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Far before the term “foodie” entered the vernacular, food-loving travelers have been flocking to Asian capitals. Singapore, Hong Kong and Bangkok always make the list, but Taipei has long flown under the radar. Now, all that is changing. With Michelin-starred restaurants, family-run restaurants and street food stalls serving a unique blend of Chinese, Southeast Asian and Western flavors, Taipei is solidly on the culinary map.
Whether you’re in the market for gourmet cuisine or local-favorite street food, Taipei will deliver. Here’s how to tackle this foodie haven.
Where to Eat
Raohe Night Market
Looking to dive into Taiwanese cuisine head first? Start with a trip to the Raohe Night Market. The iconic market is Taipei’s top foodie Mecca, packed with stalls slinging all varieties of Korean cuisine. Visitors can taste all the city’s specialties in one place, like oyster omelets, beef noodles and the very polarizing stinky tofu.
Addiction Aquatic Development
If the night market seems like too much too fast, ease into Taipei’s market scene with a trip to Addiction Aquatic Development. This bright and clean seafood market has a raw bar, a sushi bar, a hot pot restaurant and bento boxes you can take away or eat in. Or, visit the live tanks to choose your own fish. Staff will prepare your catch however you like it.
Din Tai Fung
Din Tai Fung first opened in 1958 as a mom-and-pop shop. Today, it’s an institution, with locations all over the world. Din Tai Fung is known for its soup dumplings, or xiao long bao, said to be some of the best on earth. Lines get long for the broth-filled crab and pork dumplings. While you wait, you can watch the chefs at work behind a steamy glass window. In 2010, the Hong Kong location was the first Taiwanese restaurant to ever win a Michelin star.
Mountain and Sea House
Dinner is always an event at Mountain and Sea House. The one Michelin-starred restaurant is dedicated to Taiwanese banquet dishes, so it’s best to come with a group. And if you aren’t traveling with a group, you’d better come hungry. Dishes come piled high and elaborately plated. Ingredients come from the owners’ farm, south of Taipei. Be sure to reserve the roast suckling pork in advance, made exclusively with 21-day-old pigs.
Set in the East District, Tua is like dining in a friend’s home. If that friend was an acclaimed gourmet chef, that is. The two-story restaurant and its lovely garden feel like a private home as well. Tua serves updated Taiwanese classics made with seasonal ingredients. Be sure to leave space for dessert: a pastry baked by the French pastry chef.
Before you think Taipei’s only trick is Taiwanese cuisine, take a trip tp MUME. Meaning “plum blossom” in Latin, the Michelin-starred MUME serves Taiwanese ingredients prepared in Nordic styles. Chefs use colorful flowers and fresh herbs to dress up the dishes. The unique combination of Taiwanese and Nordic cuisine results in elegant dishes with surprising flavors like scallop ceviche with fresh ginger.
Taipei is known for its street food, but restaurants like RAW are making gourmands around the world take notice. At RAW, superstar chef André Chiang crafts French bistro-style dishes made with Taiwanese ingredients. As the chef is faithful to Taiwan’s 24 “micro-seasons,” the menu is hyper-seasonal. The dining room feels one with nature, as well. The bar is made from a Taiwanese pine tree that looks almost like a sculpture.
Where to Stay
After you emerge from the smoky markets, a warm shower and a fluffy robe is always the ticket. Taipei has a few fabulous hotels that fit the bill.
Set in Songshan, Taipei’s bustling business district, the Mandarin Oriental Taipei is the city’s most luxurious hotel. The property opened in 2014, but its Art Deco architecture calls back to decades long ago. The rooms and suites are modern and elegant with a retro flare. Don’t miss afternoon tea at the Jade Lounge.
Set in the buzzing Xinyi district, W Hotel Taipei is a good choice for travelers seeking a scene. Always hip, the W has artsy public spaces, a cool beach bar and eye-catching colors.
Fly into Taoyuan International Airport to reach Taipei. Direct flights are available from most major cities. Once you’ve picked up your bags, the airport train will whisk you to the city center in just 35 minutes.
With traffic, taxis often take longer than expected. If you’d rather avoid the traffic, you can navigate the city by metro. The Taipei MRT covers most of the city center, and makes visiting the markets, restaurants and tourist attractions simple.
Biking through Taipei is a fun way to navigate the city, and work up an appetite along the way. When you’re in one of the greatest food cities on earth, you’ll want to be hungry. ■