Read other From A Foodie installments:
From A Foodie: Tasting Japan & Its Shokunin Spirit 🍙
From A Foodie: California Dreamin’ 🌴
I ushered in 2019 in Taipei with my parents — the three of us were there on family vacation for nine joyful, tummy-filled days.
Taipei is a place where the best foods are found in the street-side stalls with no air-conditioning, or nestled in an obscure alley, or at its thronging night markets (which I didn’t thoroughly experience because we were dieting as a family -__-). The meals we had at the hotel or in upscale restaurants were all less satisfactory than the intimate hole-in-the-wall eateries, overflowing with customers by word of mouth.
For fellow bubble tea lovers, I’ve highlighted all the bubble tea I tried at various places with a pink flower. 🌸 A new milestone has finally emerged in my study of the art of bubble tea-drinking. I finally figured out the difference between pearls （珍珠） and boba （波霸）. I would like to share this important category distinction with all of you:
Pearls （珍珠）: small
Boba （波霸）: big
Since we stayed at The Grand Hotel near the Jiantan and Yuanshan stations, and considering how hungry my parents were when we headed out of the hotel at 11am every day, we mostly had breakfast nearby. There was an abundance of options though! I did my research well under the limitations of proximity.
- Man Jia Ziang 满佳香
A nook in the alleys that come to life by nighttime. By day, all the Shilin Night Market stalls were closed or kept, but this all-day breakfast store was bustling. Order the warm milk tea with fresh milk and their egg pancakes with fillings ranging from tuna to steak to hash brown. Also, order the fried dumplings and scallion pancakes! Prices are incredibly down-to-earth.
- Fong Sheng Hao 丰盛号
Called one of Taipei’s top 10 must-eat breakfasts, it pairs charcoal-grilled toast with milk tea. Both my dad and I ordered the classic meat, egg, and cheese toast while my mom got hers with spicy meat. Easy to eat and oh so delicious when downed with milk tea.
- Lin‘s Chinese Pizza 林家葱油饼
A stall right outside the Shilin station. Always a long queue. We had this three times throughout the trip since it was located close to our hotel. Many combinations for your picking. My favorite is the original with chili and cheese. My mom likes hers with egg. My dad likes his with pickles.
Shilin Night Market 士林夜市
- Hot-Star Large Fried Chicken 豪大大鸡排
Bigger than my face. No picture to show because I was so hungry that I ate it without first taking a photo. Not any different (other than atmosphere-wise) from the branches it has opened in Singapore. But here’s a picture of me posing with happiness above.
- Smoothie House 思慕昔
We were too full to try this CNN-endorsed dessert at its original store at Yong Kang Street (read below: because we dined at Kao Chi), so we tried it at the one at Shilin instead. We got the Super Fruits Mix Mango Snowflake Iced with Sorbet, which was just okay. And that’s disappointing. 😦 At least it looked pretty.
Better than Smoothie House! Not too sweet, not too sour. As it happens with all good food encountered at the peak of hunger, I forgot to take a photo.
- 🌸 TP Tea 茶汤会 🌸
Tieguanyin latte is quite good. Would have been better without pearls! Middle of the pack in Taipei but still better than any bubble tea I’ve had in the U.S. T_T I’m going to be impossible to satisfy. Argh.
- 🌸 Tiger Sugar 老虎堂 🌸
OMG. The first time I’ve had brown sugar with my milk and it was LIFE-CHANGING. Unlike at other places, the sugar level, amount of ice, or toppings aren’t customizable here. Everything is perfectly balanced!!! They know what they are doing, trust me.
- Ay Chung Rice Noodles 阿宗面线
This feels more like a tourist experience than a tasting experience. Not because the noodles weren’t good, but because of the crowd that gathers on the curb collectively slurping from their paper containers.
- 🌸 Bubble Lee 李圆圆 🌸
Best boba!!! The chewiness, the subtle sweetness, the heat that dissipates in the milk and on the tip of my tongue.
- Mochi99 麻吉奶奶鲜奶麻薯
Delicious. The mochi made from fresh milk leaves it with a creamier aftertaste. I ordered the classic peanut flavor. Mixing it in the peanut powder was really fun (could have been a messy affair).
- Kakigori 朝日夫妇
The line for sit-in was too long, but there were only limited flavors for takeaway. I chose the pineapple and dragonfruit flavor and it looked so cute! A bit too cold by the sea though. I was sniffling halfway through this.
Taipei Main Station 台北总站
- Zheng Pork Knuckle 郑记猪脚饭
We arrived right before the lunch hour crush. Best pork knuckles I’ve ever had (aside from my mom’s). My parents were initially quite put off by the sparse surroundings, but they were won over by the taste. The different types of pickles offset the heaviness of the pork skin (good for your skin!). A simple bowl of greatness. Right as we sat down to eat, a line of fifteen people formed at the counter. Phew.
Jiufen & Shifen 九份、十份
- A Mei Tea House 阿妹茶楼
The tea house that inspired Hayao Miyazaki. The building behind Yubaba’s Bathhouse in Spirited Away, a film that terrified me in my childhood and still moves me to tears with its heart, its touch of innocence, and its ethical complexity. The stairs leading to the tea house was so crowded that we moved about a step every half a minute. At 8pm, the teahouse was all lit up with red lanterns and thrumming with a flurry of voices, clinging of teacups, and waiters in black and white patiently demonstrating the traditional art of tea-making. A set includes four tiny bites — sesame and peanut crackers, one green bean cake, two sugared plums, and one mochi — and a pot of tea that can be refilled by the kettle bubbling beside the table. Ask for the top floor window seat if you can.
- 🌸 Hanlin Tea Room 翰林茶馆 🌸
Love the white bubbles.
- 🌸 Xing Fu Tang 幸福堂 🌸
As good as Tiger Sugar! The ceremony of preparing the drink is more aesthetic — the server lights up the surface of the cup with a flame.
Yong Kang Street 永康街
- Kao Chi 高记
I’m going to say this three times: better than Din Tai Fung. Better than Din Tai Fung. Better than Din Tai Fung. Every dish we ordered was a pleasing aesthetic and gustatory experience. Must-orders include: the beef cubes (melt-in-your-mouth tender) and the Shen Jian Bao (pan-fried Pork Buns) served in a hot pan.
- 🌸 Chun Shui Tang Cultural Tea-house 春水堂 🌸
The world’s original bubble tea!!! Its hot drinks — sesame milk tea, ginger milk tea, and milk tea with bubbles — are so good on a rainy, cold day. We ended up here by accident after touring the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. The original, iced milk tea with pearls is also quite stellar, but nothing innovative.
Pineapple Tarts & Nougat 凤梨酥、牛轧糖
- Chia Te 佳德
BEST PINEAPPLE TART OF MY LIFE. I recommend the pineapple tart with egg yolk most. It was melt-in-your-mouth kind of heavenly bliss.
Read this on a hungry day! Hee hee. Or as I currently am, sniffling and eating porridge in a hotel room in Beijing, but with a Happy Lemon strawberry milk tea within my reach. All delivered by Meituan. God Bless China.
Lots of love,