Taiwan is a land of many different kinds of night markets, and in them you find the most amazing variety of street foods. The different types of street food stalls vary, and you can definitely track the eating trends of the young in Taiwan by observing the snaking queues at the various stalls. The atmosphere in the night markets is something you have to experience to understand. We remember walking into a street with many pet stalls, and spent quite a long time oohing and ahhing at the cute little puppies for sale.
Anyway, back to the food. Here we will list some of the street foods in Taiwan that we tried. Most of them are found in almost every night market, but since K has been to Taiwan twice before, some of the street food we had were from stalls which he felt were the best. I’m not complaining, because this was the most exciting junk food excursion I’ve had in a while.
At Shilin Night Market, you’ll find a huge area dedicated to selling Taiwanese street food. Just at the entrance is a stall with a light blue signboard. At anytime of the day you go there will be a very long queue, so it’s impossible to miss.
What they serve is proudly written all over the blue board: Extra, Extra Large Chicken Chop.
We chose to have chili powder on our chicken chop (yes, we are huge fans of spice), as recommended by K of course, and it was indeed a very large piece of chicken. It would be quite alarming to imagine the size of the chicken where this chicken chop came from, but I don’t like to have mental images of my food source so I can enjoy my food properly. Anyway, the chicken chop was so big that it couldn’t be properly contained in the paper bag it was served in. The meat was amazingly tender and flavourful, and the chilli powder gave it a very nice spicy kick to it. (Note: do not inhale the chilli powder, accidental or otherwise, as it will give you a very unpleasant coughing fit.)
Right next to this stall is another stall selling Taiwanese sausages. Taiwanese sausages are a favourite of K’s, and these were so large they almost looked like the super long German bratwurst you get in Berlin Christmas markets.
There is a special snack called “Small sausage wrapped in big sausage”, which is descriptive enough for you to guess what it is. The big sausage isn’t quite a sausage, but more of rice shaped like sausage, that plays the role of the bun for the sausage to go into. It definitely sounded more novel than it looked, but nevertheless, it was a very interesting snack to have when you’re in Shilin.
If you take a walk into the food section of Shilin you’ll find a stall selling this interesting sounding thing called “Small biscuit wrapped in big biscuit”. There seems to be a trend going on with wrapping things in themselves.
Anyway, this was exactly as it says, which is a biscuit wrapped in another biscuit, that is almost tortilla-like. The result is a very dry and large biscuit. This we did not like, though K’s mom insisted we had to try it when we went to Taiwan. It was too dry and tasteless – definitely not worth spending your calories on.
Further on, you will find a multitude of stalls selling Taiwanese oyster omelette. We love the Singaporean version of this dish, so we were very excited to try the Taiwanese version. However, we much prefer the Singaporean version, which is crispier. The Taiwanese version is quite soggy and we didn’t like the ketchup-y sauce that was poured over it.
At the same market, there’s a stall selling all sorts of barbecue meats and vegetables.
K loves foods like these, so he went on an ordering spree at this stall. He had the chicken livers and hearts and chicken skins, squid, and this interesting sounding thing called “tian bu la”, which literally means “sweet not spicy”, and is supposedly named to sound like “tempura”. Well, tempura it definitely isn’t since it’s not fried and there’s no batter involved. However, it is indeed sweet and very delicious. K insists that there’s a better version that is fried, and we managed to find it at a stall in Xi Men Ding. The fried version was indeed very good, but I prefer the grilled version. Needless to say, K prefers the fried version. The other sticks of barbecued meats we had were also very good. We loved the sauce that was spread generously over the meats while they were grilled.
There is a popular snack that is very common in the region that you either hate or you love. It is “smelly beancurd”. It doesn’t sound appetising at all, and it is indeed smelly, as advertised.
You can smell it a mile away, and K compares the smell to that of unwashed dirty socks. However, it is actually very delicious. I’ve had it in HK before, so I was curious to try the Taiwanese version. I found the Taiwanese version much smellier than the HK version, and it is served with a generous amount of sauce that is almost like a soup. The HK version is served fried and crispy, and I tend to prefer that over the Taiwan version.