Food plays a large part in every aspect of Taiwanese life. It is common for people to greet each other at mealtime by asking, "Have you eaten yet?". Though the food is derived from mainland China, Taipei has had the benefit of many different immigrant groups that have added elements to the local flavours. Along with the infusion of foreign foods, Taipei has access to fresh ingredients from the farm and the sea.
The presence off Mahayana Buddhists in Taiwan has led to a plethora of vegetarian options. Vegetarian restaurants (su-shi or tsan-ting in Mandarin) can be found throughout Taiwan and range from cheap buffets to gourmet meals. Buffet styled restaurants are common in most neighbourhoods and the cost is estimated by the weight of the food on your plate. Rice (choice of brown or white) is charged separately, but soup or cold tea is free and you can refill as many times as you like.
Food in Taiwan is generally eaten with chopsticks and served on large plates placed at the centre of the table. Guests share the platters and dish onto their individual plate with their own chopsticks.
There are traditional Chinese taboos when eating with chopsticks that apply to Taiwan as well.
Do not stick your chopsticks straight up or into your bowl of rice. This is reminiscent of incense sticks at a temple, and has connotations of wishing death upon those around you. Place chopsticks on the provided porcelain chopstick rest or rest the chopsticks across the top of your bowl.
Also, do not use your chopsticks to spear your food or move bowls and plates.
Tipping is generally not practised in Taiwan. Bellhops in high end hotels are the exception. Full service restaurants typically impose a service charge and that is considered to be sufficient. Tipping is also not expected in taxis and drivers would usually return your change to the last dollar.
Taiwan's subtropical climate encourages much drinking of liquids including water, juices, coffee, tea, and alcohol. Vending machines are everywhere and offer a variety of goods.
Enjoying and preparing tea can be quite traditional. A very small teapot and tiny cups are used and taking tea is called lao ren cha. It literally means "old people's tea" and refers to the fact that only the elderly had the luxury of time to relax and enjoy tea in this way.
When going to a traditional service, note that you may be charged a cover (literally "tea-water fee") for the elaborate process of preparing it as well as for any nibbles served on the side.
High Mountain Oolong - fragrant, light tea
Tie Guan-yin - dark, rich brew
Lei cha - tasty and nourishing Hakka Chinese tea-based beverage consisting of a mix ground tea leaves and grain. Some stores specialize in this product and allows one to grind their own lei cha.
Pearl milk tea - aka "bubble tea" or "boba tea", this milky tea has chewy balls of tapioca added and is drunk through an over sized straw. Invented in Taiwan in the early 1980s, it was a huge Asia-wide craze in the 1990s.
The cafe culture has become very popular in Taiwan. There are privately owned cafes as well as branches of all the major chains, such as Starbucks.
An abundance of fruit lends itself to Taipei's drink market. Small fruit-juice bars can be found nearly everywhere and drinks are made fresh.
Zong-he - a mixed drink that has a sweet and sour combination
Mu-gwa niou-nai - an iced papaya milk drink. If you don't want ice (though it is safe in Taiwan, even at road side vendors) say, "chu bing". No sugar can be said by "wu tang".
Soy milk - or doujiang can be drunk hot or cold. Savoury soy milk is a traditional Taiwanese breakfast dish. Vinegar is added to curdle the milk making it an acquired taste. Both sweet and savoury soy milk are often ordered with you-tiao, deep fried dough crullers.
As a general rule, tap water in Taiwan is safe for drinking after boiling. (This is not true for Kaohsiung where trace amounts of arsenic can be found in the water.) Any water or ice you are served in restaurants will already have been processed. Water fountains are also safe as they incorporate filters. It is also acceptable to refill and reuse water bottles at these fountains as well.
One of the reasons for the unpotable water is the high degree of seismic activity in the area. There are a large number of earthquakes which frequently disrupt the pipes and allow in contaminants.
The legal age to consume alcohol in Taiwan's is 18 years of age. Minors caught drinking risk fines ranging from $10000 to $50000.
Traditional alcoholic drinks in Taiwan are very strong. The attitude toward drinking is liberal, but it is rare to see anyone publicly drunk. Over indulging is not a social taboo, but is considered a sign of immaturity.
