eating our way through taipei in a day.
james and i got back from our honeymoon to bali, indonesia last week, but that'll be a separate blog post; this post is for the layover.
the layover for our flight was in taipei, taiwan. of course i booked it so that we had a whole day to spend (eating) in taipei before we continued onto the rest of our journey.
in trying to eat as many places as possible, i wasn't able to order as much as i wanted to in each spot. we usually just ordered enough to be a small meal for one and split it. it was hard to pace myself, but it was all worth it in the end.
Fu Hang Dou Jiang
nearly every flight i've ever taken to taiwan arrives at five in the morning, so the first thing i always want to do when i finally get through immigration and have traveled into the city is get some breakfast! this flight was no exception and there is no better place to get taiwanese breakfast than at fu hang. we had tian dou jiang (sweet soymilk), mine hot, his cold. we split a you tiao ("oil stick" - basically a savory donut stick) and hou bing (thick flatbread). we also each had dan bing (egg pancake).
everything at fu hang is great, but they are particularly famous for their hou bing. usually, a thinner version called shao bing is the taiwanese breakfast staple, but they make a thick version of it here (hou translates to "thick") that is baked on the inner walls of a tandoor oven like naan.
darin dines offers better coverage of its location and the wait involved with getting food here (but at this early in the morning, we only waited in line for fifteen minutes!)
No. 108 2F, Zhongxiao East Road, Section 1
(MRT Shandao Temple Station, exit 3)
it was around 9am when we finished breakfast and dropped our luggage off at the hotel. it was still too early to check into our room and we were definitely tired after our twelve hour flight, so we went on the search for some coffee. a quick internet search for good nearby coffee led us to melange cafe, which looked warm and inviting on the gray, rainy day that it was. they weren't really serving any food yet (which was a bummer because their waffles looked amazing), but they did have quite a selection of coffees. i stuck with my usual cappuccino and james ordered their iced dutch water drip coffee.
the iced coffee came in it's very own little carafe and a large glass with both regular ice as well as a coffee ice cube. it was all very fancy, which was perfect since it was also james' birthday!
No. 23, Lane 16, Section 2, Zhongshan North Road
(MRT Zhongshan Station, exit 2)
Din Tai Fung
it was just before 10am when we finished up at melange cafe, which also happens to be opening time for din tai fung! even though we have several in the los angeles area, it's just so much better in taiwan. i don't know what it is exactly, but some combination of the water, the bamboo baskets and cotton liners (in the US, they use steel baskets and single-use wax paper due to health regulations) and probably just skill. we split a single order of the standard xiao long bao (juicy pork dumplings), above, and the truffle pork dumplings, below, which has only five an order. simply amazing.
and of course, i had to order my favorite vegetable, which they also don't serve at the US locations: kong xing cai ('empty heart vegetable" also known as ongchoy or water spinach).
din tai fung has several locations in taipei, but we always try and go to the original one on xinyi road. it's in a smaller, more awkward space than the others, but i still think it's the best!
No. 194, Section 2, Xinyi Road
(MRT Dongmen Station, exit 5)
Lin Dong Fang Niu Rou Mien
another must-eat when visiting taiwan is niu rou mien (beef noodle soup), and lin dong fang is my favorite. there are various different kinds of beef noodle soup, but i'm having trouble finding anyone who goes into detail about them online (maybe a later post, yea?). while i like all of them, the lighter, but no less flavorful, herbal broths are what i prefer, and that's what they do at lin dong fang. and then each table has a cup of spicy beef fat you can add to your soup to taste. how can you say no to spicy beef fat?
having eaten quite a bit at this point, we just split one normal sized order of niu rou mien, with a couple add-ons. their cold, marinated pig ear appetizer is my favorite. most places serve pig ear that is too thinly sliced, too gelatinous and over seasoned. here they are big, meaty, fatty chunks that are a little salty and a little vinegary. perfect.
the other add-on was a plate of sliced stewed cow stomach. james isn't a fan (though he did eat one), so this was all for me. they are a bit bland on their own, but i added a couple slivers to each spoonful of noodles and soup and they were absolutely wonderful.
