City guide: Taipei
Serene is a Design Consultant at Interface, one of the world's largest designers and makers of carpet tiles. She has a strong love for art, music, food, cats and travelling, and makes it a point to travel at least once a year.
In her interview, Serene shares her with us her love for Taipei's food and shopping, and why she keeps on going back.
What kind of traveller are you?
I’m usually quite laid back because I really just want to relax and enjoy my time overseas. I try to plan out my trip beforehand, but most of the time I like stumbling upon new places as I walk around.
What is some food that is unique to Taiwan and where can you find it?
The Taiwanese are really inventive when it comes to concocting food dishes. Most of these delicious foods can be found at the various night markets, 夜市 (ye shi) around Taipei, or even just in local restaurants and eateries that are everywhere.
Smelly Tofu - I guess the most famous dish would be this. The one at Ningxia Night Market 寧夏夜市 (ning xia ye shi) is really good. It is served with with pickled cabbage, a sweet soy-based sauce and a chilli sauce.
Pigs Blood/Duck Blood soup - It was one of the things I enjoyed as a kid and its since been banned in my home country Singapore. So I always try to have some when I’m in Taiwan.
You can have blood in pudding form in soup (most popularly in a spicy 麻辣 (ma la) broth) or mixed with glutinous rice. There's a snack called 豬血糕 (zhu xie gao) that is basically steamed glutinous rice and blood cake coated with peanut powder and coriander.
Car wheel cake/biscuit, 车轮饼 (che lun bing) - On my last trip, I tried this dish with a tapioca pearl filling. I found this dish at the basement of The Eslite Spectrum Songyan Store, opposite Songshan Cultural and Creative Park. but I heard you can find it some of the night markets as well.
Ice cream wrapped in popiah skin, 花生捲冰淇淋 (hua shen juan bing qi lin) - Popiah skin is the chinese version of a crepe. So imagine three scoops of ice-cream, topped with coriander and grated peanut brittle and wrapped up in crepe. Having ice cream paired with coriander is really unusual but tastes surprisingly good.
Pictured above: Ningxia Night Market
What are your favourite Taiwanese dishes and where can you get them?
卤味 (lu wei). There are stalls in at most night markets and also along some streets that sell this braised dish. You pick the items you want, and they they will cook it for you using their braised broth. There are a whole lot of things to choose from - mushrooms, pigs’ innards, pig’s blood, beancurd and a variety of vegetables. You can also add the local instant noodles called Prince Noodles, 王子面 (wang zi mian). Try the 灯笼卤味 (deng long lu wei) at Shi Da Night Market.
Bubble Tea, 泡泡茶（pao pao cha). Taiwan is the birthplace of bubble tea! It's everywhere! It’s the one thing I always indulge in when I’m in Taipei. I love the Black Sugar Milk Tea, as well as the different Tea flavours, like Oolong and Camellia Tea. And always with Tapioca Pearls!
Taipei is famous for its night markets - which ones do you recommend and why?
Every Night market has a different specialty food.
Raohe Night Market 饶河夜市 (rao he ye shi) The 胡椒饼 (Baked pepper bun) stall always has a long queue. The Bun is piping hot – straight out of the oven – filled with spring onions and meat, and really juicy. I really like the grilled oyster mushrooms there as well.
Ningxia Night Market 寧夏夜市 (ning xia ye shi) – This is a Traditional night market with a huge variety of food. It is popular for the oyster omelette, stinky tofu and fried yam balls. Really Popular with the locals.
Ji Long Night Market 基隆夜市 (ji long ye shi) – This is a rather big night market, also known as "Temple’s Entrance Night Market" 廟口夜市 (miao kou ye shi) because it spreads out from the entrance of a temple. It is famous for its seafood as the night market is really close to the sea. The grilled squid is really yummy! You pick out which squid you want (they are huge), and they will grill it for you. I also like the bubble ice 泡泡冰 (pao pao bing) here. It's a sorbet of shaved iced mashed in with fruit or peanuts.
Pictured above: Raohe Night Market, Jilong Night Market (credit: Stuart Dawson)
Where are is your favourite dessert in Taipei and where do you get it from?
Taro ball soup. It is a bowl of sweet soup with taro balls, sweet potato balls, and green beans. I love chewy things, so I am naturally drawn towards the taro and sweet potato balls. There are some newer, more modern stalls in Taipei, but the traditional one at Jiufen called 阿柑姨芋圆 (ah gan yi yu yuan) beats them all.
Where are some good shopping areas in Taipei and what are some shops that you found memorable or liked?
Eslite Bookstore is one of the largest bookstore chains in Taiwan, like Kinokuniya in Japan. There are a couple of shops all around Taipei, and even a 24 hour one at the Dunnan branch. They don’t just sell books, but also locally designed goods and records for music lovers. The Dunnan branch has a whole floor for music, as well as a café.
The Eslite Spectrum Songyan Store and the Xinyi branch of Eslite Bookstore houses a few floors of books, records, handmade goods, and tea houses. There are also workshops for people interested in pottery, silver-smithing, and even glass blowing.
I also really liked Pinmo at Yongkang street - you can find paper goods, hand made bags and restored bottles made into vases and small dishes.
Pictured above: Pinmo Store (credit: Rebecca Toh)
Some shopping areas to explore:
Dunhua Street and around Zhongshan MRT station has many small trendy fashion boutiques, shops with locally handmade and designer goods as well as cafes to explore.
Booday in Zhongshan - A local brand that sells paper goods and hand made items. The Café is on the second floor. 18-1, Ln 25, Nanjing W Rd, Taipei City (台北市南京西路25巷18-1號)
Pictured above: Booday (credit: Joan)
Stylish places to stay in Taiwan
This stylish apartment located in Hualian City, Fujian Street is a perfect place for a comfortable and private stay with friends and family.
Going to Taiwan? Check out more places to stay in Taiwan on Roomorama.