The Chinese food served up in Taipei runs the gamut from extravagantly presented haute cuisine fit for an emperor to snacks targeted at the teeming masses. And interestingly enough, some of the tastiest morsels in town are not to be found in the elegant surroundings of five-star dining rooms, but rather in the unpretentious road-side stalls that dot the city.
We stumbled across a sidewalk takeaway across the street from our modest hotel serving piping hot Fuzhou style buns extracted straight from a steaming clay urn and plopped into our eagerly awaiting hands.
After tossing them back and forth so as not to burn our fingers for an excruciating five minutes, we carefully bit into them, and still managed to burn our tongues. And we discovered why there had been such a long line of ravenous locals waiting to buy them. Their crusts were flaky and light. And inside was a yummy filling of gooey minced pork seasoned with pungent spices.
The next day we stumbled across a coffee house serving the yummiest frozen java we’ve ever tasted. At the advice of the affable owner, we headed that night to one of Taipei’s many night markets. Attracted by a scrumptious aroma, we stopped at a stall hawking deep fried chicken’s legs. Unlike the one’s we’ve tried in Hong Kong, which are already very, very, very tasty, these had slits running down the middle. Inside were slices of cucumber and melted cheese and a yummy sauce. The following night, we headed to another night market, which was seething with Hong Kong foodies, excitedly screaming “Wah!”every time they were handed a tasty tidbit.
Taiwanese snacks run the gamut from oyster omelets (popular with Chinese foodies, but not to our liking) to fried rice noodles (yes!) to tempura (yes!!) to Tainan style Danzai noodles (yes!!!) to Taiwanese spring rolls (yes!!!!) to braised pork rice (to die for, and you just might, considering the high cholesterol count). Food in Taipei is both cheap and delicious, and the best place to enjoy it is at the city’s ever popular night markets..
Taipei’s 5 Most Popular Night Markets
Huaxi Night Market Between Xiyuan Road and Huanhe South Road. The most famous night market in town, this one is popular with both foreigners and locals. Famous for dishes made of snake as well as snake wine. Other delicacies include fresh water turtles, pot-edged pancake soup, Tainan style danzai noodles, and seafood. A bit more expensive than Taipei’s other street markets. After gorging yourself, have a massage at nearby Longshan Temple with the soothing hands of its blind masseurs.
Liaoning Night Market Between Chang-an East Road and Chung Hsin High School. Popular dishes include goose, seafood, rice tube pudding, Middle Eastern sandwiches, oyster omelets, marinated vegetables, and various types of meat. Several coffee shops and restaurants are located nearby. No wonder some locals refer to this as Coffee Street!
Raohe Street Night Market Intersection of Section 4 Bade Road and Fuyuan Street. This is the granddaddy of Taipei’s street markets catering to tourists. Vendors sell everything from pork ribs steamed with medicinal herbs to foods designed to fortify you against winter’s coldest weather. A bustling row of seafood restaurants line nearby Fuyuan Street.
Shilin Night Market Intersection of Wenlin, Dadong, and Anping roads. You’ll find everything from steaks to oyster omelets to hot stuffed dumplings at this purveyor of snacks from all over Taiwan. Famous delicacies include knife-sliced noodles, pork kidney soup, Kaohsiung style meat balls, little cakes in big cakes, Shilin sausages, tomatoes in ginger juice, Dongshan duck heads, frogs-laying-eggs, stir-fried squid, and chili-sauce dumplings. Not sure about you, but we gave several of these “delicacies” a miss…
Copyright: Michael Taylor
Pictured: Shilin Night Market