If you’re in the mood to go somewhere with the sole objective of over indulging with fantasic food and meticulously crafted drinks then grab a chair and let me tell you why, Taipei.
Taipei has something to offer for everyone when it comes to good eats and fine drinks. Just like any other trip to the city, planning your trip is all about geography which is why we stayed at the Ximending area. Ximending is pretty much situated in the center of other districts in Taipei making them easy to commute to.
Ximending is a bustling part of Taipei textured with small walking streets, bright neon lights, vendors selling all sorts of electronics and other novelty goods and amongst all of this you will be able to find little boutique stores for your fashion needs and a few name brand stores as well. Definitely a more quaint shopping feel here, so if you’re looking to do some retail therapy I would suggest you hop on the MRT and head to the Xinyi Shopping District where you will find all the big brands. Ximending does have some street-food to offer but I must say that this is not where to have your legitimate Tawanese street food experience.
The Raohe Street Night Market is where you can indulge in Taipei’s street food culture. The stalls start setting up at sundown right in the middle of the street amongst standing restaurant on the opposite sides of the street. Here you must come hungry, bring an open mind, small bills and some patience. Here you will come across a whole assortment of street food such as perfectly grilled squid on a stick, steamed crab’s in garlic sauce, sesame buns stuffed with Taiwanese pork sausage and veggies, an assortment of fresh oysters and clams, the list goes on and on. I do encourage keeping a lookout at the fixed restaurants surrounding the stalls as well, as you will find several restaurants serving up braised beef noodle soup, which is another Taiwanese staple. Though I did not see the noodles being made the texture and taste sure seemed like they were freshly made that day plus the broth… it’s healing I tell you! Now in this circus of unique munchies if you find a Xiao Long Bao stand please grab a stool, put your backpack down and order. The wrapper is made fresh in front of you and the dumpling is steamed fresh per order. When those perfectly steamed dumplings arrive in front of you, do remember this is where the magic is. This beats the Michelin-Star any day.
Another night market I would suggest is the Shilin night market and for this I suggest taking a cab. Shilin is a bigger market selling everything from cheap cellphones, clothes, shoes, electronics, hardware and ofcourse the food area. The Shilin food-court is located below ground level and it has wall-to-wall stalls mostly seafood. This barracks of a food-court gives a different experience in the sense that it has a more food-court style system in which you choose your food and bring it to your table. Now being in Taiwan street markets you will find that you will randomly be greeted by a strong pungent smell, don’t panic, that is just stinky tofu. It is basically fermented, expired tofu cooked in a stew. Now if you’re one to have a hard time stomaching this sort of thing than I don’t suggest the Shilin market just for the fact that it is underground and enclosed leaving you no escape from the strong smell. Other than that still worth a visit!
There is definitely a lot more to learn and experience about Taiwanese cuisine. I know I have only scratched the surface here but for now, that was a delight.