Kaoliang is the most famous alcoholic drink. A distilled grain liquor, it is extremely strong, usually 140 proof or more, and often drunk straight.
Shaoxing is a type of rice wine and is generally considered one of the best in the world. Taiwanese people often enjoy beer on ice. This includes imports as well as Taiwan Beer which is produced by a former government monopoly. It is brewed with fragrant penglai rice in addition to barley giving it a distinctive flavor.
If you're on a budget, the cheapest food is found in back-alley noodle shops and night markets. A filling bowl of noodles should cost around $35-70. There are many xiaochi (small eats) available at restaurants which are the Taiwanese equivalent of Cantonese dim sum. Cheap eats can also be found at convenience stores (such as 7-11) that sell things like tea eggs, sandwiches, benot boxes and drinks.
Ay-Chung Flour-Rice Noodle - Green bowls of rice noodles from this popular Ximending institution can be seen all around the area. Smooth noodles are served in a sweet and sour broth flavoured with salt cured intestines, skipjack tuna, and shredded bamboo shoots and garnished with cilantro, basil, pureed garlic, and a sprinkle of dark vinegar.
Address: No. 8-1, Emei St., Wanhua District, Taipei 108
Open Time: Daily 11:00-22:30
Transportation: Take the No. 18, 221, 232, 235, 257, 513, 621, 635, 635 (Aux), 640, 659, or 663 bus to the Ximen Market stop.
MRT Station: Ximen Station (Exit 6)
Duck and Traditional Goose Restaurant - Duck meat was the sole house specialty of this eatery when it first opened in 1950, but goose was added after two years. Three generations of family owners have kept the business going strong. The restaurant uses a local goose variety called "lion goose" or "Taiwan goose." The rice and wheat noodle soups here are made with a thick broth of stewed goose and absolutely no MSG.
Address: No. 2, Sec. 2, Wuchang St., Wanhua District, Taipei 108
Open Time: Daily 09:30 to 22:30 Transportation: Take the No. 12, 202, 202 (Shuttle), 205, 212, 212 (Direct), 218, 218 (Night), or 218 (Direct) bus to Zhonghua Road North stop.
MRT: Ximen Station (Exit 6)
Lan's Taiwanese Sandwich Shop - Located in the Gongguan area, this shop is a popular spot for hungry students from nearby National Taiwan University. Taiwanese sandwiches are made from a sliced steamed bun filled with a mix of fat and lean soy stewed meat, cilantro, peanut powder, and pickled Chinese mustard or pickled cabbage. They also serve an exceptional "Four Spirits" soup, made with a concoction of fortifying Chinese medicinal herbs.
Address: No. 3, Alley 8, Lane 316, Sec. 3, Roosevelt Rd., Zhongzheng District, Taipei 100
Open Time: Daily 11:00-24:00
Transportation: Take the No. 52, 278, 280, 280 (Direct), 311(Yongfu), 505, 530, 606, 668, 675, or Songjiang Line bus to Gongguan MRT Station
MRT Station: Gongguan Station (Exit 4)
My Kitchen is Your Kitchen - Serving Hakka food for over 20 years. Traditional, homey meals, like stir-fry intestine with ginger, braised hog hoof, and pork soup all are recommend Hakka food.
Address: No. 135, Jilin Rd., Taipei
Open Time: 11:00-14:00; 17:00-21:00
MRT: Shuanglian Station - Bus 226 - Labors' Recreation Center Stop
Pu-yi - The chef is a Aborigine grandma serving traditional Aborigine meals.
Address: No. 65, Lane 8, Tianmu E. Rd., Taipei
Open Time: 11:30-14:00; 17:00-21:30
Kao Chi - Fried Pork Buns has become Kao Chiâ€™s best selling snack since 1949. The secret of hot selling is the natural fermented old dough with a chewy crust. The fry buns are heated in front of customers so they are delivered hot, fresh and delicious. Others like "Crispy Pastry of Crab Shell Cake", "Roasted Cucian Crap with Green Onion", "Mung Beans Vermicelli in Soup with Oil Tofu" are other traditional options.
Address: No. 1, Yongkang St., Da-an District, Taipei 106
Open Time: Mon-Fri 11:00 to 22:30; Weekends 08:30 to 22:30
Transportation: Take the 0 East, 20, 22, 22 (Shuttle), 38, 204, 204 (Shuttle), or Xinyi Arterial Route bus to the intersection of Xinyi Rd. and Yongkang St.
