By Janness Koh
Taipei, Taiwan is one of the top places where Singaporeans like travel to including myself. I visit Taipei almost annually and have never gotten sick of it. It’s so affordable with tons of amazing food and the warm hospitality of its people. What I really like about the Taiwanese is their friendliness is genuine and not like others who just appear friendly for customer service. You can easily approach just about anyone in Taiwan and 9 times out of 10 will be very helpful.
I consider myself half Taiwanese when it comes to Taipei if I do say so myself. So I have included a few of my must try eating places if you are in Taipei. Nope, we are not talking about the mainstream overrated famous tourist places here but some hidden gems that aren’t necessarily Taiwanese food and way underrated by tourists.
美觀園 (Mei Guan Yuan)
峨嵋街47號，108 台北市萬華區 (108 Taipei City, Wanhua District, Er Mei Street No.47)
This place started in 1946 and serves very good, authentic Japanese food. Not going into too much history of it but the founder of this restaurant went to Japan to learn his culinary skills and brought them back to Taiwan. This was originally a surprise find when my cousin and I randomly decided to try it out a few years back and it was also recommended by our local friends. You get such value for the money with their fresh ingredients which are pretty generously portioned. You also get a much lower price than you would in fancier restaurants. I doubt you can find something as good and cheap in Singapore. You can see how thick my salmon sashimi was in my salmon and roe don and there were over 10 pieces in a bowl.
They have 2 restaurants situated in Ximending that are diagonally across from each other. I have always patronised the original outlet though there shouldn’t be any difference in terms of quality and taste but there is just something about the older appearance of the restaurant that attracts me more.
2. 好好味冰火菠蘿油 (Hao Hao Wei)
師大夜市－ 台北市泰順街26巷51號 (Shida Night Market – Taipei City Tai Shun Street Lane 26 No. 51)
If you think the best bolo buns are in Hong Kong, you are wrong. I had the best one from this stall in Taipei. My friend recommended this place and I go back without fail every time I visit. It was originally tucked away in a corner at the back of a lane but has now moved to a slightly more visible location just a few steps from the original a it’s now in a little bigger stall too.
The buns smell heavenly and although they taste great even without butter (for those who do not like eating chunks of butter) I highly recommend you to still try one. They call it the ice fire bolo butter and what a smart name since every bun is fresh and warm with a piece of cold butter in between. What you get is the amazing taste of crispy chewy bun combined with melting butter with every bite at just NTD 35. I am drooling as I write and think of it.
3. 春水堂 (Chun Shui Tang)
新光三越－台北市中正區忠孝西路一段66號，B2 (Shinkong Mitsukoshi- No.66 Section 1, Zhongxiao West Road, Taipei City Zhong Zheng District)
I think one of the main dishes people think of when it comes to Taiwan is their mee sua and you will definitely think of Ah Zhong as they are the most popular and famous among tourists. However, although I think they taste really good, you actually get just as good ones anywhere else. I’m recommending this restaurant because they actually serve their mee sua dry and they are also the originator of the bubble milk tea.
Dishes you have to try here are of course their mee sua but their noodles are equally yummy. They have a variety of milk tea to choose from, and if you dare you can eat pig’s blood glutinous rice cakes. They have a number of outlets around Taiwan and the address I’ve given is the one I visited.
4. 黃媽媽天然蒟蒻 (Huang Ma Ma Natural Konjac)
淡水－新北市淡水區中正路43號 (Danshui – No. 43 Zhong Zheng Road, Danshui District, New Taipei City)
This is another item I have to buy without fail every time I visit. I used to always have to travel to Jiufen just to get this but found out that they have an outlet in Danshui in Taipei so all the better for me. You might not think there’s anything special with konjac jelly but this is not like anything else I have tried. It is all natural, not too sweet, and is a lot more “Q” (springy, as we call it) compared to others.
There are many flavours to choose from but my personal favourites are the peach, plum, and lychee. You can buy the single flat packs at NTD 60 each and promotion of buy 5 free 1 or they come in single bite size in tubs or small packs. The difference is that the bite sized one has no water added to it.
4. 頭城阿公蔥油餅 (Toucheng Ah Gong Spring Onion Wrap)
頭城車站 – Toucheng Station
I know this is not in Taipei City but is in Yilan county. However I just have to include this spot because there are the the best spring onion wraps I have had! You can easily find a spring onion wrap anywhere in Taiwan but this time my friend specifically drove us to Yilan as Yilan is very famous for their spring onions and this old stall that sells the wraps.
It was raining rather heavily that day and we didn’t know if the old man would have his stall open as he operates out of a lorry just outside the Toucheng Station. Lucky for us he was open for business and there wasn’t a queue since it was raining. My friend told me this old man originated the spring onion wrap in Yilan and it comes with a fried egg for only NTD30. He saved up the money he made and donated a NTD 7.4 million ambulance to the Fire Defence as he was once saved by them. Still, it takes quite some time to be able to save that sum of money. Kudos to him. Please do visit him and try this out yourself if you ever travel to Yilan which is about 2 hours by car away from Taipei.
The wrap is springy and the spring onion really taste extra nice and fragrant along with the fried egg and a special sweet sauce that I can’t quite make out what it is exactly; almost like the sauce we have for our popiah. I have tried other spring onion foods in Yilan and I really think their spring onions make a whole lot of difference. You just have to try it for yourself – it’s the best I promise. Did not manage to take a photo of his lorry stall but you won’t miss him outside the Toucheng Station.