Friday, September 30, 2011

My Top Food Discoveries in Taipei

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"All we do is eat, eat, eat.", was what a Taiwanese friend replied when I asked  what they usually do during their free time. This wasn't surprising given the various food choices in Taiwan. The country's dishes are as diverse as its people, allowing locals and foreigners to enjoy a variety of cuisine. Add the fact that there are many food establishments and night markets in Taiwan that offer a lot of delicious and reasonably priced food. Eating out is definitely something they look forward to.

Thanks to my gourmand friends, I was able to taste and enjoy different foods during my visits in the land that invented the Pearl Milk Tea (Bubble or Boba Tea). In no particular order, here's a list of my favorite food discoveries  in Taipei:

Yummy Mango Shaved Ice 

1.  FnB's Mango Shaved Ice - FnB is a shaved ice store located at No. 15 YongKang Street (Hence, it's also known as YongKang 15). You'd easily notice it because there's always a long queue in front of this stall.  I was told this was the original Ice Monster (Bing Guan) which closed down then opened under a new name. Tourists and locals flock to FnB because of its large servings of shaved ice. Of course, you could finish one serving on your own if you're a glutton.  The Mango Shaved Ice is FnB's most popular offering because the chunks of sweet mangoes perfectly complement the fresh fruits, finely shaved ice, creamy milk, and delightful mango sherbet.  It's currently number 1 in my shaved ice list!

Hot off the grill: Taiwanese Sausage

2. Taiwanese Sausage -  It's not a hotdog! This fatty pork sausage sold by street food or night market vendors is either grilled or baked and  is quite tasty. It looks a lot like the Filipino longganisa but it's surprisingly not as sweet.  Interestingly, I was told that most Taiwanese prefer to cook the sausage sans garlic. Hence, one will usually find a bowl of garlic on the side. I was asked to eat the sausage the local way - bite into a  piece of raw garlic then chew on the sausage. It was quite unusual as the raw garlic had a sharp, prickly taste yet the sausage seemed to burst with flavor after I've taken a bite of the garlic.

A bowl of Shiquan Ribs, please. 
3. Shiquan Ribs -  Imagine the look on my face when my Taiwanese friend said that she ordered a "Chinese Medicine Ribs Soup". Had  I known it earlier, I probably would not have eaten the Shiquan Ribs. That would have been a shame because the Shiquan ribs soup tasted so good even if it smelled like Chinese herbs. I was told it's one of the foods at Shilin Night Market that locals usually seek, even if its summer. (Cost: NT$70)

Vermicelli at Shilin Night Market  
4. Vermicelli -  This Vermicelli  at Shilin Night Market totally surprised me  because  the noodles looked limp and had very few toppings (chopped garlic and soy sauce). This was totally opposite the vermicelli that's usually served in the Philippines which has lots of vegetables and chicken. Yet this one was very tasty even if it has no meat. It also had a slight hint of garlic. I practically finished a whole plate that was good for 2 to 3  persons. (Cost: NT$30)

The long and winding queue for a Hot Star Chicken at Shilin Night Market
5. Hot Star Fried Chicken  - This is the largest piece of  deep-fried chicken chop I've ever seen. It's almost as big as one's face! And it tastes so damn good! It's very crisp on the outside and juicy on the inside.  This is so popular in Taiwan that one should expect long queues especially if one buys at its stall in Shilin Night Market.  Hot Star Fried Chicken comes in regular and spicy flavors. Best eaten while its hot. Be warned: It can be quite overwhelming to finish it on your own.

Frog eggs, anyone?
6. Frog Lay Eggs -   Someone tricked me during my first visit to Taipei and told me that this was an exotic drink made from frog eggs. Actually, it's a refreshing, cool drink with dark, tapioca balls and some Aiyu jelly.  It has a slight citrus taste. Perfect to drink when you're walking around the hot and humid Taipei. Frog Lay Eggs has stalls all over Taipei, just look for that toad on the logo.