MRT Station: From Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall Station walk to Yongkang St.
Chiu Ru - This Zhejiang-Jiangsu style restaurant has earned its reputation for authentic rice dishes, from stir-fried rice cakes and Huzhou meat tamales (zong-zi) to fermented rice dumpling soup. The Huzhou tamales come in sweet (bean paste) and savory (pork) varieties. Chiu Ru is also considered to be the original source of sesame rice dumpling soup in Taiwan. Available in clear and fermented eggy soup varieties, this is a perfect dish to warm up on a winter day.
Address: No. 69, Sec. 4, Ren-ai Rd., Da-an District, Taipei 106
Weekdays 09:00 to 21:30; Weekends 09:00 to 21:00
Transportation: Take the No. 37, 245, 263, 270, 311(Yongfu Line), 543, 621, 630, 651, or 665 bus to the intersection of Ren-ai Rd. and Dunhua Rd.
MRT Station: From Zhongxiao-Fuxing Station walk about 15 minute
Taiwan also has remarkably good bakery items. Most specialize in sweet Chinese pastries or Western pastries adjusted to local tastes, but look out for We Care bakeries which also offer Western options such as whole wheat loaves, sour breads and ciabatta.
Vigor Kobo - Just 10 years old, Vigor Kobo has rapidly established itself as one of Taiwan's premier bakeries. Its yin-yang patterned "tai chi pineapple cakes" add a philosophical touch to this old-time treat. The darker color of the "yin" part of the flaky shell is made by mixing bamboo charcoal into the pastry dough. The bakery's all-natural flavour banana cakes are another melt-in-your-mouth treat that earned Vigor Kobo the bronze medal in a pineapple cake competition.
Address: No.76, Jioucyuan St., Datong District, Taipei City 103, Taiwan
Open Time: Daily 08:00-23:00
MRT: Yuanshan Station
Chia Te - Founded in 1975, Chia Te Bakery serves fresh goods with no preservatives! The handmade pineapple cakes are known for their traditional flavor and flaky pastry shells. In 2007, the bakery won an award for its innovative cranberry pineapple cake. In addition to pineapple cakes, Chia Te is also known for its "wife cakes," milk cakes and other tasty treats that have earned a loyal customer following.
Address: No.88, Sec. 5, Nanjing E. Rd., Songshan District, Taipei City
Open Time: Daily 07:30-21:30
MRT: Nanjing E. Rd. Station
Eastern Ice Store -Located next to the ATT and Ming Yao department stores, this shop has been serving up traditional handmade starch ball desserts for over 20 years. Sinfully sweet and generously portioned, these treats are made with the best ingredients and no artificial flavoring. As a testimony to its uncompromising attitude to quality, the shop won the "ROC Consumers Association Golden Award" and "Customer Satisfaction Gold Award."
Address: No. 38, Lane 216, Sec. 4, Zhongxiao E. Rd., Da-an District, Taipei 106
Open Time: Daily 11:00-23:30
Transportation: Take the No. 204, 212, 232, 235, 278, 299, 662, or 663 bus to the Apollo Building stop; or the No. 33, 52, 262, 275, 285, 292, 605, 630, 905, 906, or 909 bus to Zhongxiao-Dunhua MRT Station.
MRT: Zhongxiao-Dunhua Station (Exit 3)
Yong Kang 15 (Original Ice Monster) - Yong Kang 15â€™s Mango Ice is beloved and over NT $100 per plate! It uses domestically grown Irwin Mango, covered with thick creamy condensed milk.
Address: No. 15, Yongkang St., Da-an District, Taipei 106
Open Time: Weekdays 10:00 - 23:00; Weekends 10:00 - 24:00; Closed for four days starting from Lunar New Year's Eve
MRT: Yongkang Street is about 15 minutes from Chiang Kai-shek MRT Station by foot.
Southeast Asia Ice Shop - Generous portions and fresh seasonal fruit toppings make this one of Taipei's favorite crushed ice dessert shops. The most popular summer treat here is the mango and strawberry ice.
