About Erin D
Lives in San Pedro, Belize
Since Sep 2008
35-49 year old female
Full time traveler and digital nomad - visited over 60 countries on 5 continents to date. Three-time expat -- Taiwan, Netherlands, and Belize. I'm a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) and I'm an annual passholder to all Disney Parks worldwide, visiting each of the international resorts 2-3 times per year. I work as a travel and food writer and blogger. I write for publications like Viator and Roam Right Travel Insurance. I am AFAR Magazine's Belize expert and authored the Official AFAR Guide to Belize. In 2013, I authored the majority of Belize's official visitor magazine, Destination Belize, and had the honor to work as the English language editor for a renowned international chef's second published cookbook.
Flea & Street Markets
Gift & Specialty Shops
Architectural Buildings, Observation Decks & Towers
Flea & Street Markets
Points of Interest & Landmarks
Gift & Specialty Shops
Historic Sites, Neighborhoods
Renowned for its 'xiaolongbao' (soup dumplings), the original branch of Din Tai Fung (DTF), is one of the most visited restaurants in Taipei. Although xiaolongbao are called dumplings, the name 'bao' is translated to bun, while xiaolong refers to the small steamer baskets they are served in. Xiaolongbao originated in Shanghai and Din Tai Fung's founder relocated to Taiwan after fleeing the Chinese Civil War. Yang Bingyi started DTF as a cooking oil store, but after a decline in the industry, he turned half the shop into a space for making xiaolongbao. By the 1980's, he stopped selling oil completely and became a full-service restaurant. Today, there are Din Tai Fung locations throughout Taiwan and around the world in places like Australia, the United States, Japan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, and South Korea. Many purists, myself included, feel the locations outside Taiwan are not quite the same as experiencing an authentic xiaolongbao from the locations within Taipei. What sets the xiaolongbao at Din Tai Fung apart is the perfectly pleated skin and the right amount of filling. Chefs spend months learning the pleating process — a detail Din Tai Fung does not take lightly. Be sure to watch chefs making the dumplings in the large open kitchen windows — a trademark of all Din Tai Fung locations.
Raohe Street Night Market is one of the oldest and most traditional night markets in Taipei. Each night market is known for various specialties and Raohe Street is no different. Some of the 'not-to-miss' food items here include black pepper pork buns, located at the end of the market, and the herbal pork rib soup. There are also vendors selling fresh oysters on the half shell, loads of shopping opportunities, and some great shaved ice places to stop by on your way out.
Tao-Yuan-Street is regarded as one of the best places in Taipei to try Taiwan beef noodles (niu rou mian). This nondescript hole-in-the-wall joint is well known in Taipei. There is no sign, but most taxi drivers will know exactly where it is if you tell them you're looking for 'the famous beef noodle shop on Taoyuan Street.' It looks a bit seedy, but rest assured the food is excellent. Tao-Yuan offers two types of beef noodles — red-braised spicy broth and clear broth. You can't go wrong with whichever one you choose!
Shin Yeh is renowned for its menu of traditional Taiwanese dishes. Not mainland Chinese, but true Taiwanese cuisine that developed on the island. Traditional Taiwanese cuisine is simple and a lack of banquet style dishes proved to be a challenge when trying to bring the cuisine to a restaurant setting. Owner Madam Lee Xiu Ying started the first Shin Yeh with only 11 tables and now it's grown into an international brand with other sister restaurants and similar chains. Some of the Taiwanese delicacies you'll find at Shin Yeh include braised pork belly with bamboo shoots, fried rice-noodles, three cups chicken, and turnip omelet.
Sunny Hills is the place to go if you want to try traditional Taiwanese pineapple cakes. These are one of Taiwan's best-selling souvenirs so it's worth seeking out the best quality options. Visit Sunny Hills and you will be given a sample of the pineapple cake to taste upon arrival. The crust is very crumbly and moist, while the pineapple jam filling is very fruity and natural tasting. Wondering why Sunny Hills pineapple cakes are so popular? Many bakeries use winter melon and additives to bump up the flavor, while Sunny Hills has gone back to its original winning formula: Their pineapple cakes contain the best possible ingredients, including local pineapple farmed in Nantou, where they started out.
Yongkang Street is a short street in Taipei that is devoted to some of the best eats and coolest shopping in the city. Along its several short blocks you'll find foodie favorites like Kao Chi, Du Hsiao Yueh, and the original Din Tai Fung around the corner on Xinyi. Kao Chi is one of Taiwan's traditional snack restaurants that has historic roots on the island, while Du Hsiao Yueh's specialty is 'slack season noodles,' which originated outside the city in Tainan. Lots of other great dining options exist in Yongkang as well, including several bakeries, patisseries, and chic and trendy cafes. Come hungry!
