In the last four weeks, eight people have already asked me for my Taipei list, the “list” being a compilation of my favorite eating places in the city. After coming back from a trip in Taipei, Tim Yap proclaimed the capital of Taiwan to be the next Hong Kong. Finally, people are starting to notice this gem of a city, which is conveniently a mere two-hour flight from Manila.
That makes me, next to Taiwan President Ma Ying-Jeou and Tourism Bureau Director-General David Hsieh, the third happiest person. After all, Taipei is my birthplace and will always be my second home. And so I am, modesty aside, the best person to ask when it comes to places to eat in around the city. I have many to recommend. The biggest challenge, in fact, is to narrow down the list to just eight because at every corner, in every nook and cranny of Taipei, you will find something interesting and delicious to eat.
For a quick weekend trip though, here are my eight musts. Promise me you will visit each one!
This restaurant is always the first order of business when I arrive in the city. Our family has been enjoying authentic Taiwanese fare here since I was a baby. Each time, we would order the same dishes – steamed pork topped with salted egg yolk, sautéed oysters with scallions and garlic, pan fried egg with preserved turnip, soy boiled pig intestines, fresh lumpia, cuapao, and sweet potato congee. It will be hard, but you must save space for the complimentary dessert: fresh, warm and chewy peanut masachi.
Shin Yeh is located at No. 34-1 Shuang Cheng Street, Chung Shan District, Taipei. Tel: (862) 2596-3255.
Outside Japan, Taiwan is the best place to enjoy excellent Japanese meals and Mitsui is my tried and tested restaurant for it. I highly recommend the omakase where you let the chef surprise you with his creations, using only the freshest ingredients. I always look forward to Mitsui's signature Alaskan king crab salad, buttery Hokkaido uni perched on finely shredded mountain yam. And that is just the beginning of a feast filled with succulent seafood and premium meats!
Mitsui is located at No. 30, Nongan Street, Chung Shan District, Taipei. Tel: 886-2-2594-3394
I have long graduated from the eat-all-you-can hotpot places scattered all over Taipei. If you must indulge in meats and balls all night long, do it right at Elixir Health Pot. First, choose your broths (I suggest half “wulao”, half soymilk) and enjoy dipping your beef and lamb alternately into the titillating spicy broth and then into the creamy, soothing tofu milk. The balls here are amazing, too, plus they give you shots of peach sorbet to end your meal on a sweet, refreshing note.
Elixir Health Pot is located at No. 143, Shimin Boulevard, Section 3, Zhongshan District, Taipei. Tel: 886-2-2731-7928
4. XIE AH YI (AUNTIE XIE)
This place can get crowded and crazy with locals so make sure to reserve ahead and be ready for a delicious homecooked meal in a very, very casual setting. One thing to note: There is no menu. Happy customers leave all the decisions to Auntie Xie, who will serve you her specialty dishes based on the size of your group. Check out the huge pots of delectable taro congee and taro vermicelli that are laid out in one corner. Don’t be shy, help yourself!
Xie Ah Yi is located at B1, No. 122 Bo Ai Road, Zhongzheng District, Taipei. Tel: 886-2-2388-1012
Even in winter I brave the unforgiving Taipei weather to enjoy bowls of shaved ice at this dessert institution. My ultimate favorite is the Coffee Sensation, a mountain of featherlike layers of coffee ice with the creamiest homemade milk pudding and the most intensely flavored coffee jelly. Absolutely divine!
Ice Monster is located at No. 297, Section 4, Zhongxiao East Road, Daan District, Taipei City. Tel: 886-2-8771-3263
Taipei is a green tea and matcha powerhouse and this zen of a place serves the best matcha mille crepe I’ve had in my life. The teahouse also offers matcha cream puff, matcha roll cakes, matcha soft serve, too, but it’s the strong, bittersweet matcha cream sandwiched between layers and layers of fine matcha crepes that captures my matcha-loving heart.
Ping An Jing Cha Shi is located at No. 165 Shida Road, Zhongzheng District, Taipei. Tel: 886-2-2368-2277
Night markets can get rowdy but you absolutely have to go to one while in Taipei. Raohe Street Market, with its mix of local fashion and flavors, is a great place to start. Be adventurous and try the stinky tofu, chicken chops, oyster cakes, pepper buns, snails, fruit skewers… the list goes on forever. After all, you’ve never been to Taipei until you’ve experienced one of its night markets… and eaten in it, too!
Raohe Street Night Market is located in Songshan District, Taipei.
Of course, you must never go home without buying pasalubong for family and friends. Pineapple cake is to Taiwan what dried mango is to the Philippines. There are popular brands like Chia Te and Leechi, but my personal favorite is from a bakery called Milkhouses. For gifts, I buy a box of half original flavor and half with salted egg yolk. But for myself, I buy a box of all pineapple cake with salted egg yolk!
Milkhouses has a few branches around Taipei. For more information, visit their website www.milksweet.com.tw.