Taiwan is reputable for its vibrant night markets selling all sorts of yummylicious street food alongside fashion, game stalls etc. Just in Taipei alone there are at least 17 known night markets where you can feast & shop to your heart’s content. Tourists would typically be brought to Shilin or Raohe night markets as these are more familiar names on the tourist guide. Since it wasn’t our first time in Taipei, we wanted to try somewhere different for a more local flavour. Read on for a compilation of where we headed to for 2 nights in Taipei City, & our true reviews of the food we tried. 😉
1. Linjiang Street (Tonghua) Night Market 臨江街觀光夜市
Directions: From Xinyi Anhe Station (red Tamsui-Xinyi line), take exit 3, walk straight until you see Tonghua Street & turn right. Continue walking for around 5 min & Linjiang Street will become visible on the left.
NB: We visited Linjiang on our first night in Taipei, right after a leisurely hike up Hushan, as the night market is about a 20-min direct bus journey from the hiking trail. From Fengtian Temple (near start point of Hushan hiking trail), we took bus 88 to Xinyi Tonghua Street Corner bus stop. Turn into Tonghua Street on the left & walk straight down till you see the night market.
Linjiang Night Market is also known as Tonghua Night Market as it is located along the intersection of both streets. It is also touted as Taipei’s most local night market where one can get an authentic local experience without getting too far out of town in Da’an District. Indeed, it is a place where we spotted many locals tucking into delish food. The night market isn’t too big, just the full stretch of Linjiang Street. Here are the stalls we tried within 2 hours!
Read quite a number of bloggers recommending boiled chicken with salt from Hong Hua. Hence we decided to try it out since I had never eaten such a dish in Taiwan before. There was a short queue around the stall, where we could pick on the items we fancy & get the cook to prepare it for us. Sounds like yong tau foo style eh? The queue moved rather fast & despite the crowd, the staff didn’t seem flustered & remained polite.
After trying some of the items, I thought once is enough for such a dish, sorry. 😛 I don’t really enjoy eating cold stuff like chilled soba or cold noodles, except for cold desserts & drinks of course. Haha… Boiled Chicken With Salt (there’s other items inside the pack including their famous chicken meat) is also chilled, so it felt a bit weird to me eating savoury food cold. Price was pretty reasonable for quite a number of items at 135 TWD (~S$6.30). Temperature of food aside, the food items were flavourful & chicken meat was quite lean. In fact, I would think Hong Hua’s would suit those who love intense flavours in their food. 😉
This was another popular stall, Shi Jia Gua Bao, that many bloggers raved about, just a short distance away from Hong Hua. However, there was no queue when we saw the stall. The shop behind the stall was closed although the owner (?) was still around to tend the stall. 3 different choices of steamed bun to choose from here: Fatty Meat Bun, Lean Meat Bun & Combo (mixture of fatty & lean meat) Bun. Being weight/ health-conscious, we decided to order the Lean Meat Bun (50 TWD, ~S$2.35) to share. Frankly, I had expected something better than what we ate. The lean meat was a little tough at some parts, although I like the combination of pickled vegetables + some other green leafy vegetables, which made it crunchier & flavourful. Portion was pretty generous at such pricing.
Saw the above no-signboard stall where an elderly man was busy preparing the sweet potato ball snack for customers eagerly waiting around. We couldn’t really find where to join the queue, & the owner seemed too preoccupied to want to entertain any questions from curious onlookers like us. I only heard him telling others “after this batch is sold out, you would need to wait longer to get the food”. Seeing such a big crowd around the stall, I reckoned I would have to wait for next batch, so I left without making any purchase. But the snack smelt really nice, what a pity…
I love Taiwanese desserts, including the slightly sourish aiyu jelly that is commonly added to bubble tea. So we hunted down this popular dessert shop, Ai Yu Zhi Meng You Xian Cao, along Tonghua Street based on online recommendations. The shop only uses wild jelly fig harvested in the Alishan region in its desserts, as well as make the grass jelly from scratch using traditional methods. Indeed, the grass jelly & jelly fig in our bowl of Aiyu Jelly Combo Ice (50 TWD, ~S$2.35) were very smooth & glided easily down the throat. But I thought the coloured tapioca balls were a bit tough & not chewy enough.
2. Gongguan Commercial District 公馆商圈
Directions: From Gongguan MRT station (green Songshan-Xindian line), take exit 1 or 4 (elevator), & you will see the above signage shortly after leaving the station. Just follow the directions & you will see many food stalls along the street, where the commercial district/ night market is.
