Repost of the Day: Taiwan’s Tasty Night Markets

Tainan Night Market

Tainan Night Market

August 21st, 2020

Can you believe it? We’ve been quarantining, sanitizing, wearing masks and trying to stay healthy for about FIVE months now (in the U.S.). In some ways, it feels like it’s been an eternity. In other ways, the monotony of the days makes it feel like we’ve been looping endlessly in the same 24 hours.

I think most people would agree, the social distancing is the hardest and least enjoyable part of the pandemic preventions most of us are abiding by. We miss the gatherings, meals together, coffees at cafΓ©s, happy hours and backyard barbecues. So let’s dip into Taiwan’s night markets and relive some of what we’re missing.

I hope you enjoy this look at Taiwan’s food, both foreign and familiar, while keeping the faith that someday we’ll be able to fire up the woks, stoves and tandoor ovens and gather together again.

More tomorrow,
Kelly

Repost of the Day: Adding a bit of light to the darkness as we get through the pandemic together. This series features travel photos from my archives, shared with you while staying close to home.

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I think many travelers would agree that the best way to really get to the heart of a new place you’re visiting is to just sit down for a good meal. Local food always paints a picture of the geography, economy, lifestyle and tradition in the area you’re exploring.

There’s no better place to eat and explore than a local food market. Last December, we traveled to Taiwan — a place well known for its night markets and becoming trendier as a culinary destination. Trends aside, the night markets in Taiwan are packed with good food. From sweet to savory, surf to turf and fruit to veg, Taiwan’s night markets have it all. And the scent of stinky tofu cannot be escaped! It’s everywhere you want to be.

In two weeks we explored five night markets located all over the island: Tainan, Fengjia, Keelung, Shilin and Linjiang (not really a market, but a lively street we stumbled upon in downtown Taipei). Each night market is the beating heart of its community — alive with people and packed with culinary choices. We also explored the Anping market on a Saturday — full of activity packed into a few neighborhood blocks, with surrounding streets well worth exploring by bike.

Here’s a look at each market and its highlights.

Shilin Night Market

The most famous of Taiwan’s night markets, Shilin has been around since the early 1900s and occupies several blocks with endless food stalls and clothing stores for an all-around eat-and-shop experience. There are two levels — above ground and below ground. Thankfully we were introduced to Shilin by two friends who know it well otherwise we would have missed the latter, which offers a busy food court experience with small tables and chairs. We tried the snails and a locally famous peanut crepe with crushed black sesame seeds. Above ground, the line for peppered pork buns made in a tandoori oven was about 30 people deep but the reward was a searingly hot and juicy little pocket of goodness — the original Hot Pocket? — enjoyed on the steps of a nearby temple, along with other marketers and a few kittens looking for dinner. :: Shilin is in northwest Taipei, closest to the Jiantan MRT station.

Linjiang Street

Linjiang is within walking distance of Taipei 101. If you’re staying downtown or don’t have time to catch the MRT to Shilin night market, this is a fun place to get a cheap bite to eat. Linjiang extends a couple blocks and is only open to pedestrian traffic. A wide variety of food is available — grilled meats, steamed pandan chicken, sliced tomatoes with plums (which we saw at a few markets), and sweets like tang yuan or glutinous rice balls. :: Linjiang Street is a few blocks southwest of Taipei 101.

Keelung Night Market

Since Keelung is on the northeast coast of Taiwan seafood is abundant and the highlight of the local cuisine. Try the fried shrimp with basil leaves — delicious! Also of note was the exceptional sushi available at a six-seat stall on the main artery of the market, as well as a small stand offering folded roti pratha filled with peppery spices and a fried egg. :: Keelung night market is less than an hour by train from Taipei, and walking distance from Keelung station.

Fengjia Night Market

Fengjia is a college town so the night market follows suit with a younger, more inventive vibe than others around Taiwan. Food stalls are interspersed among several blocks of clothing shops and restaurants. Not surprisingly, we found ourselves trying some culinary creations geared to the college crowd like a cheese stick covered in mashed potatoes then rolled in ramen noodles and deep fried. We also tried tao-tng pau siu-tng or “small sausage in large sausage” — a meat sausage in a sticky rice sausage that looks kind of like a hotdog in a bun. It’s a Taiwanese invention. And Fengjia is the only place we’ve ever seen tandoori pork buns, an appetizing blend of Indian technique and dim sum appeal. :: Fengjia night market is about 10 kilometers northwest of Taichung main train station. Take a taxi and have a beer and a waffle.

Tainan Garden Night Market

My absolute favorite, and only open on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday nights. This market is open-air, enormous and a feast for the eyes and belly. A crush of people shows up for dinner and the market continues late into the evening. We tried flattened chicken, grilled pork shoulder, and a Mexican burrito made by two Indian men living in Taiwan. Their tortillas were made from scratch and cooked on an overturned wok. The fresh tomatoes were heavenly and the candied fruit was a sweet surprise. Do not miss this night market if you’re in or near Tainan. :: Tainan Garden Night Market is on the northern edge of Tainan, and best reached by taxi from the city center.

