Tuesday, May 17, 2016

MUST EAT foods in Taipei - best advises from a local foodie

(1) Beef Noodles 牛肉麵:
Lin Don Fang Beef Noodles 林東芳牛肉麵
The reason for me to recommend this one is it uses the beef shank and cook it as tender as it can be; they have home-made "chilly sauce" provided on each table for you to taste (just use the spoon and take a small portion into your beef soup), and which was made of the oil extracted from the beef, smells extremely tasty and you've got to try some. The environment of this restaurant is like street food, it's crowded and sometimes with long lines to wait, but it's definitely worth to try!
  • How to get there:
    - It located between 2 MRT stations (of the BROWN line): either Nanjing Fuxing or Zhonfxiao Fuxing, and takes 10 mins walk from either one; Or,
    - Grab a taxi bring you to: 林東芳牛肉麵 (address: 八德路二段274號)
  • Opens on Monday to Saturday: 11:00am~03:00am (closed on Sunday)

    Lin Don Fang Beef Noodles

    Home made chilly sauce
(2) Mango ice 芒果冰 & Red Beans ice 紅豆冰:
Mango ice 芒果冰:
Smoothie House 思慕昔 (永康街15號冰館) is the original 1st store with it's high quality and luscious mango ice known by the world, and this is one you can NOT miss in Taiwan, i promise you would feel like living in heaven when you taste this sweet, fresh, juicy, and delightful mango ice!
  • How to get there:
    - Take MRT RED line to: Dongmen station 東門站, EXIT 5
  • Opens everyday: 10:00-23:00
    Mango Ice
Red Beans ice 紅豆冰:
Tai-I 台一牛奶大王 is probably one of the oldest traditional ice shop (since 1956),  and it provides very traditional flavors ice and sweet hot soup (with traditional Tangyuan, Sesame Tangyuan, Peanut Tangyuan, etc.). I personally highly recommend you to try the mix of Red beans 紅豆 + Green beans 綠豆 ice in the summer, same most Japanese love all the sweet Red beans deserts, red beans could never be wrong, but in the summer, you'd need some icy and fresh taste to cool you down a bit, then mix half of Green beans would really help!
If you come visiting in winter, and you really need something sweet to warm your hear and body instead of hot chocolate... try the Red Bean Hot Soup with Sesame Tangyuan (or Peanut Tangyuan), this is very traditional desert, and don't tell others you've visited Taiwan if you never try this! :)
  • How to get there:
    - Take MRT GREEN line to: Gongguan station 公館站, EXIT 3
  • Opens everyday: 11:00~24:00
    Red Beans Ice

    Sweet Red Bean Hot Soup with Sesame Tangyuan
(3) Xiao Long Bao 小籠包:
Din Tai Feng 鼎泰豐, I'd say it's the best XiaoLongBao in the world (believe me, i've tried the most famous one in Shanghai and Beijing), no one could beat this Din Tai Feng (if you're as picky as me to the foods :)). There're many branches and I also tried the Hong Kong branch, Japan branch, and Beijing branch, again, the best one is in Taipei - it's original store. Besides XiaoLongBao (Pork) is the one you must order, i personally highly recommend you also try: Steamed Fish Dumpling 鮮魚蒸餃 (you'd taste the juicy fresh fish once you take a bite), and the Truffle and Pork XiaoLongBao 松露小籠包 (if you're fancy about truffle..., my french friends were moved when they had this one); also, their House Steamed Chicken Soup 雞湯, Pork Chop Fried 炸豬排, and Shrimp Fried Rice 蝦仁蛋炒飯 are also good (if you have some room for them. :p).
They are many stores in Taipei, you can pick any one convenient for you, and below is the original first store.
  • How to get there:
    - Take MRT RED line to: Dongmen station 東門站, EXIT 5
  • Monday to Friday: 10:00~21:00
     (only this Xinyi store closed in the weekend, others remained open in the weekend)
    Pork Xiao Long Bao
(4) Seafood, stir-fried foods 海鮮, 熱炒:
We have sooooooo many good local seafood restaurants, most of them are noisy and crowded, and that's where we like to drink and hangout after work or school. Here I'll just listed 2 restaurants I personally would bring my friends to:
Addiction Aquatic Development 上引水產, it located in the fish market, with all the living fresh sea creatures for you to eat, and they would make it as dish for you (you could choose the cooking style you'd like them to make, BBQ, steam, fried, etc.). Definitely a good place for a seafood lover!
  • How to get there:
    - It's not near any MRT station, so just call a TAXI
    (it located in central Taipei, so it won't cost less than 200TWD for the taxi fee).
  • Opens everyday: 6:00~24:00
Pick any live sea creatures in Addiction Aquatic Development

