We were given the chance to dine, free of charge, on one of the fancy restaurants of the Grand Hyatt Taipei, and without hesitation, we politely declined. What we wanted to eat during our entire three-day tour of the city was street food. I’ve been hearing so many good things about the street fares in Taipei that we were more than willing to beg off eating on swanky restaurants for hawkers on the streets. And there’s nowhere better to sample the city’s offerings than at the numerous night markets in Taipei.
|TYPICAL STREET FOOD HAWKERS ALONG TAIPEI’S NIGHT MARKETS|
The city has around twenty night markets, and the entire Taiwan, over a hundred, opening a few hours before the sun sets and closing at the wee hours of the morning. These are usually set on regular roads that are closed to motorized traffic by night. There are stores on both sides of the streets, on the sidewalks and right in the middle of the road itself. Besides xiaochi (small eats) street food, you can find everything here from shoes, bags, clothing, toys and everything else you can think of. We wanted to visit all the best night markets in Taipei, but were able to check out only three; we simply didn’t have enough evenings during our three-day Taipei trip.
|OLD CARNIVAL GAMES AT RAOHE STREET NIGHT MARKET|
SHILIN NIGHT MARKET
TRAIN STOP: RED LINE, JIANTAN STATION, EXIT 1 • OPEN HOURS: 4:30PM TO 12:00AM • GPS COORDINATES MAP: 25.087978, 121.525152
The first night market we visited in Taipei is the biggest and the most famous of them all, the Shilin Night Market. Located at the Shilin District, this night market is a few minutes walk away from the MRT. Even with our feet groaning in protest after our exhaustive Taipei day tour, we plodded on, battling the crowd of tourists and locals for our first taste of Taipei’s night life.
Shilin Night Market first opened in 1899 and is basically divided into two sections, the food area at the opposite side of the Jiantan Metro Station, and the shopping area along Anping Street.
While looking for cheap dinner, we passed and checked several stores selling what looks to be original apparels from well known brands. The prices are quite competitive, especially the bargain items. Eventually, we settled on a small stall with a recently vacated table where a lone auntie was cooking everything by herself. We rice-mealed our way to dinner, chowing on fried dim sums, chicken, breaded pork and cupfuls of vegetable side dishes (TWD90.00).
Later, while looking around the area, we tried out some corn dogs (TWD35.00), which C said, was the most amazing corn dog she ever had, and a few helpings of quail eggs takoyaki (TWD20.00) filled with small shrimps and sprinkled with toppings ranging from Thai sour and spice, seaweed, cheese to orange yoghurt.
|THE CROWD AT SHILIN NIGHT MARKET|
|QUAIL EGGS TAKOYAKI, YUMMMM!|
|A BIT OF AN UPSCALE HAWKER STALL|
RAOHE NIGHT MARKET
TRAIN STOP: GREEN LINE, SONGSHAN STATION • OPEN HOURS: 5:00PM TO 12:00AM • GPS COORDINATES MAP: 25.050845, 121.577222
After a full day of touring around New Taipei, visiting the Yehliu Geopark and Jiufen’s Old Street in a single go, we ended our second day at the Raohe Night Market. We really didn’t choose this for anything; it was just the closest night market we could find from where we were coming from at the time, Rufiang Station.
Raohe Night Market can be easily reached from the Songshan MRT Station and is set on a 600-meter road. Both of its ends are marked by intricate paifang Chinese archways, its eastern one sitting right beside the gorgeous Ciyou Temple. Unlike Shilin Night Market, this one is more straightforward, with only a few side streets running out from the main road.
And knowing that food are much cheaper on these side streets than on the main thoroughfare, it was on one of those where we found our dinner. On plastic chairs and collapsible table right by the alley, I ordered fried pork liver rice (TWD70.00) while my friends asked for bowls of braised pork rice with egg and bamboo shoots (TWD45.00). After ordering, I immediately went back to Raohe Night Market’s main avenue and bought a piece of deep fried breaded large chicken chop sprinkled with pepper and spices of unknown origins (TWD65.00). It was amazingly huge, tasted amazingly good, and is probably amazingly bad for your health, lol.
Later, we shopped around, me looking for bootleg Star Wars Lego mini-figures (found one stall selling them bagged, not boxed, for 50.00TWD each, not a bad price, really) while my friends were busy checking out clothing stores after clothing stores.
We ended our day across the main road at the western end of Raohe Night Market where we found local eateries selling Taipei Beer for a cheap price. We chose a spot right by the sidewalk and drank the night away.
|RAOHE STREET NIGHT MARKET’S EAST PAIFANG|
|FRIED, ERRRR. CHICKEN?|
|LOVELY SETTING FOR DINNER|
SHIDA NIGHT MARKET
TRAIN STOP: GREEN LINE, TAIPOWER STATION, EXIT 3 • OPEN HOURS: 12:00PM TO 12:00AM • GPS COORDINATES MAP: 25.024515, 121.529381
The last night market we visited in Taipei before flying out of the country that same night was the Shida Night Market. Located in the Da’an District, it’s about eight minutes walk away from the Taipower Building MRT Station. Again, we visited it since it was the closest night market to the Chiang-kai Shek Memorial Hall where we spent the sunset at, thanks to Flytpack for that.
Since we had a filling late lunch of Taiwan’s famous beef noodles and fried pork ribs, we really weren’t that hungry. Plus, with our dwindling funds, we simply had a gua pao pork belly bun (TWD50.00) on one of the hawker stalls we found along one corner of the Shida Night Market. Our dinner was made right in front of us, the seller quickly taking a piping hot steamed flat soft bread on one hand while filling it, with super lightning speed, with our choice filling—red-cooked pork belly and stir-fried suan cai (pickled mustard greens), cilantro plus ground peanuts. He quickly handed it to us as we surrendered our money, wolfing it down as fast as he made it. It was that good.
Shida Night Market looks more upscale than the two previous night markets we visited. There are no stalls in the middle of the streets and the stores off the sidewalks are more like trendy boutique types. There were also lesser visitors here, mostly composed of the younger crowd. That’s not to say though that the prices are higher, in fact, my friends were able to score the cheapest jackets here at only TWD383.00. They also said that the choices here are much more unique and fashionable than at Shilin and Raohe.
|THE UPSCALE SHIDA NIGHT MARKET|
|TAIWAN’S ORIGINAL GUA PAO, IT’S WHERE OUR CUA PAO CAME FROM|
|HAWKER STALLS ALONG SHIDA NIGHT MARKET|