Must-Try Taiwanese Night Market/Street Foods

8:30:00 AM


Two of the things Taiwan are known for are food and night markets (called 夜市/yèshì in Chinese). From Shilin Night Market, Ximending Night Market, and Raohe St Night Market in Taipei to Miaokou Night Market in Keelung (northern Taiwan) to Rueifong Night Market and Liouhe Night Market in Kaohsuing (southern Taiwan), there is no shortage of night markets in Taiwan! And each has some pretty amazing street food.

Most of the pictures I ended up posting on Facebook from my Taiwan trip last year were of food. Or to be more accurate, I have an entire photo album called "Food Tour of Taiwan." Needless to say, one of the best things about Taiwan is the food! Taiwan also boasts some famous night markets. Given the number of times I crammed through throngs of people on hot summer nights in Taiwan, obviously there's a good reason for their fame. While Taiwanese food in general is ah-mazing (pineapple cake! sun cakes! beef noodle soup! dumplings and buns! "three cup" chicken! hotpot!), Taiwan's street food is of particular note.

But if it's your first time there and/or if you don't know much about our food, it might be overwhelming. Also, translations are weird, so you might be turned off of something that's actually really good! I'm going to start with foods and then get to drinks, but be sure to stick around because just thinking about those cold Taiwanese drinks has me longing for them this summer.

Food

Stinky Tofu / 臭豆腐 / chòudòufu

This is one of the classic Taiwan street foods. Notoriously known for its smell, stinky tofu elicits very different responses from people. Some people love it. Some people can't stand it. If you can get past the smell (it's not that bad, okay?), it's pretty good! There are many different types of stinky tofu. (If you find that you like it, you should trek out to the old street of Shenkeng (深坑老街), which specializes in stinky tofu.


Oyster Omelette / 蚵仔煎 / ô-á-jiān (Taiwanese pronunciation)

Another staple street food, the oyster omelette is always one of the first Taiwanese foods I seek out. It's like an omelette, but starch is added to it to make it thicker, and then there's usually a leafy green and, of course, oysters. You put a special sauce on top, and it's perfection. The problem is often with finding a good version of it among the many stalls, but trying a few different places isn't a bad option. ;)

Oyster Vermicelli Noodle Soup / 蚵仔麵線 / ô-á mī-sòa (Taiwanese)

If you're in Taiwan in the summer, soup is probably the last thing you want to eat/drink. But ugh, this is so good. Honestly, I'm not sure how to explain the taste of this. Just trust me.

Braised Pork over Rice / 滷肉飯/ lǔròu fàn

Okay. This is, I think, my actual favorite. I think the name pretty much says it all. The sauce is amazing and just perfectly complements rice (or noodles). My mouth is watering just thinking about it as I write.

Sticky Rice / 糯米飯 / nuòmǐ fàn

One of the first foods my mom and I got when we went to Taiwan. At the street market, they often take a few scoops of sticky rice and stick it into a bag. You can eat it with chopsticks or literally just out of the bag (#noshame).

Scallion Pancakes, Scallion "Crepes" / 蔥油餅, 煎餅 / cōngyóubǐng, jiānbǐng

Scallion pancakes make me think of chill weekend breakfast at home, but it's good at any time of day. Scallion "crepes" are fairly common as a breakfast food. It's essentially a scallion pancake wrapped around a filling, like egg or beef or almost anything, really. But scallion pancakes on their own are also just amazing.

Grilled Squid / 烤魷魚 / kǎoyóuyú

So, so good. Another straight-forward food. Sometimes served on a stick. Sometimes cut up and served on a plate. Sometimes cut up and served in a takeaway box.


Pork Blood "Cake" / 豬血糕 / zhūxuěgāo

Okay. Hear me out. It sounds weird/gross. It looks weird. That's what I thought too. But it's actually more grainy than anything (as in like rice/quinoa type texture because the blood is mixed with rice). Also, it tends to be dusted/coated in crushed peanuts too. It's not the best thing I've ever had. It's not the worst thing I've ever had. It's a cool food to say you've eaten.

Taiwanese Sausage / 香腸 / xiāngcháng

When I was in Taiwan, I remember dragging my friends around the night market looking specifically for this. Taiwanese sausages are very different from most kinds you'd find in the US. It tends to be smaller and sweeter, or at least that's how my taste buds interpret it. It's heavenly.