Oyster Omelet
7. Oyster Omelet - This is a staple snack in Taipei and looks a bit different from the oyster omelet sold in Chinese restaurants. This egg omelet with oysters has a sweet-tasting sauce on top that takes a a little getting used to. Yet somehow, it works.

Enjoy your meal on a toilet bowl

8. A meal at The Modern Toilet - Once a shop that sells ice cream in containers shaped like squat toilets, the Modern Toilet Restaurant has grown into a popular theme restaurant for people with a sense of humor. Aside from its amusing concept, you'd love its delightful meal sets (breaded pork, chicken curry, etc.) and ice shavings.

Inside The Modern Toilet
So what does this remind you of?
The Modern Toilet restaurants in Taipei are located at No. 184 Wunlin Road, Shihlin District and at Simending, in the Wanhua District. There are also Modern Toilet restaurants outside Taipei City.

Have fun at Sit-Fun!
9. Local dishes at Sit-Fun Shih Tang Restaurant - More popularly known as Sit-Fun, this restaurant draws a lot of diners because it offers authentic Taiwanese food at reasonable prices. As my Taiwanese friend puts it, "This is the kind of food we eat at home."  Interestingly, this restaurant does not have a menu. You go to a counter, look at the available food for that day and ask the staff to cook it (This is where it helps to eat with a local. Otherwise, you just point at what you want to eat.).  One dish can be good for 2 or 3 persons. When I ate here with my friends, I was fortunate to try two of their special dishes: The steamed chicken drumstick and the pork braised in sugar. The former was a more delectable version of the Hainanese chicken while the latter was simply a sinful, glistening, melt-in-your mouth pork meat and fat. 
Upon entering Sit-Fun, you'll see this counter where you should place your order.

The house specialty: Steamed Drumstick

Not for those with high cholesterol levels: Braised Pork
Sit-Fun is located at #5, Lane 8 Yong Kang Street. Although it has a lot of diners, the restaurant is surprisingly quiet (maybe because of the lights?) and quite charming because of its Japanese colonial style interiors. 

Pearl Milk Tea, gotta have it!
10. Pearl Milk Tea. Of course, my Taipei trip won't be complete without trying a Pearl or Boba Milk Tea.  I'm thankful my Taiwanese friends allowed me to try different Bubble Tea drinks. Among those I've tried, the Pearl Milk Tea at The Tea Shop in Yong Kang Street is the best so far. It had a subtle sweetness and the mixture of the tea and milk tasted light rather than heavy. The pearls or boba were soft and chewy yet not sticky. Best of all, this Pearl Milk Tea tasted good even if wasn't cold anymore (I had to take the MRT so I wasn't able to finish immediately my bubble tea).  As I wasn't able to take note of the store's Chinese name (let me know if you find out), here's how its stall looks like in case you want to look for it:

The Tea Shop stall in Yong Kang Street. 

If you noticed, a lot of my food finds are in Shihlin or at Yong Kang. That's because Shihlihn Night Market has a lot of hawker or street food stalls selling everything from stinky tofu to candied fruits. Yong Kang Street, on the other hand, is one of the favorite places of tourists because there's a variety of interesting shops, cafes, and restaurants in this area. The original Din Tai Fung restaurant, which is well-known for its xiao long bao, is actually located at the entrance of Yong Kang Street. 

Anyway, if you've been to Taipei, what's your best food discovery?  If you haven't been to Taipei, what food would you want to try when you get there? 

Thanks to my Taipei travel buddies Neeko Molon for the Modern Toilet photos and Oliver Alvarez for the Pearl Milk Tea photo.


  1. I want to try that Mango Shaved Ice, at kumain sa inidoro. :) Happy weekend, Rain. I enjoyed reading this. :)

  2. Best to try eating them with your friends!:-) Thanks and have a great weekend too!

  3. Hot Star Fried Chicken!!!


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