So I recently took a bit of a hiatus from posting here as I went back to the UK for a short stint of study (and lockdown) and there wasn’t much in good food over there…
Now, you guys over here in TW are lucky that you never had to properly go into Lockdown of any kind. Let me tell you this – it’s boring. Have you once been excited about the idea of a ‘Staycation’? Yeh, I’ll help you out – don’t bother. My wife and I did 12 or so weeks of lockdown and it was grim, to say the least.
However, one persistent thought throughout the whole time spent indoors kicking our heels was Taiwanese food, and how we were going to inhale every delicacy upon returning. This may not be such a thing for the French who have incredible pastries, bread and snails. Nor may it be a thing for the Spanish who have tapas of varying kinds. Nor may it be a thing for the Italians who make incredible ciabatta and Foccacia, pasta, risotto and pizza. But, for a Brit who’s ‘native’ food includes fish and chips (I hate deep-fried fish), the roast dinner (hands down amazing, when done properly) and dishes generally including potatoes, meat and 2 veg, coming back to Taiwan to eat the likes of 魯肉飯, 牛肉麵, 小籠包, 涼麵 etc was a shining light at the end of a dark and dull tunnel.
So, right here and right now, as I sit in my lockdown hotel, drool escaping from the corner of my mouth and pooling on the plastic taped floor around me from the incredible food pics I am pouring through, I am going to take you through some of the incredible restaurants, stalls, night markets, dishes, places I am so excited to get back to in Taipei as soon as my 14 days are up.
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壽司shòu sī – Sushi
Top of my list is, and probably always will be sushi. Now, this isn’t a backhand to the UK, let’s be fair – the UK has some great fish. I had some amazing sole, monkfish and cod when back there. But, give me a precision cut, thin slice of tuna layered on top of lightly vinegared sushi rice, accompanied by pickled ginger and pickled daikon radish any day of the week.
Below, take a look at my top 3 picks of what I feel are some of the best options in the city for sushi. The prices are reasonable, the dishes are exceptional and the atmosphere is great.
Dishes/fish to go for:
鮭魚guī yú – salmon
鮪魚wěi yú – tuna
海膽hǎi dǎn – sea urchin/uni
鰻魚mán yú – eel
甜蝦tián xiā – shrimp/prawn
比目魚bǐ mù yú – flounder
握壽司wò shòu sī – nigiri
丼jǐng/don – sushi bowl
魯肉飯lǔ ròu fàn
Pork gravy over rice
You may think that me saying this was a daily thought of mine whilst in the UK is an exaggeration. It isn’t. I thought about this dish all the time. As I write this I feel like I’m taking my seat at an AA meeting (LR meeting – lǔ ròu meeting – maybe we should make it a thing? Or not…). Hi everyone, my name is Ash, and I’m a lǔ ròu fan (heavy joke there, you get it? You got it).
Thin slices of pork belly are braised with spices including 八角 star anise, 五香粉Chinese 5 spice, 肉桂cinnamon, 薑粉ginger, 花椒Sichuan peppercorns and 胡椒pepper. Usually, you can buy this concoction pre-bagged in a tea bag for you to just drop in a pan with the meat and you can stew it at your leisure at home. Something like this should get the job done. We always like to add a bit of brown sugar, soy sauce and rice wine as well, for a further depth of flavour.
Anyway, below are some of my favourite spots in the city. Let me know if you go and what you order.
Here are some things to order that might help you at some of these places:
魯肉飯 lǔ ròu fàn – pork gravy over rice
大碗，中碗，小碗 dà wǎn, zhōng wǎn, xiǎo wǎn -large, medium or small bowl
青菜 qīng cài – a plate of vegetables. (The selection could range a bit here, but I find that most places will have 地瓜葉 dì guā yè – sweet potato leaves or 空心菜 kōng xīn cài – water spinach. Both are solid choices).
滷蛋lǔ dàn – hard-boiled egg cooked in the pork cooking juices MUST
小籠包 xiǎo lóng bāo
Steamed soup dumplings
Now, when I say steamed soup dumplings, it’s mainly just a pure craving for DingTaiFeng. I mean, who wouldn’t miss that place? But, we can’t be eating DingTaiFeng too regularly, as it’s quite pricey compared to other restaurants. Worth it, don’t get me wrong. But, nevertheless, once a month might be a good shout.
There’s just something etheral about the delicate pleats of the perfectly thin dumpling skin as it gives way to the steaming hot ‘soup’ created by the pork mixture hidden inside. Paired with the pefect blend of soy and vinegar with a couple of strands of fresh ginger on top, and you’ll be in ecstasy.
There are several other places that jump to mind when I think about steamed soup dumplings, so take a look below.
A great alternative to DingTaiFeng with a couple of branches across the city. HangZhou is worth a shout.
Value for money: 8/10 Cleanliness: 9/10 Service: 10/10 Quality of food: 9/10 Overall: 9/10
Not a fan of Loofa, ordinarily, but these loofa (mixed with pork) soup dumplings really surprised me.
There’s almost too many to write, so I will drop a few more places here that I can’t wait to get to.
If you were to leave Taiwan for a period of time, what’s your TOP 5 to eat when you return? Leave comments below and let me know, maybe it’s somewhere I am missing and can be put onto this list next time!