Being a local here in Taipei allows me to head to different night markets, from the most local to the more famous like Shilin, Raohe, Tonghua, which are spread out in the city once or twice a month. With hundreds of options in food and beverages to explore that will stop your craving for almost everything for the night, it’s crucial to target the most amazing foods first since you can get full quickly! So here we go with some of the dishes that I strongly recommend you try at Taipei’s night markets!
Pepper Pork Bun (胡椒餅)
50 Yuan / $1.66 each
This has to be my personal favourite, as it’s a must-have when you see the stall - even with a long queue. The bun is made with a moist, peppery minced pork filling with a lot of spring onions that adds a vivid layer of freshness for the bite. The bottom of the bun has this toasted char with extreme crisp after being slapped on a fiercely hot heating urn. It is simply scrumpdillyicious.
Pig Blood Rice Cake (豬血糕）
35 Yuan / $1.16 each
Lots of friends from abroad visiting Taiwan may not be too delighted to try this when they hear it is made from pigs’ blood, however, it’s one of the all-time classics! This sticky rice cake that’s usually served on a stick is dipped in specialty sauce with option of chilli, an aromatic layer of ground peanut powder, and sprinkled with coriander. Smelling the light yet fragrant rice while biting into the layers of flavor is something that I grew up with, and I strongly suggest you try one!
Stinky Tofu (臭豆腐）
60-75 Yuan / $1.99-2.48 per plate
This one is also a challenge for some; if you enjoy it, it can be a gourmet gift from heaven, but on the contrary it can really keep you away with its stinky aroma. Deep fried fermented tofu is basically its secret, served with a slight crunch on the outer skin with sauce, and minced garlic to add a burst of flavour. Usually the dish has a sweet and acidic pickled cabbage served as garnish that really opens up your appetite, and it is an extra high when you ask to add some hot sauce to it.
Ribs with Medicinal Herb Broth (藥燉排骨）
70-80 yuan / $2.32-2.65 per bowl
Walking towards the stall you already smell a very strong, sweet smell from the broth that’s made from Chinese medicinal herbs. When the dish is served to you, you can add some of the bean paste hot sauce that’s on the table which simply elevates the ribs that has already been stewed in the broth for hours. Gnawing on the ribs and throwing away your table etiquette is something that’s bound to happen, as you just can't quite put it down. After you are done with the ribs, and you sip the warm soup where that sweetness of the herbs really hits your palate, you will say this is worth every yuan spent.
Oyster Egg Omelet (蚵仔煎)
Using Taiwanese oysters and eggs that are both fresh and vibrant to create this dish gives you necessary proteins for energy, and some even say it’s a great aphrodisiac too. It’s laid out like a regular pancake, but the taste has strong umami flavour from the oysters, which along with the eggs, bak choys and secret sauce that has a tad of heat, combine to give you that extra sensation on your taste buds. It was originally from the Fujian cuisine group, but it’s now engraved in the pages of Taiwan's night market recipe books because of the availability of the domestic ingredients it’s made from and the remix on the amazing sauces.
There are plenty more awesome choices including Taiwanese sausages, cartoon shaped cakes, sugar glazed tomatoes, pork buns (also known as Taiwanese hamburgers), braised mince pork over rice, and all sorts of sweet selections including jelly ice, shaved ice desert… My kids loved them all! We will save some to share in depth next time.
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