Address: No. 12, Lane 136, Sec. 4, Roosevelt Rd., Zhongzheng District, Taipei 100
Open Time: Daily 11:00 to 23:00
Transportation: Take the No. 1, 0 South, 0 South (Shuttle), 25, 208, 208 (Overpass Line), 208 (Keelung River 2nd Term Public Housing Line), 236, or 251 bus to Gongguan MRT Station
Yang Jias Corn and Peanut Ice - Unusual ingredients like corn and boiled peanuts make for a unique experience.
Address: No. 38, Sec. 2, Hankou St., Wanhua District, Taipei 108
Open Time: Weekdays 12:00 - 22:00; Weekends 12:00 to 22:00
MRT: From Ximen MRT Station walk about 10 minutes to Hankou St.
Taiyi Milk King - Right across from National Taiwan University, this is an respected store with a distinct history. All the bean ingredients are hand-made by the owner. There are a wide variety of condiments for you to choose from as well. The red bean ice with milk is the most popular product of the store. During cooler months, the store offers a rice dumpling.
Address: No.82, Sec. 3, Xinsheng S. Rd., Daâ€™an Dist., Taipei City 106, Taiwan
Open Time: 11:00am-24:00am; Closed Chinese New Year
MRT: Gonguan Station: Exit 3 and walk about 5 minutes.
There are many upscale dining experiences to be had in Taipei. note that most upscale restaurants are located in hotels or department stores which is common throughout but Asia.
Din Tai Fung - Delicacies like Steamed Pork Dumplings, Steamed Chicken Soup, and Fried Rice with Eggs and Shrimps are highly recommended. They also have innovative dishes like "Shrimp-and-Pork Wontons in Red Chili Oil" and "Pork-and-Vegetable Wontons in Red Chili Oil".
Address: No. 194, Sec. 2, Xinyi Rd., Taipei
Open Time: Mon-Fri 10:00-21:00; Sat/Sun/Holidays 09:00-21:00
MRT: MRT NTU Hospital Station - Bus 20 - Xinyin & Yongkang Roads Stop
Beef Restaurant - Beef is the image of this restaurant, from the cattle frescoes to the wood and stone design. Its signature dish, "Manhan Beef Noodle Soup,â€ fills your bowl with beef, beef tendon and beef stomach.
Address: #91, Kunming St., Taipei
Beef Noodle King - In business for over 50 years, it is a favorite among the many Taipei office workers. The clear, red soup base is made of beef bones with a light but rich beef flavor. Diced green onion and Chinese cabbage add color and a fresh taste.
Address: No.14, Aly.5, Ln.130, Sec.3, Minsheng E. Rd., Songshan Dist., Taipei City, 105
Open Time: Mon-Fri: 11:00-20:00; closed Sunday
Transportation: 1.Bus:63, 63(Local), 225, 277, 518, 612, Welfare Bus, Brown-1- get off at the Sherwood Hotel stop; 12, 63, 63(Local), 277, 518, 612, 652, Welfare Bus, Brown-1 â€“ get off at the Straits Exchange Foundation stop
Parking: Hourly Parking at Arch World Building or Hourly Parking at Hung Tai World Building
MRT: About 15-minute walk from Zhongshan Junior High School Station to Sec.3, Minsheng E. Rd.
688 Beef Bowl - NT$3,000 is the price for a bowl of beef noodles at this restaurant. An extremely high-end version of this Taipei mainstay dish has been served for 17 years. The shop has been extensively covered by the local media and even the Discovery Channel.
Address: #16, Alley 27, Lane 216, Sec. 4, Zhongxiao E. Rd.
Open Time: Daily 11:00-21:00
MRT Station: Zhongxiao Dunhua
Liao Beef Noodle - The secret recipe soup cooked by ox bone and butter is different from other flavor soup. The golden soup with either thin or wide noodles is also amazingly flavorful.
Address: No. 111-4, Jinhua St., Taipei
Open Time: 11:00 - 20:30 (Closed on Monday)
MRT: MRT Guting Station Exit 6 - On foot 5 min.
Lan Ting- Located on the third floor of the Taipei Grand Formosa Regent, the Lan Ting presents fine Chinese cuisine in an ambiance of understated elegance. Traditional calligraphy fuses with a modern lighting design to create a timeless aesthetic that complements the artfully prepared dishes, including a regularly updated selection of full course meals. The restaurant's 10 private dining rooms can be reserved for banquet parties of four to 24.
