In our previous time living in Taipei, there was one night market that I enjoyed more than any other. The Shihlin Night Market is by far the best in the Taipei area. We went there the other night, so I can give you details as to why this is the market to go to. You may not want to read this hungry, because I am going to tell you about some food that is drool-worthy.
We arrived at the night market around 5 pm on a week night. The crowds can be intense on the weekends, so if you want to truly enjoy and take your time make sure to go on a weekday. At 5:00 pm all the shops are open, but the kiosks and vendors that have their stalls in the center of the alley ways were just setting up. It was a perfect time to get there.
We started in the main area, checking out the numerous clothing stores, passing up the many opportunities to buy a cranberry or lime juice, and taking our time and really enjoying the night. The great thing about the Shilin Night Market is that even the regular stores that line the street are often much less expensive than stores in other areas. For example, we bought five outfits for Zoë at one of the clothing stores and ended up only spending 750 NTD (about $25 US). There are good deals to be found and they are easy to find, too. You will not have to dig around in stacks an stacks of items to find the one thing that is reasonably priced like at some other markets.
Chad, Zoë, and I walked around and came to some food stalls. The smells were amazing, well except for that one obnoxious stinky tofu stall right in the middle of them all. There were many choices and they all looked delicious, except again for the stinky tofu… I just cannot bring myself to try eating something that smells like beer flatulence that has escaped a long dead corpse. Chad and I started with some steamed vegetarian buns, which are like large dumplings filled with cabbage, carrots, mushrooms and other fresh veggies, then steamed and quickly fried so that just the bottom has a bit of crispiness to it. All three of us loved them.
Then we found a Thai stall and got a honey banana roti (a thin crepe fried with banana’s inside and drizzled with honey) and a Thai iced tea. A taste of things to come… I am definitely going to have to get on a strict exercise routine when we get to Thailand, because I have to be able to enjoy Thai iced teas and roti whenever I want. There are priorities in life, right?
Then we got an order of what appeared and tasted like fried balls of seafood covered in a wasabi sauce and toasted onion slivers. I have no idea what this dish is called, but they have stalls selling them in every neighborhood that I have seen so far. This was the first time that I tried them, and the wasabi sauce was to die for, but I could have done without the seafood balls as they were a bit runny. The texture grossed me out a little although they did taste pretty good.
We then meandered to a stall selling Indian samosas and ordered two vegetarian ones. We waited and watched while one of the gentlemen pounded out the pastry dough and handed it to his co-worker to fill and fry. They hand made every samosa when it was ordered! I was quite impressed. The samosas tasted wonderful.
While we were waiting for our samosas, I bought Z a quail egg ball stick (a name I made up for it, I honestly do not know what they are really called), which are exactly what they sound like, quail eggs that are fried in the shape of balls and put on a stick. Zoë loved them, I tried one and it tasted exactly like a chicken egg. What a great protein filled snack for a growing toddler though.
After that I was finally full and very satisfied. I was ready to go back to shopping.
The market is gigantic, we were not able to go through it all, in the 3 hours we were there. There was so much to see and do that we would probably need a week to go through the whole thing.
One thing is for sure though, I left the market feeling like I had won the street food lottery. And for me, if the food is good, the place wins. Shihlin Night Market is a winner. Go and taste for yourself!
P.S. If you know the correct names for any of the dishes above, please feel free to leave them in the comments. I would love to know and be able to update this post.