Taipei Part 1: Restaurants

Okay, the story about this post being weeks later than I wanted it to be is that on the day that I wanted to upload it, ImageShack was being stupid and not uploading the majority of my photos (I’ve since disowned it in favor of imgur, so it’s okay now) and my Internet was bad and I was generally in a bad mood because I had to leave home for the US soon, so I just kind of threw this whole post to the side and stomped away.

But now I’ve stomped back in a much better mood, so without further ado, let’s take a look at some restaurants in Taipei!

Taoyuan Street Beef Noodles (桃源街牛肉麵 tao yuan jie niu rou mian)

No. 15 Taoyuan Street, Jhongjheng District, Taipei
台北市中正區桃源街15號 tai bei shi zhong zheng qu tao yuan jie shi wu hao
Phone:  02-23758973

This isn’t the most glamorous of stores – it doesn’t even have a big sign above it, which is why I don’t know its name, although I’m sure it has one – but it’s always been a stop on family trips to Taipei.  After a (usually short) wait, the staff usher you in to perch on stools around a rickety little table and immediately demand what you would like to eat.  The beef noodles come in two varieties, clear broth (清燉 qing dun, top) and spicy red broth (紅燒 hong shao, bottom).  Only get the clear broth if you can’t take spicy food at all – the red broth is by far the best!

The noodles here are always of a consistent quality, not too soggy and always Q – a Taiwanese term roughly meaning “chewy” – and the beef is just good.

The staff will probably also ask you if you want any snacks, or 小菜 xiao cai.  These consist of pig’s trotters (豬腳 zhu jiao), pickled vegetables (泡菜 pao cai) and another option, 排骨 pai gu.  Now, pai gu normally translates to “pork chops”, but what we got was a mass of rice, fat and bone, with scarcely any meat to be found.

If I were you, I’d go without xiao cai or get the pickled vegetables, which have always been my favorite.  So much for trying something new!

Yaoyue Teahouse (邀月茶莊 yao yue cha zhuang)

No. 6, Lane 60, Section 3 Zhinan Road, Wunshan District, Taipei
台北市文山區指南路三段60巷6號 tai bei shi wen shang qu zhi nan lu san duan liu shi xiang liu hao
Phone:  02-29392025

Located in Maokong (貓空 mao kong), a high-up area of Taipei that’s famous for its tea plantations, the Yaoyue teahouse is popular among tourists, perhaps because it runs 24 hours.  Maokong can be accessed by cable car, a ride which is spectacular if you’re not afraid of heights.  (Recommendation:  like we did, go to the zoo during the day, then take the cable car from the stop right next to the zoo all the way up the mountain.  You can enjoy culinary delicacies like McDonald’s and vending machine snacks while you’re observing elephants and penguins.  Make sure to get to the far side of the zoo before 4:30 if you want to see the penguins though, otherwise you’ll miss them like we did.  I am so not bitter about that, what are you talking about?  Ahem.)

Once you get to the teahouse, get a table near the railing so you can see the entire city.

Then, send someone to get a box of tea from the shop at the front.  On some days, you can order dinner as well, although apparently most of the staff members were on break the day we went, so we were left with a pack of vaguely chip-like snacks as sustenance.  A few minutes after you’ve bought your tea, a staff member will come by and set up the kettle and various tea paraphernalia.  His instructions will be extremely confusing to you, even if you speak Mandarin.  We heard something like “one-quarter of the scoop”, so we dutifully put a quarter-scoop of tea into the pot, let it steep, poured it into the other teapot, poured it into cups, and were confused to find that we were drinking vaguely tea-flavored lukewarm water.

Here are my dauntless travel buddies, Steph, Marsha and Alex, hoping that this time the tea will actually taste like tea (yeah, we tried a couple of times).

My advice?  If you normally drink tea, just use your personal judgment to tell how much tea should go in.  We brewed some of the tea ourselves using a ton more tea leaves and it was very nice tea.

Din Tai Fung (鼎泰豐 ding tai feng)

Various locations; we went to the one on Xinyi Road.
No. 194, Section 2 Xinyi Road, Daan District, Taipei
台北市大安區信義路二段194號 tai bei shi da an qu xin yi lu er duan yi bai jiu shi si hao
Phone:  02-23215958
http://www.dintaifung.com.tw/

Din Tai Fung is a Taipei institution that has spread all over the world, including to Hong Kong, but we still thought we should have the authentic experience and try it in Taipei.  The menu is extensive, but the restaurant’s main claim to fame is their pork dumplings (小籠包 xiao long bao).

We also ordered a dish of pork chop and egg fried rice (排骨蛋炒飯 pai gu dan chao fan).  Now, this was appropriate use of the term pai gu.  The pork chops aren’t artificially soft, but not tough at all.  This is one of my favorite fried rice dishes.

Don’t forget your veggies!  We decided on a plate of fried shrimp and vegetables (蝦仁炒菜 xia ren chao cai) – I don’t recall what kind of vegetables these are, but they should all be good.

Dessert at Din Tai Fung is also always a treat, with taro buns (芋泥包 yu ni bao) and red bean paste buns (豆沙包 dou sha bao) available, among other things.  But we decided to go somewhere else (see Taipei post #2 for details on that)…

Slack Season (度小月 du xiao yue)

Various locations; we went to the one near Zhongxiao Dunhua MRT station.
No. 12, Alley 8, Lane 216, Section 4 Zhongxiao East Road, Taipei
台北市忠孝東路四段216巷8弄12號 tai bei shi zhong xiao dong lu si duan er yi liu xiang ba nong shi er hao
Phone:  02-27731244
http://www.iddi.com.tw/

Slack Season’s specialty is a Tainan dish known as 擔子麵 dan zi mian, consisting of thin noodles and minced meat in an addictive soup.  It’s traditional for people to eat far more than one bowl, but we wanted to save room in our stomachs for dessert.

Plus, there were other things to eat, like these vegetables with scallops (erm, I don’t remember what they’re called in Chinese)…

…this pork dish that I don’t remember the name of either (I was too busy eating to take note of what anything was called, okay?)…

…and my personal favorite, the deep-fried tofu.  This is like Japanese chawanmushi in tempura form.  It’s just…amazing.

I think you can tell that we really enjoyed ourselves.

I’ll cover Taipei street food in my next post!

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