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In Taipei, anything with “Made in Taiwan” stamped on it pales in comparison to the food. If you go for nothing else, go for the Taiwanese food experiences. Taipei has the best of Chinese and Japanese influences, the food is often cheap and it’s plentiful. Here are five must-try staples:
1. Dumplings. Taiwan is famous for its fresh, juicy steamed pork dumplings. Also known as soup dumplings, be sure to break a hole in the pasta and let the soup drip out onto a spoon before popping it into your mouth. Otherwise, you may burn off your taste buds before the main event. For the best dumplings in all of Taiwan, if not in all of Asia, head to the original Din Tai Fung Dumpling House.
2. Mian xian. These thin rice noodles are served with a thick broth, pig intestines, garlic, cilantro and chili sauce. It’s one of the most satisfying (and filling) dishes in Taiwan, so don’t be afraid to slurp it up.
3. Night markets. For the most variety and fun, head to one of the night markets. We suggest Shilin or Shida, two of the largest and most centrally located. There, scan the many food vendors and try something from each one: Perhaps a bowl of noodles, bean-curd cake or a vegetable kebab? The crowded streets have something for even the most timid customers.
4. Xiao chi. Meaning “small eats,” xiao chi is a signature style of eating in Taiwan. Like tapas, it is typical for people to eat a little at a time. It can mean a cube of bean curd or a meat skewer.
5. High Mountain Oolong Tea. Practically a religion in Taiwan, tea drinking is a must. Most teashops will let you taste samples before buying. Watch how the server delicately cleanses the tea, swirls it and inhales the intoxicating aroma before tasting. The best teas in Taiwan originate from the mountains, but even the less expensive oolongs are incredible. For an especially rich treat, try oolong milk tea from any street vendor.