Monday, October 26, 2009
hungry in taipei's eating tour of XIMENDING
I often get emails asking me, "I only have 12/24/48 hours to spend in Taipei, where MUST I eat? what are your top 5 places in Taipei?" etc etc. Or I have visiting friends who I want to show around town but they are totally open to want to eat where ever I want to go. It's a lot of pressure to pick the right places! Haha. So I'll try to do certain areas that can be used as a guide for an afternoon or meal if you want to know where I'd take you if we were hanging out in person.
One place I end up gravitating towards when friends are visiting is Ximending. It's cheap, it's fast, there's lots to shop and see. It's often compared to Shibuya/Harajuku in Tokyo or Times Square in New York.
There's a certain energy from all the people walking around, the gigantic neon billboards spanning across the buildings and movie theater sized screens playing trailers or music videos, gaggles of trendily dressed teenagers, tourists or students in their school uniforms, and rows and rows of shops and shops and food. It's a great way to spend an afternoon or evening in Taipei that feels unique to the city.
My suggestions for Ximending is to eat a little at each place and then you can try as much as possible. Another option is to eat at a sit down place, depending on what you like. Ximending is also home to the Modern Toliet restaurant which I have yet to go or recommend, but I know it's very popular those looking for a really different eating experience.
So a few weeks ago, this is what I took my new friend Roger to eat when he was visiting Taipei. I won't talk too much about stuff I've reviewed before- you can click on it for old pics/reviews.
A five course eating tour for under NT$300 or $10 bucks!
First Course: Ah Chung Noodles
You still gotta eat Ah Chung Noodles standing up after you get your piping hot bowl of noodles and pork intestines. I recommend getting a small bowl so you can eat dumplings at the second destination. Don't forget to add a bit of chili sauce, garlic paste and vinegar to spice it up.
Second course: Portuguese Egg tarts from KFC
Only because we spotted KFC on the way to the other side of the street and the Mochi on stick guy was not open that day and my friend didn't mind mixing salty and sweet and back to salty. Like me, he was not a believer that this was a must-try, but after eating it, he understood. Hot, custardy, flaky, good. Of course, this doesn't have to be eaten in Ximending- just give it chance if you spot a KFC.
Third course: Almond milk shaved ice and almond tofu pudding at Yu's Almond Tofu
I'd had the silky and sweet almond tofu before, with their trademark almond milk in a silver bag to be opened and poured on top, but when I spotted the almond milk snowflake ice, I had to have some. More fine and sweet than regular shaved ice, this also had some almond tofu on the bottom! Score. You can also add your own toppings.
Fourth course: Fried and boiled dumplings from Zhang Ji Fried Dumplings
This is one of those places I'd never would have found if it weren't for my friend Justin- entire menu of eat is on the wall and under NT$100.
We made it there around 2pm and it was still fairly crowded inside. We ordered a set of guo tie or pan fried dumplings and tsui jiao boiled dumplings, since they wouldn't less us order less than 10 each.
The guo tie were perfectly fried, with a thin crisped up layer on the bottom, but I tried their house-made chili sauce for the first time today and I couldn't stop dipping my dumplings in it. I asked the lao ban if I could buy some to take home and he said no, but told us how he stir fried the chili peppers in peanut oil. No wonder it had a fragrant, nutty depth since I'm usually not that crazy about chili sauces.
Fifth course: Snow King Ice Cream
Just a block away, we made it to our last stop. Though we were tempted to try out some of the unusual flavors that they are known for, we ended up sticking to the sweet- red bean and lychee. The lychee wasn't as sweet and fruity and too creamy rather than like a sorbet as my previous orders- so I'd stick to guava or peach next time.
If you don't want to run around to different places, you can also check out sit down places like Mala Yuanyang Hotpot or Alleycats, or get a bowl of beef noodle soup along with the dumplings at Zhang Ji. Of course there are a TON of places to eat in Ximending, much less in Taipei, but this is what I've discovered so far.
View HungryinTaipei eating tour- Ximending in a larger map
1- Ah Chung Noodles- from the MRT Station exit, look for the McDonalds. It's one alley away from it.
2- KFC- also in main Ximending area, can't miss it- it's three stories high
3- Yu's Almond Tofu- go back towards MRT exit, cross the street towards Partyworld, past the shoe store on Chengdu Road.
4- Zhang Ji Fried Dumplngs- refer to previous post for signs to the little alley it's located in
5- Snow King Ice Cream- towards the police station/ Wuchang St
Any other must eats in Ximending? Please share!