Taipei 101 offers some of the best dining options when it comes to Taipei's shopping centers: Find everything from fast-food-style eats in its food court to high-end restaurants on the 85th and 86th floors. The newest branch of the world-famous Din Tai Fung is located here along with the popular Jason's Market if you're in need of a good grocery store. Look out for S.T.A.Y. and Sweet Tea by renowned Michelin-starred French Chef Yannick Alleno too.
Shilin Night Market is probably the most well known and well visited night market in Taipei, as you can tell by its huge crowds. Hit the food building and sample a number of traditional night market eats including stinky tofu and oyster omelet. One of the more unique eats you'll find here is coffin bread, Taiwan's answer to soup in a bread bowl. Once outside the food building, there are numerous streets and alleyways that are filled with interesting stores, food vendors, and even arcade-style games for the young ones, or the young at heart.
As its nickname suggests, Shenkeng Street is home to the best tofu in Taiwan. If a dish can be made with tofu, you're likely to find it here. Some of the items available include regular tofu, stinky tofu, dessert tofu, fried or BBQ stinky tofu, tofu cake, tofu cheese, dried tofu, and even tofu ice cream. When you get tired of tofu, choose from some of the other snacks on offer like peanut candy, sticky rice cake, winter melon candy, and more.
Ningxia Night Market is particularly popular as it reminds its visitors of Taiwan 20 or more years ago. It's a very traditional market that draws a steady crowd. Like other Taipei night markets, there is no shortage of awesome food stalls to visit, and quirky stores to shop in. Some of the best eats at Ningxia include oyster omelet, crispy taro balls, and sesame oil chicken. Other traditional 'old-school' snacks to try include pork liver soup, Tainan rice pudding, roe salad, and Imperial Guandong Porridge.
If you're a fan of bubble tea, you might know the history behind its origin. It was developed in Taichung, Taiwan, by Liu Han-Chieh, the owner of Chun Shui Tang tea company. She adapted methods she learned from the Japanese style of cold coffee. During a business meeting one day, she dumped one of her traditional desserts, a tapioca pudding, into the cold Assam tea and it was an instantaneous hit. Today, bubble tea shops are on practically every corner of Taipei, but if you want to learn more about the culture behind this creation, head to Chun Shui Tang. She has 30 locations in the country and it can take workers up to six months to master all the drinks on her menu. Only top quality ingredients are used and drinks are shaken, rather than blended like most other shops. A refractometer is even used to measure the sweetness in the bubble tea to ensure it's to your liking!
If you're interested in trying Taiwan's aboriginal cuisine, you won't find many options in Taipei itself. While the culture is well known and represented, the cuisine is surprisingly not. Some of the most important staples in Taiwan's aboriginal cuisine have been millet, yams, and taro. Rice is used more frequently today and you'll find meats like dove, deer, mountain boar, and more. Some dishes have been tweaked to appeal to more western palates as some of the overly fermented and 'rotted' foods would turn away even the most adventurous of eaters! The best place to try Taiwan's aboriginal cuisine in greater Taipei is the village of Wulai. It's on the outskirts of New Taipei City (about a 40-50 minute trip), but it's worth the journey. Incredible scenery, world-renowned hot springs, and a strong aboriginal culture make Wulai a very popular weekend destination for Taipei residents, while restaurants like Taiya Po Po are worth checking out to learn more about the local aboriginal culture and cuisine.
Hot pot is such an important part of Taiwanese food culture. The basic premise is a simmering broth is placed at the center of the table, and guests then cook their own meat, leafy vegetables, mushrooms, seafood, and dumplings in it. Everything should always be fresh and you can ask for various sauces to dip your cooked items in. Meats can include beef, chicken, duck, and mutton, while seafood can be fish, prawns, scallops, fish balls, and octopus. There is always a huge array of vegetables, and other local specialty items too, which could include mung bean, sea cucumber, noodles, winter melon, and more. Mala's rules for hot pot are simple — it's all-you-can-eat within a two hour time limit. The pot can be divided into two, which allows you to choose two of the four available broths, and you can head up to the buffet too, which also includes ice cream for dessert.
Breakfast in Taiwan is a big deal and one of the best spots to try traditional Taiwanese breakfast eats is Fuhang Dou Jiang. One of the dishes to try here is 'xian dou jiang,' (a salty soy milk) which is like a meal in itself, and eaten like a soup rather than a drink. As a dipping accompaniment, try 'shao bing,' (a flat baked bread stuffed with egg), or 'you tiao,' which is like a Chinese cruller or long, deep fried doughnut. If the savory soy milk doesn't sound appealing, there is also a sweet soy milk, served hot, which is delicious.
Ice Monster recently relocated to the desirable and trendy East District, and the size of the store isn't the only thing that's increased. If you're familiar with the old Ice Monster, the new menu might seem a little daunting with so many new and fun additions. Try the classic mango shaved ice, the snow ice (a personal favorite), or one of the newest creations, which pays homage to Taiwan's most famous drink — called 'Deconstructed Boba Milk Tea' — it's made with milk tea shaved ice and served with tapioca bubbles on the side.