DaKaShengMengHaiChan 打咔生猛活海鮮, it's a popular one and normally it'd be crowded, just wait for few minutes and you'll get a table. One of the good things in Taipei restaurants is, most the people here are very friendly, they'd try to understand you as they could, so in any restaurant if you don't know how to order... you could just use your finger to point the other tables' dishes that look yummy for you ha!!
  • How to get there:
    - Take MRT RED or GREEN line to: Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall station, EXIT 3
  • Opens everyday: 16:00~02:00am
    People enjoy having dinner with beer after work or school
(5) Hot pot 火鍋:
Tai Ho Dien 太和殿, is the spicy hotpot me and my friends love, they have mixed Chinese herbals with the spices as their flagship spicy hotpot, which makes it have a very strong and irresistible smell. Don't worry if you can't eat too spicy food, you could order a pot with half spicy side and half normal (non-spicy side), and also ask them to provide the "mild spicy" for the spicy side. Here are the ones you should order:
Deep Fried Meat Ball 川丸子, Fish Dumplings 魚餃, Handmade Shrimp Balls 手工蝦丸, Shin Chu Mushroom Meat Ball 香菇貢丸, Frozen Dofu 凍豆腐, any meat you prefer (I'll recommend Prime Short Rib as beef 雪花牛肉), the traditional Chinese bread (Deep Fried Stick Dough 老油條), and some vegetables.
  • How to get there:
    - Xin Yi An He station, EXIT 5
    - and go straight to Taipei 101 direction about 5 minutes walk
  • Opens everyday: 12:00~03:00am
    You can order half spicy and half non-spicy hot pot
(6) Crispy Roasted Duck 烤鴨:
Long Du 龍都酒樓, many said they have the best roasted duck in Taipei, the only small problem to try their roasted duck is, you need to have someone to call for you to make a reservation at least 1 week ago (so ask anyone in Taipei you know to call to book for you!), just try their flagship roasted ducks and order 1-2 other dishes which is already a great meal!
  • How to get there:
    - Call a taxi to: 中山北路一段105巷18之1號 (龍都酒樓)
    (it's in central Taipei, cost you within 200TWD for the taxi fee).
  • Opens: 11:30~14:30, 17:45~21:30 
    Chief slice the roasted duck for you at your table
(7) Traditional Taiwanese cuisine 台菜:
Shin Yeh Taiwanese cuisine 欣葉台菜, is one famous Taiwanese traditional cuisine restaurant that almost every Taipei kids had been there, since our parents love this restaurant and always bring us to dine there. Their waiters / waitress speak English and Japanese, and they'll help you to order some famous traditional dishes. They have many branches in Taipei, I'd recommend you to the one located in Taipei 101 building 85th floor (you can book it via their website), where you could try Traditional Taiwanese cuisine yet have the beautiful view from top to see the Taipei city.:))
But, you could only order their sets in that branch, and if you think which might be too much for you, you can go to other stores and below I list their original store's address. Here're some traditional Taiwanese dishes you should try: 菜脯蛋 (Pan fried omelet with vegetables inside) 、地瓜稀飯 (sweet potato congee)、豬腳 (Stewed pork)、嫩煎豬肝 (lightly friend pork liver)、蚵仔酥 (fried oysters)、三杯中卷 (3-cups calamari), etc..
  • How to get there:
    - Call a taxi to: 雙城街34-1號 (欣葉台菜)
  • Opens: 11:00~24:00
Stewed Pork
Sweet Potato Congee (traditional Taiwanese eat this everyday)
Pan fried omelet with vegetables inside
Pickled Clams
3-cups calamari

** Taipei MRT map

Monday, May 2, 2016

MUST GO places in Taipei - advises from a local girl

I've always been asked by friends to give some advise about where to go, what to eat, or even where to drink in Taipei as a born and raised local girl, and I think, it'd be better if I could just write them down as a useful guide to help more tourists visiting Taipei.

Basically, I'll give them 3 guides: (1) Places to go, (2) Foods to eat, (3) Bars / Clubs to have fun. And in this post, I'll list these MUST-GO places to go first especially if you only stay Taipei for 2-4 fays.

