Din Tai Fung, Hello Kitty Sweets and Food From The Streets Of Taipei

A bustling street
market close to the Shuanglian MRT station.

This is the first time Ang Laagan has been to Taiwan, and I’m starting off by
writing about food. This is unusual for me since I usually leave
this topic for last when writing about places that I have been to,
but this is about Taipei, a city touted to have the most density of
restaurants per capita, and it deserves to be treated differently.
DIN TAI FUNG

Din Tai Fung’s
Mascot

Going to Taipei without dining at Din Tai Fung?
Mortal sin. Shanghai in the Chinese mainland may boast itself as
the birthplace of this irresistable little bun, but if you want one
with a Michelin star on it, then Din Tai Fung is the place, and
Taipei was where they started. Thankfully, they’ve made it easier
for visitors like us to find them. They have a branch at the
basement of the Taipei 101 mall, putting them directly in the
tourist path. They may be easy to get to, but be prepared for long
queues whatever time you come in. If you are trying them for the
first time, leave enough space in your itinerary and make sure you
are not in a rush. The food is definitely worth more than the wait,
and the service they provide is so exemplary, every other Chinese
restaurant I have been to before would pale in comparison. And
what’s even better is that all the good food and service does not
make a big dent on your wallet. This is one place that trully
deserves the word “excellent”.

The queues are
always long here, but the service is real quick and
efficient.

Din Tai Fung’s
award-winning Xiao Long Bao

These dumplings,
and just about everything we ordered at Din Tai Fung, were very
good as well.

The Din Tai Fung at
Taipei 101’s interior and open kitchen

* Din Tai Fung at the Taipei 101 mall is reachable through a roughly half-kilometer walk from the Taipei MRT’s City Hall Station on the Nangang (blue) Line. There is also a shuttle bus that runs from Taipei 101 to the City Hall Station and back every half-hour or so, just ask at the information area of the City Hall Bus Station (the City Hall Station is a combined bus and rail station).

HELLO KITTY SWEETS
CAFE

Too cute to be
eaten? This mousse of some sort (the cake’s name was printed only
in Chinese) was actually very, very good.

Located just off the main road on Taipei’s East shopping district is a quaint
little cafe themed after Sanrio’s most popular feline. Thanks to
the internet though, which spreads news in the blink of an eye,
it’s become so popular that a reservation for weeks in advance is
now required if you want to dine in. Now let’s see those celebrity
chefs try to beat Hello Kitty in that! You can drop by to buy cakes
anytime though, and judging by the one sample that we bought (we
had no reservation thus we couldn’t dine in) it’s worth taking a
detour from from your travel itinerary.

* Hello Kitty Sweets Cafe is along Daan road, just a corner away from exit of the Taipei MRT’s Zhongxiao Fuxing station on the Nangang (blue) Line.

Hello Kitty Sweets
Cafe’s small but catchy facade along Daan Road in Taipei’s East
District

Cakes on display at
the cafe

You can drop by for
cakes anytime, but better have a reservation way in advance if you
want to dine in.

MOVENPICK ICE CREAM

We found a Movenpick stall at the basement of the Taipei 101 mall, which
caught my wife and I by surprise. We never thought we could get
Movenpick ice cream elsewhere but in Switzerland, and we were
naturally very elated when we saw it as we were coming down the
elavator towards the food court. To anyone who hasn’t tried it yet,
this is one ice cream I would highly recommend. It’s a bit on the
expensive side, but worth it.

BEEF NOODLES

Lao Dong Beef
Noodles

Taipei is known for beef noodle soup, and you can
probably find a place selling one in every square kilometer. There
are, of course, places more popular than the rest, but since we
didn’t have time to go “noodle house hunting”, we just settled for
one that isn’t too far away from our usual route to and from the
hotel. We found one that seemed traditional enough, yet also looked
friendly enough for people who couldn’t understand one bit of
Chinese characters, like us. The place is called Lao Dong, very
close to the Shuanglian MRT station on the Danshui (red) line of the Taipei MRT,
and they served a huge bowl of noodles that was pretty good by my standards
(and affordable too).

STREET FOOD

Cattlefish Balls,
Sausages and other street stuff

Anyone coming to Taipei
must try their abundant street food. Food stalls and street side
markets throughout the city are so ubiquitous, it will take more
effort to avoid them than find them. Yes, they’re inescapable.
Ranging from balls (fish, cattlefish, chicken, etc.) which are also
popular in other places, to pastries, to sausage, to fresh sushi,
to soups, pigs innards, plus other stuff one can perhaps only find
in Taiwan like stinky tofu (I smelled one but haven’t tried it),
just roaming around the streets of Taipei and looking for anything
you can eat is an adventure in itself.

Pastries of various
kinds, street-style.

Of all of East
Asia, I think Taiwan has the most visible Japanese influence, and
it shows in their food. You can find maki and sushi just about
anywhere.

Some of their fares
may look familiar to Filipinos, like some of these that look like
“kikiam”.

An island nation,
seafood is big in Taiwan.

*We were in Taiwan on April
2012. All photos taken with Olympus E420 with Zuiko 14-54mm
f2.8-3.5. For the
rest of our Taiwan trip, click here.

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