The 8 Dishes You Need To Seek Out In Taipei, Taiwan

Taipei is a city of nearly 3 million people in northern Taiwan that combines lush landscape with cuisine that displays historic influences, contemporary flair and dishes that often display a unique Taiwanese culinary identity. Taipei can also be tricky to tackle if you don't speak Mandarin. Given that, here are eight dishes most certainly worth pursuing.

1. Truffle and Pork Xiao Long Bao at Din Tai Fung

In the world of xiao long bao, Din Tai Fung is a runaway freight train with 71 branches worldwide and a small army of people who roll and wrap dough to contribute to the millions (literally) of delicate steamed dumplings. Frank Yang, who brought his father Bingyi's vision to the United States in 2000, fills XLBs with pork, shrimp and crab. But there's one particular composition that's never made the trans-Pacific voyage: Truffle. Each dumpling at the original location costs $3 and touts juicy pork flecked with earthy black truffle, which the Yangs source from Italy. At first, try not to dip in the standard mixture of soy sauce, vinegar and shaved ginger, to experience their unadulterated flavor. No. 194, Section 2, Xinyi Rd., Taipei City, Taiwan, 886 02 2321 8928,

2. Sesame Bread with Omelet at Fu Hang

Since 1958, people in central Taipei have snaked up a staircase to Stall 18 in the Hua Shan Market food court to enjoy a standout Taiwanese breakfast. The dish starts with airy scallion bread, which bakers peel from the side of barrel-shaped ovens with large metal tongs. Behind the nearby counter, workers slice open the crisp-coated rectangular and slide in folds of feathery scallion-flecked omelet, forming a stellar Taiwanese breakfast sandwich. 2/F Hua Shan Market, 108 Zhongxiao East Rd., Section 1, Taipei City, 886 02 2392 2175

3. Triangle Fish at Ding Xian 101

From 2004 to 2010, Taipei 101 was the world's tallest building. That changed with the opening of Dubai's Burj Khalifa, but the structure still has a towering restaurant on the 86th floor, Ding Xian 101, which features refined takes on Taiwanese classics. Chef Lin plucks small triangle fish from the restaurant's massive seafood tanks and steams them to order with garlic and soy. The aim is to pluck juicy meat from the tiny skeleton. If you're dainty, be warned, since servers encourage eating the chewy eyes. No. 7, Section 5, Xinyi Rd., Taipei City, 886 02 8101 8686

4. Beef Noodle Soup at Xi Le Man Zu Noodle House

What distinguishes beef noodle soup practitioners in Taipei is their little bag of tricks, a mystery sack of spices that permeates the broth. Whatever resides in the bag at Xi Le Man Zu Noodle House works, since they placed in the Top 10 at the 2011 Taipei International Beef Noodle Soup Festival. The spices impart a medicinal, spicy tang to the collagen-rich tendon, chile-flecked broth, and noodles, which come close to al dente. 293 FuXing S. Rd., Sec. 1, Taipei City, Taiwan, 886 02 0928 535967

5. Double Layer Roll Sausage at Shilin Night Market

Most cuisines in the world feature a form of hot dog or encased meat and Taiwan is no exception. At Shilin Night Market, a system of stands rings a retail zone at night on Taipei's north side. Guan Zhi Lin Double Layer Roll Sausage sets up shop at booth A7 and you most certainly should go there first. The griddled pork sausage has pronounced snap, and instead of a wheat bun, the grill-meisters split open a tube of sticky rice. The sausage joins spicy and sweet chile sauces, dried radish, pickled cabbage, ginger and more, creating a tornado of textures and spices that at points is too hot to bite unless you're a masochist. No. 101 Jihe Rd, Shilin District, Taipei City, 02 2882 0340

6. Fern Shoot Salad at Ji Yuan Pu Restaurant

Windy mountain roads lead up to a series of restaurants near Zhuzihu, aka Bamboo Lake, on the outer reaches of Taipei City. Many restaurants occupy Quonset huts in this farmer-run region, but chef Zer Kao situated Ji Yuan Pu Restaurant in a more pristine setting, complete with a vine-covered patio. His most interesting dish draws on indigenous Hakka influences and features sturdy fern shoots sautéed with black bean, ginger, mushrooms, julienne carrot, tiny dried fish and a tart pit-in fruit that tastes like a caper but goes by the genus and species of cordia dichotoma, a.k.a. Indian cherry. Bamboo Lake

7. Shaving Ice Wu Di Mango

At night, down the street from historic Longshan Temple, Huaxi Street Night Market features delicacies like frog and fried eel noodles, but everybody knows the place to keep cool is at Wu Di Mango Shaving Ice, a Taipei institution since 1920. An overhead menu is useless unless you speak Chinese, but it's easy to point and pick from bins to top shaved ice that displays fine texture. We suggest ripe mango, chunks of earthy taro and sweet mung bean. Huaxi Street Night Market, Taipei City

8. Cod with Mushrooms at Yen

The marquee restaurant on the 31st floor of Taipei's modern W Hotel houses chef Khai Meng "C.K." Kong, who presides over a glass-fronted kitchen. He prepares Taiwanese influenced Cantonese food, with many dishes on the delicate side. The ocean-inspired his tour de force, a supple fillet of semi-baked cod, set on a bed of tender shimeji mushroom, delicate strands of palm flower, crunchy hearts of palm and an umami rich mustard goma dressing. 10 Zhongxiao East Road, Sec. 5, Xinyi District, Taipei City, Taiwan, 886 2 7703 8778,

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