They like to eat in Taiwan. No matter where you go, at any time of the day or night, there is some kind of food available. Want a late night snack? Find a Night Market. One has 539 food stands! Want breakfast? Find the nearest 7-Eleven. There are about 4,800 7-Eleven’s in Taiwan with meals available at all times. Afternoon snack? Street carts are ubiquitous with an amazing assortment of foods. Train stations, airports, bus stations? Yes, yes, yes.
Taiwan is a foodie paradise. Virtually everything is locavore. There is a system for approving organic restaurants. Another association merits “Good Store Practice.” Chefs and suppliers are licensed. The island, approximately 250 miles long and 90 miles wide, is easily traversed with fresh foods daily. Delivery vehicles are everywhere.
Almost all foods are made fresh daily. Some are still alive when you walk in the front door of the restaurant and you get to pick out who you want to eat. The vegetables always look freshly picked. I don’t know about health department inspections, but since everything appears fresh and is cooked on the spot for you, it wasn't much of a concern.
My recent trip to Taiwan included eating lunch and dinner out every day for 11 days. That’s 22 diverse, wholesome and plentiful meals! Lily Chuang, our Taiwan Tourism Bureau guide extraordinaire, selected an exciting and interesting cross-section of Taiwanese specialty restaurants. This article will cover six eateries that were the most memorable for me.
Name: Easy House Vegetarian Cuisine (An Her Store)
District: Da An in eastern Taipei
Street: No. 51, Ally 4 Lane 345 Sec. 4 Jen Ai Road
This is an up-scale chain of a very successful concept. The Taipei restaurant we visited was beautifully decorated in subtle shades with an expansive use of wood, tile and rock, giving it a distinct Japanese feeling.
At dinner time, groups must have a reservation; otherwise your chance of being seated is iffy. When we arrived it was packed. When we left several hours later, it was packed. After eating there, I knew why.
The laminated menu had extensive color photos of all the dishes. Almost everyone ordered the complete 5 course meal that included a soup, salad, entrée, dessert and drink. You should too, for a taste of everything.
Name: San Ming Gourmet
District: Gueihou Village of Wanli District
Street: No. 64-5 Yuao Road
City: New Taipei City
Coming out of the rain at the remarkable Yehliu Geopark, we were anxious to warm up. San Ming held our immediate interest with is huge selection of living seafood. We actually picked out what we wanted while it was swimming, crawling or breathing. It was particularly eerie being stared at by the squid that we would eat minutes later.
We devoured 7 courses of seafood and vegetables and as you can see in the last photo, we weren’t the only ones enjoying the freshest seafood at this restaurant!
Style: Aboriginal Amis
Name: Cifadahan Café
District: Da Quan Village
Street: No. 16, Lane 62 Da Quan Street
City: Guangfu Township, Hualien County
Telephone: 886-3-870 4601
The Taiwanese honor their aboriginal ancestors in a way that respects their locale, art and food. At this restaurant, the artwork stands out for its use of wood in useful forms. Our chairs and table were magnificent pieces of artistic furniture that we all wanted to take home!
The Amis tribal cuisine consists of locally grown herbs, wild vegetables, and tilapia. The “hot rock” soup and salted whole tilapia was practically works of art themselves, beautifully presented and cooked to near perfection. We loved all 8 courses, especially our exotic desserts.
Style: Organic Dumpling House (Xiao Long Bao)
Name: Ding Yan Lo Dumpling Restaurant
District: Downtown Hualien City
Street: No. 350 Hoping Road
City: Hualien County
Telephone: 886-3-832 2058
Art in food is much admired in Taiwan, especially when it comes to dumplings. This restaurant achieves its fame from the owner, whose mastery of the lowly dumpling is legendary. He is a registered (by the government) dumpling master as he has succeeded in putting 18 folds on the top of each of the dumplings served to us. No small achievement in this food challenging country. Not only that, but each of his vendors are pictured on the wall in the front with their organic licenses, also with government approval.
We were very impressed with both the artistic and fresh flavor of the 7 courses we devoured.
Style: No MSG Taiwanese
Name: Chi Fan Shi Tang (Sit-Fun)
Street: No. 5, Lane 8 Yong Kang Street (near Hsinyi Rd)
Sit-Fun is another excellent ultra-fresh food establishment whose signature is cooking without MSG. I didn’t taste any difference from the other upscale places in this article, but everything was exceptional. Also very crowded, so reservations are essential!
Located on the fringes of a night market, it allowed us to have dessert at the famous “15” crushed ice mango stand, after polishing off our 10 course meal.
Style: Traditional Farm Meal
Name: Dinghu Xiao Jeng
District: Beitou District
Street: No. 68 Zuzihu Road
City: Taipei (Yangmingshan National Park)
Website: (a blog with photos) http://wiselyview.net/blog/read-2172.html
It was teeming when we went into the Yangmingshan National Park for a hike in the clouds above Beitou. Only Doug, Lily, A-Nan and I were brave enough to withstand the typhoon-like wind and rain on the #4 Arrow - Bamboo trail. We loved the exhilaration of being out there so much we did the trail twice!
Afterwards, we headed down for a traditional farm meal at this restaurant located in the park. We were chilled and wet and looking forward to a warm meal. This feast consisted of 12 incredible courses of wild vegetables, fresh meats, soup and seafood, but no pork!
I pretty much loved all the Taiwanese food, except Stinky Tofu. If you got a whiff of this “aromatic,” you’ll understand why. However, this article is about six that were the most unforgettable for me, out of the many restaurants we enjoyed. Another article will cover some of the different or unusual foods and places I encountered in my epic 12 day bicycling and eating tour of Taiwan.
For more information:
Taiwan Tourism Bureau
Telephone (Taiwan): 0800-011765
I have included website information to the extent possible for each restaurant. You will need to install a translator. Then hope for the best, most websites don’t translate completely, but you’ll get the picture, and a taste of things, so to speak.