Here I divided into few days trips based on these places' locations (i put the nearby places to visit in the same day), but you could definitely based on your situation such as, days to stay, weather, or your preference to arrange the best plan fits you! :)

[Day 1]
1. Taipei 101 台北101
2. Chiang Kai-Shek (CKS) Memorial Hall 中正紀念堂
Chiang Kai-Shek (CKS) Memorial Hall
3. Pinxi 平溪
It is recommended that you go there in the afternoon, so that you can see all the lanterns with fire flying in the dark sky and it's extremely beautiful. People go there would buy a lantern (around TWD100) and write your wishes on the lantern (it's big), and then you could fire it and let it fly to the sky, it is believed that your wishes would become true if the god had received your sky lantern. :)
  • How to get there:
    (1) Take MRT to: Taipei Main Station (台北車站)
    (2) go to Taiwan Railway Station Exit (台灣鐵路)
    (3) buy a ticket to: Pinxi (平溪) (the best way is you just ask the counter)
    ** You need to transfer to another train at: Raifang (瑞芳): Get-off at Raifang station (瑞芳站) and ask the people where to take the train to: Pinxi (平溪)
    All the Sky lanterns are flying in the sky

    Write your wish on the lantern and fire it up
1. National Palace Museum 故宮博物院
A must visit place in Taipei, it has lots of treasures we took while we retreated from China (so the Beijing one has nothing left, only the building. :p)
  • Open daily: 8:30~18:30
  • How to get there:
    (1) Take MRT RED line to: Shilin (士林), EXIT 1.
    (2) then take BUS: 紅30, 小18, 小19, 255, 304, or 815 (around 5 mins, cost TWD15), get off at 故宮博物院; or,
    (3) just call a taxi, it's not far (cost around TWD100).
2. Beitou Thermal Valley 地熱谷
It's the source of all the hotsprings in Beitou (北投) area located in Yang-Ming mountain (陽明山), as it's full of sulfur and steam, very hot and smoky, and one tourist had fall down into it and was burned to die, local people also call it as "Hell Valley".
  • How to get there:
    (1) take MRT RED line to: Beitou (北投)
    (2) then take a side line (PINK) to: Xinbeitou (新北投)
  • Closed on Monday
    Beitou Thermal Valley
3. Beitou Hotspring Museum 北投溫泉博物館
Built in more than 100 years ago (year 1913), which was the most luxury hotspring at that time, and also favored by Japanese emperor.
Beitou Hotspring Museum
4. Beitou Public Library 北投圖書館
This library located in the mountain and is the 1st "green building" in Taiwan, people said its just like a "tree house", i personally think it's like an "Noah's Ark" in a mountain (let's go on this ark together while the end of the world comes! ha!), and local people love to go there to read and relax.
Beitou Public Library
5. Hotsprings溫泉
After visiting Hell Valley and the Hotspring Museum, you could then enjoy soaking in the hotspring and let your body relaxed. Here I'd recommend 2 hotsprings:
(1) Beitou Park Hotspring 北投公園露天溫泉浴池
This a public one, there're 6 pools and you could see many local people there to enjoy their lives.
  • Cost: TWD40/ppl
  • You need to bring your SWIMMING SUIT to get into the pool
Beitou Park Hotspring
(2) Villa 32 三二行館
This is one i personal like to go, as it's near the Xinbeitou MRT station and it seats beside the mountain, you could see the beautiful Yang-Ming mountain while soaking in the hotspring. And they offer public pool and private room, i'd recommend you just go to the "Public pool" and being naked to become a local people to enjoy the life with others. :)
  • Cost: TWD1680/ppl (weekday), and TWD2200/ppl (weekend)
    Villa 32 for hotspring
5. Night Markets 夜市
There're many night markets in Taipei, and here I'll recommend 2 I personal like a lot based on the foods varieties and specialty. (Night market opens after 6pm and until midnight, so don't go there too early!)
(1) Longshan Temple 龍山寺
I'd highly recommend you go this one as you can also visit one of the most ancient temples in Taipei (built in year 1738), at the same time surf in the big night market and enjoy all kinds of delicious foods here.
  • How to get there:
    • Take MRT BLUE line to: Longshan Temple station (龍山寺)
      Longshan Temple
(2) Raohe Street Night Market 饒河街夜市
There's one very antique and beautiful temple called Ciyou Temple (松山慈祐宮) built for Matsu in year 1753.
  • How to get there:
    - Take MRT GREEN line to: Songshan station (松山)
    • Songshan Ciyou Temple
[Day 3]
1. Jiufen 九份
A place with many special straits for it's unique topography become a unique mountain town in the early times of Taiwan, here you could see many ancitent Taiwan style builds and know how the people live in the time.
Also, Jiufen is the place where a famous movie was taken there - A City of Sadness, also, it is said that the Jiufen is the place where Miyazaki Hayao came out the scene places of the animation movie - Spirited Away (千と千尋の神隠しせんとちひろのかみかくし).
  • How to get there:
    (1) Take MRT BLUE (or Yellow) line to:  Zhongxiao Fuxing station (忠孝復興), Exit 1.
    (2) then take BUS #1062 (take 2 hours to go to Jiufen);
    (1) take TAXI (around 1 hour from Taipei to Jiufen, and approximately 1200~1500TWD/per car, you can share with others if you have more people)
Jiufen streets - Taiwanese old time style
Jiufen streets
Jiufen is a mountain town

** Taipei MRT map