Address: 3F, No. 41, Sec. 2, Zhongshan N. Rd., Taipei 104
Tel: 886-2-2521-5000 (3680)
Transportation: Take the No. 12, 26, 266, 266 (Shuttle), 282, 282 (Aux), 288, 292, 292 (Aux), or 292 (Shuttle) bus to Zhongshan MRT Station; or the No. 2, 218, 218 (Night), 218 (Direct), 220, 220 (Direct), 224, 227, or 227 (Shuttle) bus to the Ambassador Hotel stop.
MRT Station: About 10 minutes from Zhongshan MRT Station
San Xian - San Xian features healthy and innovative new-style Chinese cuisine. One of the menu favorites is tender meat slices marinated in red yeast and crispy fried to a mouth-melting texture. The house fried rice and steamed rice are also served with a sprinkling of red yeast to give them a slightly sweet and fragrant taste. During the bluefin tuna season, the head chef presents several creative and tasty dishes using various parts of bluefin tuna.
Address: No. 15-1, Shaosing S. St., Zhongzheng District, Taipei 100
Open Time: Tues-Sun 11:30 to 14:30; 17:30 to 21:30; Closed on Mondays
Transportation: Take the 0 South, 37, 245, 261, 263, 270, 621, 630, or 651 bus to the intersection of Ren-ai Rd. and Shaoxing Rd.
MRT Station: From Shandao Temple (Exit 5) turn right
Ji-fan - this restaurant serves traditional Taiwanese dishes. The rice mixed with pork oil has a memorable smell because of using high quality oil. In addition, the uncommon Yilan ancient braised pork and fry pork liver are greatly recommended.
Address: No. 5, Lane 9, Yongkang St., Taipei
Open Time: Daily 11:30-14:00; 17:00-21:30
MRT: NTU Hospital Station - Bus 20 - Xinyi & Yongkang Roads
A-Cais Shop - The decor consists of 50's and 60's movie posters, antique furniture and old Taiwanese music. A-Caiâ€™s Shop gives people a "good old time" with "Stewed Beef Tendon, Tripe, and Sirloin with Chinese Herbs". The place has a festive spirit that is observed by the diners.
Address: No.17, Lane 41, Sec. 2, Ren-ai Rd., Zhongzheng District, Taipei City 100
Five Dime Restaurant - This place is eye-catching. The elaborately sculpted facade joins driftwood, iron sheeting, and flagstone into two female aboriginal dancers with flowing skirts and hair. The owner, Hsieh Li-hsiang, has also adorned the interior with her artistic female-themed creations to truly set this restaurant apart from the crowd.
Address: No. 8, Lane 32, Sec. 1, Neihu Rd., Zhongshan District, Taipei 104
Open Time: Daily 11:00-14:00; 17:00~21:00
Transportation: Take the No. 21, 92, 11, 222, 247, 267, 286, 287, 620, 646, 902, Red 2, Brown 16, Blue 26, or Blue 7 bus to the Miramar stop.
MRT: Take the Miramar shuttle bus from Jiantan Station or Zhongshan Junior High School Station.
Taiwanese Cuisine Orchid Room - Brother Hotelâ€™s restaurant is one of the best places for a feast or a snack of traditional Taiwanese cuisines. From soft and tender Fried Dried Radish Omelet, Fried Milk Fish, rice porridge, Tainan style peddler noodles, to Orchid Roomâ€™s specialties like Sauteed Pigs Liver, Stir fried Clams with Soy-bean Sauce, and Stir-fried Oysters with Fermented Soybeans, the food is satisfying.
Address: No. 255, Sec. 3, Nanjing E. Rd., Songshan District, Taipei 105
Open Time: Daily 11:00-15:00 & 17:00-22:30
Transportation: Take the No. 248, 254, 266, 266 (Shuttle), 279, 282, 282 (Aux), 288, 292, or 292 (Aux) bus to the intersection of Nanjing Rd. and Fuxing Rd.
MRT: Nanjing E. Rd. Station
For more restaurant recommendations, the New York Times has a Taipei dining guide.