48 Hours In Taipei: A Culinary Guide To The Taiwanese Capital
By Stephanie Chang Avila
Chinese breakfast is a favorite in Taiwan. The Chinese equivalent to French toast, buttermilk pancakes and the full English, is fried crullers dipped in frothy hot soya milk, steamed pork dumplings, sticky filled rice wraps and fried cruller and egg wraps. is one of the most famous breakfast brands in Taiwan with numerous shops across Taipei and abroad. Whilst you can go on the lighter side for breakfast with soya milk and fried cruller, it’s hard to say no to starting the day with a steamer full of steamed pork dumplings filled with soupy goodness.
Hotpot is a standard communal dish across East Asia, with a tremendous range of soup bases and styles. Taipei is a prime place for hot pot, whether of the Sichuanese split-pot variety, known as ‘mala hot pot’, Japanese style shabu shabu and sukiyaki, or Taiwanese hot pot with shacha sauce and raw egg yolk. Whilst traditionally communal, individual hotpot has become popular in Taipei and can be found in shopping centers throughout the city. Ben Shabu Shabu is a high-end hotpot restaurant that is amongst the most popular in the city.
Taipei has perfected the art of chilled out food for a hot summer day. Hot and humid in the summer, Taipei residents find creative and tasty ways to stay cool. Having invented and popularized bubble tea and shaved ice desserts on a global scale, Taiwan’s icy desserts just keep getting better. Capitalizing on two of Taiwan’s best products: fruit and icy summer desserts, offers a tantalizing combination of shaved ice topped with fruit slices and ice cream, drizzled over with syrup. Ice Monster’s mango shaved ice comes as a small mountain of shaved ice covered in fresh mango with a dollop of mango ice cream. Perfect to stave off the sweltering Taiwanese summer.
specializes in steamed soup dumplings, or xiao long bao. As with the founders of Taipei’s beef noodle soup shops, Din Tai Fung’s founder immigrated to Taiwan in 1948 as the Nationalist government withdrew from mainland China. Originally a cooking oil retailer, Din Tai Fung’s owners served steamed soup dumplings on the side from their Xinyi Road location. Now, Din Tai Fung has become the go-to for dim sum. If you fancy some vegetables, pea shoots, Taiwanese lettuce and water spinach are all excellent accompaniments. At the location, you can watch the chefs masterfully making the xiao long bao behind a glass divider. Chinese desserts are often an acquired taste, but are well worth a try at Din Tai Fung. Its superb dessert options include steamed red bean dumplings, eight flavored sticky rice and steamed red bean rice cake.
At nine o’ clock, it is time to head out for shopping and the requisite evening of Taiwanese street snacks. Just a normal street in the daytime, at night, the area became a hub of activity as street hawkers set up shop. From cassette tapes to Doraemon alarm clocks, Tonghua Night Market had a bit of everything. In addition to the lights and noise, Tonghua Night Market is filled with the distinct smell of taipei. Come hungry and grab a seat at a teppanyaki stall or, better yet, follow your nose and the crowds to the stinky tofu stands. If you’re up for something sweeter and with less of a stench, pick up a crepe-like wrap with shaved peanut brittle, ice cream and garnished with coriander. It is a strange combination, but an unmissable one.
A cheeky addition to the list, is actually a Japanese import, and one of the most popular. Cute to the core, Mister Donut has been immensely popular in Taipei. With its mascot Pon de Lion dancing around its store windows and shop signs, as well as bear doughnuts and pon de ring doughnuts. Mister Donut is actually more of a snack on the go. Doughnuts aren’t commonly eaten as breakfast items in Taiwan, and as far as doughnuts go, the flavors are so-so though the texture is nice and chewy. Catering to an Asian clientele, the doughnuts tend to be less sickly sweet than those from America. However, stop by Mister Donut to see what the buzz is about, take some photos of its cute display windows and grab one of its more unusual flavors, including matcha, almond and peanut.