A Foodie's Guide To Taipei's Night Markets
In Taipei's night markets, any adherence to the old adage "a minute on the lips is a lifetime on the hips" will soon forgotten as you feast your eyes on stall after stall of tempting bites crying out for your attention. For those with rumbly tummies, here are our picks for Taipei's five best night markets.
Shilin Market: Best for Pre-midnight Snackers
If you ask around for a night market suggestion, nine times out of 10 you'll be directed to Shilin Night Market (士林夜市), Taipei's best known and largest night market. The “go to” night market for foreigners, ardent patrons swarm Shilin as soon as night descends with mouths agape, marvelling at the assortment of food on offer. With 500 plus stores on its maze-like grounds, you'll be hard-pressed to leave hungry after sampling such delights as Taiwanese deep fried chicken, pan-fried pork buns, stinky tofu, oyster vermicelli and even cubed steak.
Be sure to visit the hidden underground food hall: it's filled with a wealth of scrumptious and affordable seafood options. Everything from oyster omelettes, crabs, scallops and lashings of meat are freshly cooked before your very eyes on a sizzling teppanyaki-style counter top.
Raohe Night Market: Best for Foodies
It would be impossible to enter Raohe Night Market (饒河街歡光夜巿) and fail to notice the interminable queue in front of the pepper bun stand Raohe has become synonymous with. Known to every night market junkie worth their skewer of unidentifiable meat, a bite of this bun’s flavour-punch of spiced, juicy meat encased in a delectably crunchy pastry is reason enough to pay a visit.
Those wanting to escape the roaring crowds of Shilin will appreciate how easy it is to navigate up and down this singular, enticing street to sample stinky tofu, bags of miniature dumplings, braised meats, blocks of butter sandwiched in pineapple bread, and even Aussie meat pies. If you've got even half our appetite, you'll leave Raohe with a with an adorable food baby to show for it.
Lehua Night Market: For Wannabe Locals
Lehua Night Market (樂華夜市) is a night market for those in the know. In fact, this market is so local we turned many heads whenever we spoke English. If the only Mandarin you know is a rusty "xie xie", you will relish being immersed here in a truly authentic night market experience. If in doubt of what to order, our rule of thumb--"When in doubt join a long queue!"--has never failed us.
We would recommend the lip-smackingly scrumptious noodles with fish, prawn and squid, or the heavenly deep fried squid stall. Or embrace your inner chubby kid and head to one of the "pick and mix" stalls to select an assortment of meats to be lovingly cooked and seasoned.
Just be sure to reward yourself for your hard work with a shaved ice dessert. If the usual fruit and condensed milk combo is too mainstream, you will find over thirty weird and wonderful flavours all under $100 such as Oreos, pudding or for the adventurous, raw egg.
Tonghua Night Market: For All the Hits
The biggest selling point of Tonghua (通化夜市) is that it's like a "Best Of" album of night market treats. All the night market hits are here, and what's more, we often found them to be cheaper and more accessible than some of the other bigger night markets. Skewered Taiwanese sausages and fried chicken, green onion pancake, pork belly buns, peanut brittle ice cream crepes and pig's blood rice cakes- you name it, you can eat it here.
You can even travel the globe within Tonghua’s confines by munching on a Vietnamese Papaya Salad, or paying visit to one of the many teppanyaki restaurants lining the street. We've heard on good authority that the handmade sweet potato balls in the middle of the thoroughfare are well worth the wait--just be sure not to arrive too late or you'll miss out!
Huaxi Street Night Market: For Daredevils
If you want to leave Taipei with anecdotes of eating unusual foods that would even impress Bear Grylls, Huaxi Street Night Market (華西街觀光夜市) should be your first stop. Known affectionately as "Snake Alley", you will walk around wide-eyed at a plethora of delicacies that are decidedly not for the fainhearted. For the willing, a smorgasbord of dishes featuring whole frog, pigs’ feet, ears and tails, cow innards and venison is within your reach.
But without a doubt, surviving shots of snake's blood and bile would the ultimate thrill. For those without the guts (pun intended), the sticky rice sausage with pickles is our top pick for you. Seafood lovers will rejoice at the sight of fresh and local fare and happily join the locals munching on the skewers of deep fried swordfish. Make sure to reconvene with your friends and head to the Aiyu Jelly stand to slurp this strangely delectable jelly drink straight from a plastic bag.