Taipei is often called “The food capital of East Asia,” and boy does it live up to that name. We spent a month in this city– and spent most of our time eating!
The food in Taipei is endlessly diverse: ranging from the ubiquitous street stalls to the world-class bakeries to Michelin-starred restaurants, the city offers something for all palates. Think of it this way: late at night in the U.S., people wander the streets looking to drink; in Taipei, people wander the streets looking for something to eat.
Street food is such an essential part of the Taiwanese culture, no journey to Taipei is complete without sampling as much of it as you can. The city’s prominent night markets make it relatively easy for even those with no Chinese language skills to order food: just find a stall that looks good, point, and give the vendor your money.
Eating on-the-go is the norm in the city; almost everything is served in convenient to-go containers. These solutions (like giving you to-go cups in a small bag, for easier carrying) are often more ingenious than we would see in the U.S.— although perhaps more wasteful.
Din Tai Fung
Perhaps Taiwan’s most famous restaurant, and for good reason. We had two separate sets of locals take us to Din Tai Fung— they’re very proud of its Michelin Star. The praise is well-earned, as the outlet’s signature Xiao Long Bao won’t soon be forgotten. The restaurant has a few branches across East and Southeast Asia, as well as some on the West Coast of the U.S. While in Taipei though, you can visit the original location. For a Michelin-Starred restaurant, it’s surprisingly casual and affordable.
Taiwanese bakeries are world-class. The food served at these popular bakeries is to die for. I put on ten pounds while we were living in Taipei, which I attribute almost entirely to the bakeries. I’ve never been to France, but my traveling companion has, and she says the bakeries in Taiwan are just as good, if not better, than those in France. High praise!
The unique thing about Taiwanese bakeries is their goods are extremely sweet— much moreso than usual. The Taiwanese people have a major sweet tooth, and god bless them for it. We ate breakfast at these bakeries almost every morning. Or rather, we’d get pastries at the bakery, and then eat them as we walked the streets. Most bakeries don’t have sit-down tables— like I said before, everyone in Taipei eats on-the-go. Helps work off some of those calories, at least!
Taipei also has plenty of trendy coffee shops and cafes. After all, no city can be a digital nomad destination without coffee! These cafes aren’t distributed equally, and tend to be clustered in certain neighborhoods or streets.
While there are many to-go only coffee stalls, western-style sit-down coffee shops are also common. There are even some Starbucks locations around the city if you need a taste of home. Go for a younger barista though: they’re more likely to be able to understand you!
Taipei was a very pleasant surprise: a vibrant city with amazing food that was very, very different, but still manageable. Unless you speak fluent Mandarin, Taipei’s not really your traditional “tourist destination,” but that’s part of the charm. The food is great, the people are friendly, and you can experience Chinese culture without the hassles of applying for a Chinese visa, or dealing with Chinese Internet censorship.