The top 10 Taiwanese restaurants in Toronto
The top Taiwanese restaurants in Toronto are (surprise, surprise) located far from the downtown core. While there are many Chinese restaurants in the heart of Toronto that serve a Taiwanese dish or two, you need to look at the city's northern edges to find entire restaurants dedicated to this rather underrated cuisine.
The flavours of Taiwanese dishes are usually quite distinct, though the food itself never feels so rich that it causes a food coma. The three-cup chicken (san bei ji), popcorn chicken (no relation to the KFC variety), stinky tofu, and beef noodle soup are some of the more recognizable examples of Taiwanese cooking. The best part is that these dishes are, generally, very reasonably priced, making them great for both your wallet and your tastebuds.
Here are my picks for the top Taiwanese restaurants in Toronto.
A regular in Asian night market festivals across the GTA, Papa Chang isn't going to win any points for its ambience (eating there feels oddly like dining in a brightly-lit warehouse that happens to have chairs and tables all over it). But if you're craving Taiwanese street food along with home-cooked favourites, few can top their menu. Delicious fish skewers, popcorn chicken bento boxes, beef noodle soups, Taiwanese pancakes and flatbreads - oh my! The best part? A meal for two, including side dishes, isn't going to cost you much more than $20.
Taipei Chin Yuan Pai Ku
While this isn't a restaurant, per se, there is no way that I can exclude this food court gem from my list. For around $6.50, you can choose any of their six or seven different set items (the Taiwanese pork chop is the most popular). Mixed with some of their homemade pickles and hot sauce, it is insanely delicious, extremely tender, ridiculously cheap, and only slightly unhealthy (OK, that may just be wishful thinking on my part). Shame that the seats in the food court aren't too comfortable.
Ten Ren's Tea Time
To the untrained eye, this looks like just an upscale bubble tea café. But that is where you, young grasshopper, are mistaken. This Richmond Hill location of the hugely popular Taiwanese chain does way more than serving up tea; there's also plenty of food, along with tea-inspired snacks. Their cheap lunch and dinner specials, which are always changing (both in selection and price) are worth looking out for.
Mei Nung Beef Noodle House
Beef noodle soup is, to many, the epitome of Taiwanese comfort food, and Mei Nung serves one of the best versions, hands-down. For around $7, you can get the large-sized variety, and when that chewy noodle and strong-tasting dark broth hit your tongue, you'll know it was money well-spent. The surprisingly good stinky tofu is also one of the restaurant's specialties, but (true to its name) be warned that if you're a little averse to malodorous fumes, you may find yourself pinching your nose as you eat here. Then again, there's always the take-out option.
Tai Ping Hsiang
If you're in the mood for Taiwanese bento boxes, you can do worse than this long-standing restaurant/takeout joint in Metro Square. Located a stone's throw away from Chin Yuan Pai Ku, this mom-and-pop operation specializes in cheap and delicious lunch boxes with ever-changing contents. The popcorn chicken and vegetables is always a sure hit, while the blood pudding and fish cake side dish is much more delicious than it sounds. The lunch sets won't cost you more than $7, which is also a plus. Take note: Service can be a bit hit-or-miss.
Blink and you'll miss this extremely well-hidden restaurant, located in a small nook in Northtown Way, a North York strip packed with culinary marvels. Once you do find it, however, you will be delighted as you munch on your $5.99 three-cup chicken on rice and sip one of their many bubble tea varieties. Never in my life have I witnessed so much food selection in such a small, confined space. Take-out only due to the establishment's size (I really cannot emphasize this strongly enough). Also, it's cash-only.
Wei's Taiwanese Food
This popular Scarborough restaurant is so dedicated to providing you with Taiwanese food that they even sell their own line of frozen Taiwanese dishes. Their actual store-cum-restaurant is rather modest, but you can regularly find quite a lot of diners feasting on their specialty stinky tofu (bad smell, better taste) for $3.99 or the equally-famous three-cup chicken on rice for just north of $5. Don`t forget to check out their perfect-for-work-lunch frozen dishes, like the sticky rice or the Taiwanese meatballs, for only $2.99 (no, seriously).
OK, this isn't a Taiwanese restaurant. In fact, it's not even a restaurant. However, the roots of this large Asian arm of the Loblaw Group are undeniably Taiwanese: T&T was founded as a joint venture with Uni-President, one of the state's largest food conglomerates. That influence still shines through today at the multiple T&T locations in the GTA. You can regularly find many fried Taiwanese street-style foods, along with a surprisingly excellent three-cup chicken in the cooked foods aisle, and the bubble teas here are pretty good for $1.99, if not exactly stellar.
I only recently realized that Lohas means "Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability", but for me it just means yummy Taiwanese noodle soups. Despite its rather unremarkable location (alongside many similar-looking restaurants in First Markham Place), this modest restaurant has a steady stream of regulars. Noodles are the specialty; my go-to is the minced pork noodle with bean sauce. At just under $6, coupling it with one of their milk teas is a great way to round off a weekend evening.
Located in the heart of Koreatown North, Mabu Station is a little bit café, a little bit restaurant, and a little bit dessert place. This modern, cheerful restaurant is one of the few in Toronto to serve oyster pancakes; while they won't be mistaken for the ones from downtown Taipei, the dish more than holds its own. The three-cup chicken isn't bad, but I could sip on their Oreo milk tea forever. Non-Mandarin-speakers may find the servers' relative lack of English skills a bit daunting.
What did I miss? Add your favourite Taiwanese restaurants to the comments below.