Gongguan Commercial District is located to the south of downtown. The district is home to a number of universities – National Taiwan University & National Taiwan Normal University, as well as a transport hub for students in other schools in the vicinity, Gongguan has become a popular commercial district for students to gather around. Besides many food stalls lining the small alleys in the district, there is also a myriad of shops from fashion to restaurants, arcades etc to keep the young & young at heart entertained. As we read that many stalls & shops would be closed on Monday, we only visited the commercial district on our last night in Taipei, which was a Tuesday.
Since I didn’t get to try the no-signboard stall selling popular sweet potato balls at Linjiang Night Market, I decided to try it here upon seeing that there was a queue as well. If there’s a queue, the food shouldn’t be that bad right? 😛 At least that’s what I thought. I ordered the small pack (20 TWD, ~S$0.95), with about 10 pieces inside. The sweet potato balls were quite crispy, but I thought it was too hollow inside. Would have preferred a more chewy texture like what we have in Singapore. Nonetheless, it was quite a good snack to munch on while waiting for my friend to grab her food at another stall.
The queue in front of this traditional spring onion egg crepe stall was quite long. But being a spring onion fan, it didn’t deter my friend from queuing. In fact, even after I had already bought my snacks, she was still queuing. Fortunately, the traditional spring onion egg crepe (25 TWD, ~S$1.15) was worth the wait, as it was generously filled with spring onion & flavourful.
Chen San Ding is a hugely popular shop in Gongguan Commercial District that many bloggers raved about. Having tried the uniquely Taiwan “frog hits milk” beverage in Taitung City’s night market, I was eager to try this legendary shop at Gongguan as well. It took us quite some time to be able to locate this shop, as it was hidden in 1 of the many small alleys (Luosifu Road Section 3) further away from Gongguan Station. I got a shock when we finally arrived & saw a long snaking queue in front of the small shop. But since we were already there, we decided to queue anyway.
Thankfully, there were at least 3 helpers at the shop serving customers, hence the queue moved pretty fast. Within 5 min of queuing, we had already laid our hands on a cup of the precious “frog hits milk” beverage (40 TWD, ~S$1.85). In case you don’t know what that is, it’s actually fresh milk with black sugar syrup served with tapioca balls (which are commonly known as “pearls”).
Oh my! The beverage was really tasty! Milk was smooth, pearls so chewy & the black sugar syrup added an unique fragrance to the beverage. Although there was no indication of the brand of fresh milk being used, it was by no means inferior compared to the one I had in Taitung, which used the branded Chulu Fresh Milk. I can’t really say which is better, but the yummy feel is certainly worth the wait. 🙂 However, do note that Chen San Ding is closed every Monday.
3. Shida Night Market 师大夜市
Directions: From Taipower Building MRT Station, take exit 3 & walk along Shida Road for about 5 to 10 min before seeing the night market.
Shida Night Market is quite near to Gongguan Commercial District, just 1 MRT stop away. But we didn’t take the MRT as we thought it would be good to just walk along the streets so that we could check out the shops in this district, so we walked down Luosifu Road (the main road where MRT station exit is). This isn’t my first time to the night market. I decided to return to Shida Night Market after the first visit in Sep 2012 because I thought it had a good mix of affordable clothing shops + good food (being near to National Taiwan Normal University). However, it seemed to me the night market is no longer as big as before, & I couldn’t seem to locate the Lantern Braised Food shop where I had a satisfying dinner then.
Since there were quite a number of braised food shops in the night market, we just picked the one that seemed to have more customers. 😛 Instead of eating in, we asked for takeaway. I think the guys tending the shop were pretty good salespeople, as they kept introducing us unique items which they claimed were must-tries. Hence, unknowingly we selected several items from the display rack to be cooked with the special braised sauce. The big pack of braised food costed us 185 TWD (~S$8.65)! Despite buying from a shop that doesn’t seem to be the one I tried 5 years ago, our braised food supper was still very delicious, even though the food had turned cold by the time we returned to the hotel. I particularly like the mountain vegetable that the guy kept trying to sell to us. 🙂
We spent most of the time in Shida Night Market browsing clothing shops rather than finding food. 😛 Looking back, it seems that we didn’t feed our stomachs excessively with lots of good street food in the 3 places we visited over 2 nights, although we already felt full after tasting the above. Maybe age is catching up so metabolism has slowed down & we can’t eat as much anymore… oops! Anyway, it was a great experience exploring the more local night markets. Definitely good to find out more about the local culture through yummy street food. 🙂