Ok, so I know I’m about a three months late on starting this (ah!)… turns out it’s way harder to travel, document, and blog all at the same time. Seems like I bit off a bit more than I could chew. I still do intend on covering the same topics I mentioned before, so here I guess better late than never right? Here we go!
Day 1/ Our first stop was a quick one-day layover in Taipei. This is where a lot of my mom’s family lives, so we stayed to visit with family for a day before continuing on to South East Asia. Because Taiwan is a pretty regular stop for me, when we stop here it isn’t so much about visiting sites as it is seeing people and fitting in all our favorite restaurants and shops.
This trip we spent the night at my uncle’s place in Tian Mu, a neighborhood outside of central Taipei. In case any of you are familiar with Taipei, it’s near the Shilin night market, one of the major stops for visitors looking for the night-market experience in Taipei. Because we only had one day, and we were pretty jetlagged, we only made 3 key stops this time.
Sao Bing You Tiao (燒餅油條) – We stopped at a shop on the way from the airport to get what my mom calls “Taiwanese Breakfast.” Essentially very light fried bread, similar to unsweetened donuts, dipped in sweet Soy Milk (or Dou Jiang 豆漿) and served with a flakey baked sesame bun. We had a side of “Tsong You Bing” which is a pan fried green-onion bread, and a steamer of “Tang Bao,” little pork dumplings with soup in them. Another favorite is a “Rou Bao,” a dense steamed white bun filled with a savory pork filling.
Lots of shops in Taiwan will sell these items, particularly between the hours of about 5am and 10am. You can ask your homestay or hotel concierge for a place that sells “Sao Bing You Tiao” and I’m sure they’ll know a spot. The one we went to is near my family’s place in Tien Mu, on the corner of Zhongshan N Rd, Section 6, and Keqiang Road.
Din Tai Fung (鼎泰豐) – If you’ve ever read a Taiwanese guide book, I’m sure you’ve heard of this place. It’s an international chain these days, but the original is in Taipei. They are famous for their “Xiao Long Bao” (小籠包, directly translated as Little Dragon Bun), which is similar to the “Tang Bao” I mentioned earlier, but with a thinner, more delicate skin. Eat it in a spoon so that you don’t miss out on any of the soup. One steamer of 10 is usually enough for 2 people, as long as you’re eating other items too. That being said, my cousins and brother have gone through 3 steamers of 10 EACH, so it really depends on how hungry you are. Other items to order:
“Xiao Tsai” – their “appetizer.” I like the beancurd and seaweed with sesame oil, but their cucumber slices are also crowd pleasers.
“Kong Xin Tsai” – directly translated as “Empty Heart Vegetable”, I think in english it’s called both “water spinach” and “morning glory”. Here they sautee it with garlic, and it’s one of my favorites.
“Hong You Tsao Sou” – This are little pork wontons in a spicy oil sauce. Din Tai Fung does them very well.
“Niu Rou Mien” – To be honest, I feel that Din Tai Fung doesn’t do the best niu rou mien. There are lots of smaller local shops that will make excellent versions of this Beef Noodle Soup, practically the Taiwanese national dish. If you happen to be here and don’t feel like searching for another spot, the noodle soup here is decent, and a good addition to the above mentioned dishes.
Muji – This is technically a Japanese chain, and they’ve started to expand to the US, with shops in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. However I find that they’re much cheaper in Asia than in the US, so that is something to bear in mind if you’re considering making a stop. We stopped in because I realized I had to decant a couple items to carry-on sizes for our later trip to Thailand, and they sell a great variety of travel bottles and travel pouches. They are a household brand, carrying everything from home items to clothing, furniture, and now even snacks. Their items are simple but well designed, and they pride themselves on not having any distinguishable logo on their items. If you haven’t heard of Muji it’s definitely worth checking out. We went to the location in Takashimaya in Tien Mu, but they have branches throughout the city. I believe they also now have an online store that ships to the US!
We had dinner with my family at home, before repacking some of our stuff and getting ready to leave the next day. We will be back in about 2 weeks for my cousins wedding, so I’ll have more stuff to follow up then, and I’ll cover a slightly more thorough insight into traveling around Taipei and Taiwan. Next stop is Hanoi!