There is a legendary destination created out of a foodie's fantasy, where you can sample hundreds of different drool-inducing delicacies. Where you can eat for hours, even days, from one end of the street to the other without repetition. Where you will leave with your belly a lot fuller, and your wallet only slightly thinner.
You might scoff and think: "This place can't possibly exist."
Oh, it does. This magical place is the Taiwanese night market.
Taiwanese Night Markets
There isn't just one night market in Taiwan. The largest night market in Taiwan is the Shi Lin Night Market, or士林夜市 (Shì lín yè shì). Other smaller night markets include, Tong Hua Street Night Market - 通化街夜市(Tōng huà jiē yè shì), and Raohe Night Market - 饶河夜市 (Ráo hé yè shì).
Like many street markets around the world, the night markets are made up of hundreds of independent vendors, each specializing in one or two food items. This means that the taste of the food is top-notch, since the vendor has to focus on perfecting the signature dish. This also means you will need to visit several stalls to put together a complete meal.
What to Eat at a Taiwanese Night Market
We put together a list of the must-try items at any Taiwanese Night market: the specialty foods that are unique to Taiwan, as well as some items that are just done better at a Taiwanese night market. Without further ado, let's dig in.
Related: 8 Major Cuisine Types in China
1. Fish balls - 鱼丸（Yú wán)
Fish balls are white, chewy, gelatinous balls made with minced fish and cornstarch, and are sometimes stuffed with minced pork. They can be eaten in a gingery soup or on a stick. My favorite are fish balls on a stick dipped in a savory curry sauce.
2. Stinky tofu - 臭豆腐 (Chòu dòu fu)
You might love it, you might hate it, or you might barely tolerate it, but how could you go to a Taiwanese night market without trying stinky tofu? If you can get over the slightly rotten flavor, the tofu tastes similar to a creamy soft aged cheese.For a more palatable way of enjoying stinking tofu, try it fried and brushed with a spicy sauce.
3. Small Sausage in Large Sausage -大肠包小肠 (Dà cháng bāo xiǎo cháng)
Essentially a Taiwanese hotdog, the "small sausage" is a juicy grilled Taiwanese pork sausage wrapped in the "large sausage" - made from glutinous rice and essentially serving as a hotdog bun. The double sausage can be eaten with a variety of toppings, from pickled cucumbers to hot peppers to minced garlic.
4. Braised minced pork rice - 卤肉饭 (Lǔ ròu fàn)
Picture a rich Bolognese sauce, but instead of the tomato, there is instead a soy-based, umami-filled savory goodness. Now put that all on top of a steamy bowl of fluffy white rice, and you have the Taiwanese specialty braised minced pork rice.The dish is typically served with half of a soy-braised egg, and a few baby bok choy.
5. Oyster omelet - 蚵仔煎 (o ā jiān)
A chewy omelet filled with small oysters and vegetables, the oyster omelet is largely considered the snack to best represent Taiwan. At the night market, it is usually served doused in a red chili sauce to give it more flavor.
Related: How To Order Food In Chinese
6. Iron egg - 铁蛋 (Tiě dàn)
These scary snacks look like little grenades, and are almost just as hard. But if you can get past the color and the outside texture, these little braised eggs offer a ton of rich flavor and a nice pop of protein.
7. Pork Buns- 割包 (Guā bāo）
Odds are, you have tried one of these pork buns at a high-end ramen shop. Slices of fatty pork belly are stuffed in a fluffy, sweet white bun, and garnished with crushed peanuts, pickles, and some cilantro. For a spicy version, ask for a squirt of the spicy mayo. (Image via ladyandpups.com)
8. Pig’s blood rice cakes - 猪血米糕 (Zhū xuě mǐ gāo)
Blood is certainly an acquired taste, but these pig's blood rice cakes make it so easy. Dark red pigs blood is mixed with sticky rice, cut into squares, dusted in crushed peanuts, and served on a stick. The flavor is rich and iron-y, and the texture is a bit softer than meat.
9. Taiwanese Fried Chicken - 盐酥鸡 (yán sù jī)
Taiwanese fried chicken has been westernized as "popcorn chicken," but in Chinese, it is translated as "Salt crispy chicken." The chicken is in juicy, bite-sized portions. After being fried, it is often coated with more salt and pepper as well as chili powder, before being served with some fried basil leaves.
10. Pineapple cake - 凤梨酥 (Fèng lí sū)
Pineapple cakes are one of the best food souvenirs to take from Taiwan. The candied pineapple practically melts in your mouth along with the buttery crust. At the night markets, you might find these pastries in certain, ahem, NSFW shapes. It's certainly an attention attracting gimmick, but it doesn't mean the cakes will taste any less delicious.
Which one of these Taiwanese night market foods are you most excited to try? Have you eaten any of these before? Let us know in the comments below!