No. 274, Section 2, Bade Road
(MRT Zhongxiao Fuxing Station, exit 1)
we needed another caffeinated pick-me-up by mid-afternoon, so we headed over to cafe chamber. it's a small 1920's-shanghai-style speakeasy that serves a small selection of coffee, tea and whiskey. i believe you can even get a haircut there... it's worth reading more about over on taipei trends.
we had never been, and went really just to be able to check it out. from everything i've read, they get busier at night, but that afternoon it was just us and a table of three women chatting over drinks. it's a nice, quiet and dark space, and i'm sad we weren't able to enjoy it to its full potential, but it was exactly what we needed that afternoon just to recharge a bit over a coffee and a tea.
No. 30, Lane 4, Pucheng Street
(MRT Guting Station, exit 2)
Jun Yue Pai Gu
for a late afternoon snack or early dinner (at this point, does it matter?), we headed over to jun yue for another taiwanese staple and their namesake, pai gu (fried pork chop)! we shared an order of pai gu fan (fried pork chop rice), which comes with a small radish soup, a rice bowl with fresh and pickled cabbage and stir-fried tofu, and a fried pork chop with pickles.
i don't have much to say about this other than that it's delicious. the savory, salty and juicy pork chop, paired with rice and various pickles, all washed down with a clean and refreshing sip of radish soup. pai gu fan is one of those meals that travels well, too - lots of to-go orders were happening while we sat there eating, and i have many childhood memories of grabbing a bento box of this stuff to take on train rides. this is the taiwanese equivalent of fast food.
No. 447, Section 4, Ren'ai Road
(MRT Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall Station, exit 2)
Mango Cha Cha
another thing i absolutely love (and miss) about taiwan is the mangoes. i'm not sure about the details, but in the states, the mangoes we get from mexico and elsewhere in the americas are bigger, more fibrous and less sweet and less fragrant than the ones you can in the tropics of asia. while it wasn't mango season on our trip, we knew we could still get some tasty mango ice over at mango cha cha. i don't remember exactly which one we ordered but it had mango shaved ice, fresh mango and mango ice cream. and weird little marshmallow hearts, but i didn't eat those. what i wouldn't give to have been there during mango season...
No. 562, Guangfu South Road
(MRT Xinyi Anhe Station, exit 2)
Ning Xia Night Market
last but not least, we had to hit up a night market. ning xia is a relatively small one, only a couple blocks long, but it is almost entirely focused on food, which is rare these days. vendors of fresh raw seafood you can select to have cooked for you, fruit stands, stewed everything, stinky tofu, roasted yams, noodle soups, fresh juices, etc, etc pack the street. it's amazing, and was ridiculously busy the night we went.
Yuen Huan Bien Oyster Omelettes
yuen huan bien is a storefront inside of ning xia night market, and they are famous for their oyster omelettes, another taiwanese specialty. it's a combination of oysters, veggies, egg and a glutinous ingredient kind of like mochi, but made from potato or tapioca starch i believe. there was a line out the door and you could watch their chef masterfully and efficiently busting out oyster omelettes. they also sold various other oyster and clam dishes, like oyster soup, so we split and omelette and a soup. and it's all topped off with a delicious sweet and savory sauce.
look at all those oysters! the soup was a simple one, with really just oysters and ginger and a bit of cabbage. the omelette is probably the best i've ever had. part of me wanted to order another one, but part of me knew i had to save room for another one of my night market favorites: fresh grilled squid.
i love watching the whole squid, skewered and grilled to order, as it cooks and gets basted with a soy-based sauce. once it's cooked, they cut it all up into bite-sized pieces, and throw it in a bag with a couple toothpicks so you can continue to walk and eat. it's one of my favorite things, but i can honestly say that about everything i ate throughout the day....
(MRT Shuanglian Station, exit 1)
after the night market, we headed back to the hotel to catch some shut eye. we were up with the sunrise the next morning to pack, check out, and head back to the airport for a 10am flight to bali. there is so much more amazing food in taipei i wish i could have gotten around to eating - it's so hard to balance the places and dishes i crave with new places i've never been. i guess that just means we'll have to go back!