I was a bit sad we didn’t get to eat as much as we had hoped in Taiwan. Don’t get me wrong, we ate often and we ate well, but dealing with a toddler’s needs always trumped our desires to get where we wanted to go to eat. We didn’t even make it to a night market!
Still, much of the stuff we ate trumps any of the Chinese/Asian food we can get here in the States. Think of this post as part trip report, part food guide for parents of toddlers who are in Taipei but can’t get out too far!
Our Most Frequented Locale: Taipei 101 Food Court
We spent way too much time eating at the Taipei 101 Food Court, much to our chagrin, but a lot of that was due to necessity. Many nights we couldn’t go out for dinner (due to the jet lag), so what we would do is walk the five minutes from the Grand Hyatt to Taipei 101’s mall and pick up food to go. We also ate their once.
Luckily, the food court has a ton to offer, and while it’s still mall food, it’s more authentic than, say, Panda Express (which I love). It is definitely a madhouse between like 6-8, though you can get a table if you’re patient (many tables are long and requiring sharing). There are also plenty of high chairs to go around if you do some walking.
In terms of the food, we ate Taiwanese, Cantonese, and Japanese food, and Jess had some boba from a fruit smoothie place. There’s obviously a ton of better things out there in Taipei to eat, but if you don’t want to hold your child in your lap in a taxi too much or are afraid of a sit down meltdown, takeout from the 101 Food Court might be your ticket. Oh and McDonald’s and this fried chicken place called Dico’s were pretty cheap too, if you’re craving something more western.
Beef Noodle Soup: Lao Zhang
One of Jess’ favorite meals was at Lao Zhang, a beef noodle soup restaurant near the Chiang Kai-Shek memorial. They make their own soup base which ranges from spicy to mega-spicy! I was nursing a sore throat at the time so only could go for medium spicy. They also have a tomato based soup for those who can’t tolerate any spiciness at all, we ordered one of these for M (think this could be a vegetarian option as well).
This was one of those meals with relatives where we were not allowed to see the bill at all and I had some trouble with the website (Chinese not good enough and the English version is kind of broken). Still, I don’t think it is too pricey, and the food was great. We pretty much all had beef noodle soup with varying degrees of spiciness and it destroyed almost any beef noodle soup I’ve had here.
Hot Pot: Northeast Pot
We had one of our best meals in Taiwan at China Northeast Pot. This was again with relatives (so no idea on cost) and it wasn’t centrally located at all, but the food was excellent. Their scallion pancake was one of the best I’d ever had. At first I thought someone had just ordered it for me because they know Americans love that stuff, but we ended up getting a second order because everyone was a fan.
The restaurant makes its own broth (there are a few to choose from) and there is a sauce station so you can make your own sauce. You can get all sorts of meats, vegetables, tofu, and noodles to cook in the soup – it’s all pretty great. If you’ve never had hotpot before this is a nice place to start – you can just point at pictures of what kind of foods you want!
Meal in Tainan: Chou’s Shrimp Rolls
Since one of our main reasons for the trip was to introduce M to relatives, we took the High Speed Rail down to Tainan. Though I’ve already recounted what a disaster the train ride was, our time in Tainan was actually quite nice. One of the highlights was Chou’s Shrimp Rolls, a fast food restaurant that specializes in Tainanese snacks.
The shrimp rolls were really amazing – processed, fried – everything I love! There were also lots of noodle soups to choose from. Pretty much everything we ordered there tasted great.
Though we didn’t get to pay (again – great trip!), I did catch the prices this time: cheap. If you ever find yourself in Tainan I think this place is well worth a visit.
The Star: Din Tai Fung
Din Tai Fung is a Taiwanese staple, though they’re everywhere now. If you want to see some in depth thoughts on Din Tai Fung feel free to read one of Tiny Urban Kitchen’s reviews. For my money, it’s one of the best xiao long baos in the world, and the Michelin guide agrees. This would be our first Michelin starred restaurant on this trip and it was way cheaper than anything in Lyon!
We went to the Din Tai Fung by Taipei 101 as opposed to the original. The wait times are comparable (I walked by the original a bunch of times on this trip), but as long as you don’t need to go to the O.G., I think the Taipei 101 location is preferable. Yes, we still had to wait 45 minutes, but we spent 35 of those minutes wandering around the mall.
The food, as always, was amazing. Everything is always the perfect temperature, perfect consistency – I seriously have never been disappointed by anything I’ve ordered at Din Tai Fung. A must visit if you’re in Taiwan (or any of the other places where it’s located!).
Random Food: Shao Bing You Tiao and 7-11
Jess and I didn’t get as much Taiwanese breakfast food as we had liked but we did manage to get a shao bing you tiao for our trip to Tainan. That’s a you tiao (oil stick) wrapped in what’s essentially a fried pancake/dough (think scallion pancake). If you’re in Taiwan get out on the street in the morning and find one of these. I mean, it’s fried bread inside of fried bread. Come on, now!
And then I’d be remiss to not mention that 7-11 has a ton of non hot-dog junk food.
I don’t know a ton of food, I just know I like to eat it and there are a lot of good options in Taiwan. Even with M in tow, we managed to eat a lot of great food – though not as well as our last trip to Taiwan. It’s no worries though, traveling with a toddler isn’t better or worse, just different. Adjust your expectations and get your eat on in Taiwan!
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