Of course, when we were planning this trip, the task of researching places to eat fell into my hands, and after some digging, I came across 春水堂 Chun Shui Tang (nb. this is standard pingyin/romanisation, not the pingyin they use in Taiwan), said to be the teashop that invented bubble tea (or boba). Who would've thought?
Gongfu (Kungfu) rice vermicelliDon't ask me why these are called kungfu, but um, yes, it does kick ass. The vermicelli is from the Tsinchu region - we passed by on the train on the way from Taipei to Taichung - and it's famous for mifen (rice vermicelli). If I'm not mistaken, it has something to do with the 'superior' spring water they have there.
This was light and had an awesome bite. Usually vermicelli absorbs liquids fairly quickly and disintegrates into soft strands of mush (which is nice when you're feeling ill, by the way - mifen is one of my favourite sick foods after Cantonese congee), but this one was outstandingly resilient and stayed intact and al dente, for lack of a better description.
Rice vermicelli ('dry', with pork mince)
Oolong iced milk tea
Sorry, I didn't have bubble tea because the "bubbles" screw my stomach up, and I don't really like them! Instead I had an oolong tea, probably Taiwan's favourite tea (judgment made from the sheer ubiquity of the beverage), but with frothed milk. The fragrance from the tea came through nicely, and the milk took away whatever edge/bitterness there was in the tea (if any).
Taiwanese beef noodlesThese weren't the best, but they're better than most you'll have outside Taiwan. The noodles were chewy, the broth was of a decent depth, though the beef could have been more tender and gelatinous.
If you love boba, then here's your Mecca, but even if you're not, you'll find some pretty decent nosh here. I still dream about that mifen.
Chun Shui Tang
30 Siwei St
+886 4 22297991
B/F Eslite flagship
68 Gongyi Rd
+886 4 23261150
Plus more branches around Taiwan
(Both are the red markers on the map)
View e_ting in Taichung in a larger map