun in Song Shan, specialising in indigenous cuisine and art.

For a complete novelty and a theme that actually works, try Jail, a restaurant in a former correctional facility, where patrons have the option of being handcuffed as they are lead to their tables.

Buddhist-inspired Chinese vegetarian cuisine can be found throughout Taipei, including Song Shan's Fahua Vegetarian Restaurant.

Other regional cuisines from the Mainland include Peking duck, spicy Sichuanese and delicate Shanghainese, all easily attainable. Whatever your favourite style of Chinese, you are sure to find it.

Between the top-end restaurants and the night market food stands, there are plenty of inexpensive to moderately priced eateries. If you would like to see and sample a selection of Taipei's best, stop in at Yuanhuan Snack Market around lunchtime.

A restaurant's status depends on how crowded it is around 7 pm, and some places take it as a point of pride to never upgrade their dining rooms, the point being that all the restaurant's attention goes into making high quality food. However a growing number of restaurant owners have put effort into creating attractive dining rooms, usually with an homage towards traditional Chinese hospitality and guest comfort or in chic, ultra modern designs.

In Taipei, the best bet for Western or Japanese food would be in Tian Mu or one of the international hotels. In the past few years, though, restaurants offering food from all over the world have popped up. For great Western food and especially breakfast try Grandma Nitti's Kitchen in Da-An. Jake's Country Kitchen in Zhong Shan serves all day Western breakfast and reliably great Mexican food. If you crave fish and chips in an English pub setting, the long established Pig and Whistle is sure to please. For international cuisine plus an incredible view, stop in at Backyard for dinner over Taipei on a terrace in Shi Lin.

Taipei has several Indian restaurants, including Hindustan in Song Shan. There is even a competitive selection of French restaurants, many opened by chefs who trained in that country. If you are in Zhong Zheng, step into Champs Elysees for an unforgettable treat. German and Swiss favourites are found at Chalet Swiss, also in ZhongShan.

Diners looking for Italian cuisine in Taipei are spoiled for choice. A night out at Diamond Tony's Italian Bistro in Tian Mu is something to dress up for. More informally, but prepared with equal enthusiasm, is the home made pasta served up by Cello Pasta's husband and wife team in Da-An. 86 Café in Zhong Zheng has the look and feel of an American diner from the 1950s.

Thai and Vietnamese cuisines have a strong following in Taipei, with great restaurants in a variety of budgets ready to fill patrons' cravings for fish curry and noodles. Royal City in Song Shan serves both types of cuisine. Janny's Curry House in Zhong Zheng specialises in Burmese curry.

With the traffic of Japanese business travellers and tourists, along with the colonial history Taiwan shares with Japan, there is also a wide variety of sushi and teppanyaki restaurants plus lots of tasty ramen stands worth looking into. In Song San, Kikutsuru is wildly popular. Le Shan Niang Shi Pin Hang has a Chinese name but a Japanese heart in Zhong Shan. Lin Sen North Road has several authentic restaurants that originally catered to Japanese travellers.

In Taipei, a visit to the night market is a must. Many districts have their own, but the most popular include the Shi Lin Night Market, Huashi Night Market, Tong Hua and Shi Da. Join the many young couples and families browsing and bargaining among clothing and knick knack stalls, then stop and try some of Taiwan's best-known snacks. Chou Do Fu ('Smelly Tofu') is similar to blue cheese. Deep fried and covered in hot sauce, it is quite palatable. Many skeptical foreigners end up having a deep affection for it by the time they leave Taipei. You will also find delicious fried and steamed meat-filled buns, oyster-filled omelets, refreshing fruit ices, and a wide variety of things fried or roasted on a stick.

 

 
 

 



 


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