Anping Market

Anping is a charming historic district west of Tainan. We took a taxi there on a Saturday morning and watched the neighborhood wake up around the market streets. Vendors were setting up, women were steaming corn and making peanut cookies, and oysters were being shucked by the basket load for the ubiquitous oyster omelet. After wandering the streets all morning we rented bikes and extended our journey a little further out, sometimes in search of the many “sword-lions” that still adorn some of the doors of historic Anping houses. This was a charming area to explore during the day and, paired with the Tainan Garden Night Market in the evening, made for one of our favorite days in Taiwan. :: Anping is west and best of Tainan, reachable by taxi and curiosity.

30 comments

  • OMG! So much delicious food in such variety, and I still need to go down and fix my breakfast myself 😿
    Thanks Kelly for sharing, this made me very very hungry πŸ˜‹

    Liked by 1 person

  • What a brilliant post Kelly!! I felt like I was there & wondering what to try. Skip the snails though. Certainly miss the market environment & food stalls. Here in Australia we are one nation but our State Premiers are politically driven to keep us in lockdown expecting to eradicate COVID-19. Killing our mental health & economy. Criminal really. Our posts (blogs) hopefully provides others of a better world out there. Xx

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    • Thanks Brian! Yeah, the snails I can do without! πŸ™‚ Agreed — WordPress bloggers are definitely providing some happiness and escape for everyone stuck at home as governments deal with the problem in such varied ways. It’s a roller coaster ride. Interesting to hear from you and others about the day-to-day. Hang in there! Hope you’re enjoying the weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

  • I enjoyed reading this! And looking at those delicious street food! I haven’t been to Taiwan but I went on a trip to Japan in 2017 and most of my pictures involve, you guessed it, food! And I still want to blog about it, hopefully soon. I so agree when you said that food is the best way to know and experience a country, it’s history and lifestyle. It’s all wrapped up for the senses. Thanks for sharing.

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  • Thank for sharing these images. They reminded me of when I was in-port at Singapore July 4, 1976 πŸ˜‰

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  • Great info & pics, Kelly! I think the worst part of covid for me is having to wear a mask. I have started doing 1-on-1 outside visits with friends, which is such a treat! 🌞

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  • Such a great post Kelly. As good as any episode of the late Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown. I agree it is hard to believe it has been five months, but your posts have been the highlights of each day, so thank you. Looking forward to that coffee with you day. πŸ™‚

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    • What a huge compliment. Thank you! His shows were such great portraits of food and culture. I miss his raw and honest perspective. Yeah, five months! Here we are, calmly carrying on together. YOUR daily art and creativity has been such an inspiration, and motivates me to keep going because I know you will, too. Coffee sounds amazing! Already looking forward to it. Happy weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

  • “The social distancing is the hardest and least enjoyable part of the pandemic.” I couldn’t agree more. Even an introverted person like me enjoys how we interacted in the “old normal”. I miss going to public places and watching people have a great time with their friends and family.

    Now let’s talk about the food in Taiwan. Your photos made my mouth water! I remember trying some really delicious snacks in Taipei, including gua bao: fluffy buns filled with a generous amount of pulled pork and pickled vegetables. James ate it so slowly because he didn’t want this experience of eating something unbelievably good to end too soon. πŸ™‚

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    • Hi Bama! I’m a fellow introvert. πŸ™‚ I guess all we can do is hold out hope that these good times and markets will return again. I can’t imagine the collective joy the world will experience when that happens. Your gua bao experience sounds delicious! I wish I knew what all the items are that are shown in my photos. Food is such an endless landscape — always changing with time, seasons, ideas, cultures. An aspect of travel that can never be fully explored. Cheers to finding more gua bao along the way! Hope you have a lovely weekend. Say hello from me to all of your plants. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  • Oh, my! You have a smorgasbord of pictures here. Impressive, to say the least. I love markets and I find myself looking not only at the veggies and fish, but also at the people — buyers and sellers. You’ve included all, so this is one of my favorite of your posts. Would love to get back to SE Asia and shop the night markets!

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    • Thank you, Rusha!! Yes, there’s nowhere quite like SE Asia for markets. The Chatuchak weekend market in Bangkok is my most favorite (have you been?) but Taiwan certainly didn’t disappoint! There was more food than we ever expected and I loved watching the people, too! Enjoy the weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

      • We didn’t get to the one in Bangkok since we were with a group, but we loved the one in Hanoi. I was a bit disappointed in the merchandiseβ€” reminded me of roadside flea markets in USA. But the food was interesting!!

        Liked by 1 person

  • The thing that always amazes me about these markets is how MUCH food there is! How do they possibly sell it all? And where does it go if it doesn’t sell? I loved seeing it again here!

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    • Thank you! Yes ~ buckets and barrels of food. I suspect Asian countries do a better job than we do here in the US of consuming or sharing the extra. We have so much food waste and too many restrictions about what can’t be given away despite many people who could benefit.

      Liked by 1 person

  • You have no idea how hungry I have just become…lol

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  • Yum! Glad I looked at this right after lunch. These are what would draw me to Taiwan. I love markets for their local authenticity. They remind me of the night markets we found in Kuching, Malaysia.
    Alison

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