I would be lying if I said that I didn’t go to Taiwan so I could eat at the original Din Tai Fung.
You see, I’ve eaten at the famed dim sum restaurant’s outposts in the San Gabriel Valley of Southern California a handful of times, but I wanted to go to the source. I knew it was a touristy thing to do, but you know what? It was totally worth it. My meal at the original Din Tai Fung near Dongmen Station (not to be confused with the newer Din Tai Fung in Taipei 101) was one of the best meals of my life.
If you’re going to be a tourist, you may as well own it, right? I still dream of these dumplings. (Hey, Din Tai Fung, do me a solid and publish a cookbook already!)
The Din Tai Fung house special and spicy cucumber salad were both as good as I remember the San Gabriel Valley ones being, if not better.
The stir-fried cabbage was a revelation. How can something so humble and so simple taste so savory? And the noodles were doused in an addictively garlicy and peppery sauce. They were perfect.
But the highlight of the meal were the dumplings. So. Many. Dumplings. The house special spicy vegetable and meat wontons were paper-thin, succulent, and juicy. And the sauce? Oh my.
The crab roe and meat xiaolongbaos were perfectly briny and tasted faintly of the sea. I loved them. I could twenty of these.
And despite everything tasting so good, the real highlight of the meal were the truffle and meat xiaolongbaos. Imagine generous shavings of truffle permeating every brothy, meaty bite. These needed no dipping sauce on the side. They. Were. Perfect. It’s a shame you can’t find these stateside.
And this, my friends, are the faces of two more-than-satisfied customers.
After a meal like that, we blissfully made our way over to the Xinyi District to check out the observatory at Taipei 101. At 382 meters above ground, the observatory is in the tallest green building in the world.
We stopped for a quick snack of fried chicken before leaving Taipei 101 and you know what? Taiwan does not play when it comes to fried chicken. Even at the mall food court.
By now it was afternoon and it was pouring rain outside (Taipei is rainy, y’all) so we hopped on a bus (Taipei’s public transportation is excellent) and headed to Wistaria Tea House.
Taiwan is steeped in a complex and well-established tea culture. Nowhere is this more evident than at Wistaria Tea House, a historical teahouse built in the 1920s in Da’an District. The teahouse was a meeting place for political dissidents during the 1980s and today, it’s a favored hangout for literati, artists, and academics.
We sampled an array of traditionally-prepared teas, with a focus on Taiwan’s oolong varietals.
We spent the evening exploring Eslite, a well-loved and gigantic bookstore. There are a handful of these in the city and we checked out the Dunnan Store location, which is open 24 hours a day. That’s my kind of bookstore.
For dinner, enjoyed a Hong Kong-style meal of congee with beef and egg, gai lan, and har gow at the nearby 1976 Restaurant.