Taiwanese Meatball / 肉圓 / ba-wan (Taiwanese)

I actually didn't know about these until my mom suggested that I try some, but these meatballs are specific to the island. Essentially, it's translucent/clear gelatinous dough filled with any range of savory stuffings and then covered in a special sauce.

Giant Fried Chicken / 炸雞 / zhájī

Pretty straightforward. Not sure why this is so popular, but it is.

Guabao / 割包

Basically steamed buns folded in half and stuffed with something delicious.

Black Pepper Bun / 胡椒餅 / hújiāobǐng

Pork in a bun with pepper. It sounds really simple, and it is, but it is also really delicious.


Desserts

Shaved Ice / 刨冰, 礤冰 / bàobīng, chuabing (Taiwanese)

A must have in Taiwan. It's one of those classic desserts. There are many different varieties and toppings to choose from. The classic would probably be mango, but you also can't go wrong with most fruit flavors, red bean, grass jelly, and/or mung beans, among others.


Pao Pao Bing / 泡泡冰 / pàopào bīng

This is another type of ice cream, found mostly (only?) in Miaokou Night Market in Keelung. I can't really describe it. This post might be helpful.

Mochi / 麻糬 / muaji (Taiwanese)

Taiwanese mochi comes from the hakka in Taiwan (my mom is Hakka!). It's a little different from the Japanese version, but ugh, it's also so good. Usually, it's just glutinous balls (the same or similar to regular Japanese mochi, I think) covered with crushed peanuts, usually. Black sesame seeds are also popular, although I mostly just saw the peanut ones at night markets. You should give this a try!

Egg Custard / 蛋塔 (or 撻) / dàntǎ (tà)

Okay, I didn't see these in many night markets, but there was one vendor in the Shida Night Market who sold different flavored egg custards, which I HAD to try. I tried the green tea version, and while it wasn't fabulous, egg custards are a staple Chinese/Taiwanese dessert that you should try anyway, whether in a night market or not.

Peanut Ice Cream Roll / 花生冰淇淋春捲 / huāshēng bīngqílín chūnjuǎn

I didn't know this was a thing until I got to Taiwan, but it's basically peanut flavored ice cream with a dash of cilantro/coriander, topped with scraped peanuts, wrapped in a translucent dough. The peanut is scraped from a big block right in front of you. Okay, I have to admit. I am not a fan of the inclusion of the cilantro, but it's something interesting to try.



Drinks

Bubble Tea / 珍珠奶茶 / zhēnzhūnǎichá

Also called Boba, this is a classic Taiwanese drink. Bubble milk tea is just one of many, many varieties of cold drinks of a similar nature. There are different flavors, different teas, fruit flavors, drinks with tapioca pearls/grass jelly/lychee jelly/aloe vera jelly/coconut jelly, and more. You MUST try a few while in Taiwan. They're also super cheap, comparatively.


Papaya Milk / 木瓜牛奶 / Mùguā niúnǎi

Pretty straightforward! Papaya smoothie, basically.

Winter melon tea / 冬瓜茶 / dōngguāchá

My mouth is watering just thinking about dongguacha. I'm not entirely sure how to describe the taste, but you must try this drink. It's so refreshing on a hot Taiwanese night.

"Grass Jelly" / 仙草 / xiāncǎo

Honestly, this drinks section is probably the best one because each of these is literally my favorite. I've mentioned grass jelly a few times in this post already, and it sounds strange, but it's delicious. Grass jelly isn't a drink per say, but my favorite way to consume it is as a drink, whether in milk tea or on its own.

Aiyu / 愛玉 / àiyù

I didn't know about this drink until my mom ordered it when we were in Taiwan. Oh my goodness. It's my new favorite (maybe). Usually mixed with lemon, it's apparently made from fig seeds. It tastes nothing like fig though and is made into a jelly. At night markets, you'll see it in a huge bowl, and they'll scoop up jelly and syrup/water right in front of you when you order. SO SO GOOD, and SO SO REFRESHING.


What's your favorite Taiwanese street food? Which would you most want to try?

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1 comments

  1. mmmm so yummy! recognized some of these from my visits to china but other ones were totally new! the drinks & desserts all looked delicious! i might have to steer clear of the oysters & the blood cake...but the stinky tofu is definitely something i would be willing to try! i found the smell so awful when i was younger but the other day i walked by a stand at a festival here selling it & it didn't smell so bad to me anymore...i also love tofu and my parents both enjoy it so worth giving a shot right? can't be worse than some of the cheeses i've tried haha. loved this post!

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