Picking up our Taiwan adventures again, here’s the fourth and final installment of the Tasting Taipei series. While it’s relatively unadventurous, it’s still full of delicious eats.
Since it was our last full day in Taiwan, we wanted to cram as much as we can. So, this translated to a quick hotel breakfast and on-the-go munching. Skeptical as I was about convenience store sushi, I was really hungry by the time we got off the Yuanshan station on our way to the Taipei Fine Arts Museum. The bright lights and pretty arrangement of food at Sushi Take-out, a small ready made sushi stall at the station. Targeted at commuters who are in a rush to grab a bite, Sushi Take-Out offered individually wrapped sushi and onigiri, as well as preassembled bento sets. Shoppers usually grabbed one of the sealable plastic trays then filled it with their own selections before paying at the counter.
I was only looking for something to appease my hungry tummy, so I just grabbed a couple of inarizushi, turning my nose up at their actual raw fish sushi. To my surprise however, it was pretty tasty. Actually, it was pretty good for 10NT. The sushi rice was of good quality and prepared well. Both the rice and tofu skin were well-seasoned, and it was accompanied by a light sprinkling of black sesame seeds.
Pleasantly surprised, I actually walked back to the station just to get some more food, this time trusting my eyes and trying some salmon sushi. The same good sushi rice was accompanied by a generous slice of more than decent salmon. It really was good value for the price, and considering that it was pre-made and from a convenience store, it was really a good discovery. If we didn’t have lunch plans, I wouldn’t have minded grabbing a big plastic box for snacking.
Mister Donut’s Pon de Ring
I wasn’t the only one who needed something to munch on as we continued our explorations. Pad’s choice was a simple donut called Pon de Ring from Mister Donut. He was munching on them the whole time we were in Taipei, buying whenever we encountered a Mister Donut store. During our last day, I finally tried some when he offered it to me.
After a few bites, I quickly understood the charm. Part donut, part mochi, this pretty pastry was a delight to bite into, offering a pliable yet chewy resistance. Available in a selection of flavors, like sugared, kinako, chocolate, strawberry, and frosted variants, it’s the kind of donut you can easily get addicted to. The Pon de Ring made such an impression on me that we actually bought a box just to bring home to Manila.
Din Tai Fung
One restaurant that made a lasting impression on me during various trips to Singapore is Din Tai Fung. My first encounter with Xiao Long Bao spelled true love, so it was essential that we eat where the chain originated — in Taiwan!
The branch we visited was the one at Taipei 101. Because they serve a lot of tourists, this branch was very spacious and very modern. And most importantly, was staffed with a lot of English speaking employees — a rarity in Taiwan. Not only was the server assigned to us conversant in English, she was very welcoming as well, even offering to brief us on how to eat xiao long bao if it was our first time there. It was interesting to see how Din Tai Fung’s good service and attention to detail seem to be universal. Even the table side rack for stashing your bag that we encountered in Singapore was there.
What did we order? Is it even necessary to ask? We had a large tray of xiao long bao, that delicate soupy dumpling Din Tai Fung is known for. The thin dumpling skin was both elastic enough to hold the soup in without breaking. The broth was flavorful and so was the meat. It was just what xiao long bao should be. A tiny serving of heartwarming goodness, enjoyable solo or nestled on a bed of shredded ginger and black vinegar.
Aside from the xiao long bao, we also shared a serving of pork chop rice. The pork chop was cooked to a moist, tender doneness and heavily seasoned with an assortment of heady, aromatic spices. Served with a fried rice laden with softly scrambled egg bits and green onions, it was a perfect combination that needs to be enjoyed together.
And how can I not have a serving of their spicy cucumber appetizer? After having fallen in love with this in Singapore, I just had to have it again, even if Pad’s weak tolerance for spicy food meant that I had to finish it solo. Or perhaps, that was a good thing. *big selfish grin* Crisp, refreshing, and packed with heat from the chili oil, this hot and cold appetizer is truly addictive.
The meal left us pleasantly stuffed. While it met our expectations, we were surprised to find out that some dishes from Singapore weren’t available in Taiwan — particularly, the shrimp pancake. It was a small disappointment since I wanted Pad to try it, but it didn’t ruin the experience because the meal really made up for it.
Big Tom Ice Cream
After walking around for a good part of the afternoon exploring Taipei 101, we found ourselves hungry again so we went for an ice cream break. Bigtom, a local ice cream brand that boasts of healthy and all natural ice cream, was our chosen pitstop, mostly because it was right there at the observation deck. Besides, it’s an awesome thought, stopping for ice cream 89th floor, right?
Aside from the usual ice cream scooping station desserts, they also offered unique treats like an Ice Cream BEER Float. Yes, Beer! Too bad we didn’t get to try it since I was trying to stay alcohol-free. Instead, we went for individual scoops — Pad had the sweet and chocolatey Obama Double Chocolate (Why it’s named after the US President, I have no idea) while I had my usual Strawberry ice cream. While not particularly mindblowing, Bigtom is still pretty good and can compete with pricey American brands.
Despite the interesting variety of things I got to taste during that trip, I realize that there are so many Taiwanese staples I’ve yet to try. I had to pass up on a lot of street offerings in Danshui because I was feeling full. Our night market street food exploration was a failure, mostly because of a queasy pregnant stomach. And my heightened sense of smell during pregnancy made me look away from all sorts of interesting, but strong smelling dishes. So, you know what this means right? Wait for me, I shall be back, Taiwan!
Tasting Taipei Part 1: Danshui Old Street
Tasting Taipei Part 2: MOS Burger, Taipei 101 & Saizeriya
Tasting Taipei Part 3: Sakura Machi, Brothers Hotel Onigiri, Cafe Dog and Cats & Shilin Night Market