Posted September 11, 2018

A Guide to Taipei’s Night Market Scene

Destinations

What’s the one thing you can’t miss in Taipei? The unanimous response from locals is: guang yeshi, or “stroll through a night market.”

For the uninitiated, the Taiwanese capital’s street food scene is legendary. With 30+ night markets in the greater Taipei area (and that’s only counting the big, famous ones), Taipei is the ultimate venue for a food bender of epic proportions.

Huaxi Street Night Market, Taipei Nick Kembel

This elaborate Taiwanese facade to the Huaxi Street Night Market welcomes locals and visitors alike to enjoy Taipei’s rich flavors. Image credit: Nick Kembel

An Eating Experience Seeped in Tradition

Night markets date back to the Tang Dynasty in ancient China. These hives of commercial activity brought together not only culinary masters but also skilled craftspeople and medicine vendors.

In Taipei, night markets started out as collections of food vendors at street corners or in front of temples that grew to take up entire streets or neighborhoods.

While night markets once sold all manner of goods, today they’re all about xiao chi, literally “little eats.” Walking and snacking is the quintessential Taipei food experience, and the night market phenomenon embodies modern Taiwan’s go-go-go nibbling and strolling food culture.

Here are a few tips for visiting a Taipei night market:

  • Go around 4 to 5pm, or after 10pm, to beat the lines.
  • Avoid Saturday nights, when crowds are at their worst.
  • Use the restroom before you arrive.
Vermicelli Soup Taipei Night Markets Nick Kembel

Vermicelli Soup is the ultimate comfort food you didn’t know about. Made from noodles, veggies, and seafood cooked al dente, it’ll warm you up from the inside out. (Hint: add a dash of hot sauce to make it extra spicy.) Image credit: Nick Kembel

Five Taipei Night Markets You Can’t Miss

1. Shilin Night Market
Shilin is Taipei’s largest, most famous and (don’t say we didn’t warn you) most jam-packed night market. Come here for the full-on Taipei night market experience!

Among the 500+ food stalls, you can seek out all the Taiwanese classics, including oyster omelets, fried buns, vermicelli soup, grilled sausages, bubble tea and the most controversial night market snack: stinky tofu.

Take the escalators down to the air-conditioned underground food court, perfect for escaping the summer heat.

Stinky Tofu Dish Taipei Markets Nick Kembel

Trust us, Stinky Tofu is much better than the name makes it sound. Try this marinated dish skewered with kebab sticks and easy to eat as you walk the markets. Image credit: Nick Kembel

2. Raohe Night Market
Second in popularity to Shilin but preferred by those in the know, Raohe makes for a good all-around evening on the town. It’s known just for its great eats but also attractions of interest nearby.

Get a dose of culture at Qing-dynasty Ciyou Temple near the market’s eastern entrance, watch the sunset from pretty Rainbow Bridge in the riverside park behind the temple, or scope out local fashions at nearby Wufenpu Garment Market.

3. Tonghua Night Market
Only one MRT stop from glitzy Taipei 101 shopping grounds, Tonghua is home to a number of stalls that are household names in Taipei, with recipes unchanged for decades.

You’ll find the most famous vendors at the center, including squid stew, gua bao (Taiwanese hamburgers) and lu wei (soy sauce braised foods). And if you’re going to try stinky tofu anywhere, do it here! The blissfully crispy tofu cubes topped with crunchy fermented veggies are lower on the pungent scale than elsewhere.

Gua Bao Taiwanese Hamburgers Nick Kembel

Don’t miss Gua Bao — the Taiwanese take on hamburgers — a delicious meat stew packed into flour bread and served with veggies on top. Image credit: Nick Kembel

4. Huaxi Street Night Market
Just around the corner from Longshan Temple, Taipei’s best-known place of worship, lies the city’s most infamous night market. Adjacent to an old-time red light district, this iconic covered arcade was once famous for its controversial dishes.

Fortunately, that era is overand it’s a good place to try Chinese medicinal stews in winter.

5. Ningxia Night Market
This 150-meter market is just the right size for a quick night market jaunt. It also has a section of kids’ games at the southern end, so it is a good choice for families.

The most popular vendor is stall #91, which serves deep fried taro balls stuffed with salted egg yolk and pork floss and a vegetarian version. The market is also famous for its traditional mochi; try it coated in sesame powder and served over ice with sweetened condensed milk on top. Bliss!

Mochi Rice Cakes Taipei Nick Kembel

You can’t miss Taipei’s famous mochi rice cakes. Try them coated in sesame powder, served over ice and drizzled in condensed milk to satisfy your sweet tooth. Image credit: Nick Kembel

Outside Taipei

Keelung Night Market
It’s worth taking the 45-minute train ride to Keelung, Northern Taiwan’s largest port, for picturesque Miaokou Night Market.

Woman Serving at Taipei Night Markets @whywhoulditravel

A woman serves tasty Taiwanese dishes to a throng of eager customers at Keelung Night Market. Image credit: @whywoulditravel via Twenty20

Share