Night-Markets: A Quintessential Taipei Experience

Night markets are an essential experience when visiting Taipei.  As the sun goes down, the streets come to life as stalls open up for business, dishing up everything from fried taro, to noodles, to mystery dishes you’ve never seen.  The air shifts from smelling like fried seafood to stinky tofu as steam permeates your clothes and hair.  Locals and tourists loudly order from Taiwanese who have most likely been manning their stalls making the same dishes for the past 40 years, and everything is awake and buzzing with a zest for life.  The feeling is unlike anything you’ll find in the West.

I’ve checked out some of the larger markets like  Shilin, Ningxia, and Keelung, and this go around we decided to cater to our own convenience by going to the Linjiang Street Night Market.  Sure enough, there were no tourists at this lesser blogged about strip, and we dug in.

One of the first dishes we ordered was what can best be described as a Taiwanese egg and bacon wrap. Fried egg, fatty bacon, and some sort of green leaves were put into a chive-ladden crepe, and it was deliciously satisfying.

Next we tried some sort of deep fried cabbage and mystery meat concoction that was somewhere between a corndog and extra crispy spring roll. Deep fried anything always tastes good, but this one wasn’t necessarily worth the stomach space. While I was retrieving this, Jeremy was ordering a serving of bao buns that were descent, but again, not worth the stomach room.

All the meanwhile, Jordan was picking up a bag full of snails which were delicious.  We happily slurped the meat out of the little shells that had been cooked and marinated in a spicy broth.  Across the way was something I had been thinking about all day; giant chicken nuggets.  While it is nothing more than a deep fried chicken cutlet, it is a hugely popular Taiwanese night market dish that usually has long lines. It was the longest wait of the night, but worth it to dig into ultra-tender chicken breast encased in a crunchy, slightly spicy, coating.  

For dessert, we picked up one of my favorite treats: deep fried sweet potato balls.  They taste like a firm sweet potato donut with a nice crunchy outside and soft inside.  (While we didn’t get them this go around, be on the lookout for fried taro balls…. They are insanely delicious!)

While I have gone into markets and cities with a list of “must tries” scoured from the internet, this time I wanted to just see where the sights, smells, and cravings took me.  Spontaneously eyeing a stall serving something completely new is excited and fun.  You never know if it’ll be a hit or miss, but with most dishes being under $2 usd, the stakes are low.  

Linjiang Street Night Market isn’t the best known market that boasts Michelin star stalls, but it felt completely authentic and served up some tasty eats.  While I wouldn’t say it’s a “Must-see” in Taipei, I’d encourage being spontaneous and straying away from guide books.  Night markets are everywhere, and if you go into it with an open mind and open stomach, you’ll have a cultural experience that won’t disappoint.  

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