By now, it’s no secret that I love street food. It’s saddening that night markets are becoming more and more rare in my travels. I wish more countries embraced and retained the night market culture the way that Taiwan has. In Taiwan, night markets are still some of the most lively and popular places to hang out with friends, enjoy a first date, or spend time with family.
It just tops the cake that you can eat some of the country’s best food there too!
The most (in)famous Taiwanese night market staple is Stinky Tofu. As I’ve previously written a full blog dedicated to Stinky Tofu, I’ll just merely mention it here. Love it or hate it, no visit to a Taiwanese night market is complete without a Stinky Tofu encounter, but that’s mostly because you can’t escape its intense aroma even if you tried!
Another popular Taiwanese night market street food staple is the oyster pancake. I’m not really sure where the name comes from because there’s nothing “pancake”-like about this street food. I tried a couple oyster pancakes and I wasn’t impressed. It wasn’t until I was shown by the locals where to find a great oyster pancake that I was convinced of how delicious they can be! A fantastic oyster pancake is marked with fresh ingredients and an amazing sauce, much like the one above that I tried at the Ningxia Night Market in Taipei!
My grandmother used to make sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves for my cousins and I when we were children. To this day, I still love the warm, gooey richness of sticky rice, peanuts, fresh cilantro and tender, seasoned pork. The biggest danger with sticky rice is how filling it can be. Make sure that you share with others (I know, it’s difficult but trust me on this one) so that you can leave room for all the other night market snacks!
Local friends took me to try a pork roll wrapped in bean curd during one of our night market food outings. I’m sorry to say that this was my least favorite of all the food I ate. I’m not a fan of fried foods and this roll was lightly fried, and even that gave the dish too much oil and grease for me. I did, however, thoroughly enjoy the pickled cucumbers that accompanied the pork roll.
Tea leaf eggs are a popular road-side snack all across Asia but in Taiwan, the flavors of the tea leaf eggs really come out! I’m not sure what the Taiwanese add to their recipe besides the usual black tea, soy sauce, and star anise concoction to give their version that fuller flavor and delicious fragrance, but I have begun to suspect that the secret ingredient may be crack. Eggs just can’t be that good but in Taiwan, they can be.
Taiwanese sausage is a sweeter version of the standard sausage and I found it to be an ideal snack to help stave off my hunger in between meals. I’m not really sure what mystery meat comprises a Taiwanese sausage to give it that extra sweetness but whatever it is, I love it!
Speaking of sausages, perhaps one of the strangest, if not slightly intriguing foods I encountered was in Taichung at the Feng Chia Night Market. Yes, they were penis-shaped waffle cakes. Yes, that’s right, I said it. Weird Google searchers be damned! Penis-shaped waffle cakes! Pretty funny, right? I especially like the vendor’s nonplussed expression! Unfortunately, I didn’t actually get to “test” these um, waffle sdicks because by the time I had “come” across them, I was already “stuffed” from all the other night market foods I had deep… Okay, enough of the lewd penis gags (eh, eh)! I didn’t try them for the novelty factor this time around, but there’s always next time right?
These soft, toasted waffle sandwiches come in a variety of fillings, such as custard, red bean, and vegetables. My favorite was the custard-filled sandwiches for a delightfully sweet, yet mild treat on the go. Part of what makes these waffle sandwiches so good are the crisp, toasted edges so make sure you eat them hot off the grill as they tend to go a bit soggy if you wait.
Brown sugar bubble tea. I’ve dedicated a whole blog post to this one drink. That’s how good it is! Don’t believe me? Go ahead. Give this drink a try. I dare you not to love it.
Shaved ice for dessert doesn’t appeal to me. It’s shaved ice! Give me something warm and fresh from the oven, oozing with chocolate and I might just fall in love with you forever, but shaved ice? I was pretty skeptical but my foodie friends insisted I try so try I did. NOT bad! There are numerous toppings you can add to make your shaved ice more interesting, such as fresh fruit, nuts, and even the weird-to-consider-but-somehow-it-works red bean. Since I was unsure to begin with, I opted for the simple pudding and condensed milk shaved ice. It was simple and refreshing, perfect for a hot night out in Taipei.
Thank you to my knowledgeable and accommodating foodie friends: Stephanie, Brett, Kevin and Noliko, for taking me out and feeding me well in Taipei! I will definitely be coming back to Taiwan to see you guys again, and of course, to stuff my face silly with street food!
Are YOU hungry for street food yet?
© Connie Hum 2012