Every tourist has the largest night market, Shilin Night Market, in Taipei as the mandatory pit stop on their street food itinerary. Popular for its variety of instant gratification street food, this is the eating street in Taiwan come to LIVE!!!
Three persons thick crowds throng streets upon streets of open-air stalls hawking shoes; accessories and Taiwanese fashion wear that range from the cute, quirky to hottest fashion wear in downtown Taipei.
Hundreds upon hundreds of eating stalls sell all sorts of local popular street food to tempt or revolt, depending on your sensitivities. If you’re a vegan you may be shocked to find giant squid tentacles skewered on a stick right next to a whole roasted baby piglet or a boiled capon! A CAPON as I discovered later is a rooster the size of a turkey!
As we weave through the massive crowds and stalls we were bent on fulfilling the TOP EIGHT ITEMS of our bucket list. Yea we were BOLD.
Perhaps little too adventurous maybe judging from the No.1 item on our list!
#1 NOTORIOUS STINKY TOFU
I was told that there are up to eleven levels of stinky tofu in Taiwan. With Level 11 being the top grade that only elderly connoisseurs will appreciate.
A form of fermented tofu, you could sniff out these soya cubes from quite a distance!
I was once trapped in a private room in a Taiwanese restaurant with a huge platter of the stinky tofu served steamed being passed from one table to another. The dinner was hosted by generous Taiwanese friends who had a great time laughing when the Malaysians gag on it.
There are street pushcarts selling these notoriously stinky but popular deep fried cubes in the night markets.
Oh yes, the smell.
If you follow your nose, you’ll probably be assaulted about 6meters away by a smell that has been described as a cross of all the nasty bad smells.
You could buy a bag of these for a few dollars, deep fried to crunchy cubes, served with lashings of some chili, vinegar and soy sauce with a sprinkling of spring onions. They look deceptive tame just like any fried tofu.
Pinch your nose and breathe through your mouth.
Here’s how to TRY eating Stinky Tofu…
Pinch your nose and breathe through your mouth as you use one of the bamboo skewers to pick up hot a fried cube and pop it in.
The texture is smooth and creamy inside after you bite through the hard crunchy skin. Taste wise; little bland just like any ordinary tofu.
Presumably, you’re still holding your breath up to this point. You swallow. Then you breathe in through your nostrils. That’s when it hits you HARD! Like an open sewer.
Conclusion: No one in my group could stomach any. I chowed down on 3 cubes of the Level 2 Tofu and survived!
#2 XIO LONG BAO
There was a busy stall at the Shilin Night Market but we skipped it.
We wanted to experience the no. 1 delicacy bestowed with 1 Michelin Star in Taiwan.
Din Tai Fung’s famous branch at Taipei 101 Towers was the ultimate for a taste in artistry and a feast for the eyes in the pleating of the tiny folds of these delicious little Xiao Long Bao dumplings. They are served in small bamboo trays lined with a white cabbage leave.
Steamed upon ordering, these little pockets of minced pork can be quite addictive. Some chopstick skills are required to lift these plump bags filled with meaty hot soup supported by your porcelain spoon.
Dip the Xiao Long Bao in the young julienne ginger in black vinegar and nip a little of the skin to sip the soup. Then peel it back to eat.
And watch the empty bamboo trays stack up like conveyor belt sushi plates!
#3 PINEAPPLE TART
Maybe it’s the mahjong tile shape that’s so arresting. Or a love for all things rectangular. SpongeBob square pants come to mind easily when I’m hankering after Taiwanese Pineapple Pastry Tarts which taste like shortcakes with jam infill!
Taiwan probably has the art of making pineapple tarts down pat. Arguably one of the best to be had ever.
As to whether some bakers have substituted pineapple with winter melon to make the jam less tart or acidic as well giving a less fibrous texture to the filling; I can’t really tell although we tasted the many different brands available.
Whatever it is, it’s the taste of the Taiwanese Pineapple Pastry Tarts that makes these so darn good with the varying level of sweetness and buttery taste to the pastry.
I guess the truth is out there somewhere.
So Which Pineapple Tart to Buy?
What to buy, which to buy and the price to pay. Well, that’s up to your taste and budget really. As always, these boxes of premium Taiwanese Pineapple Pastry Tarts (found at the airport) is a great souvenir to bring back home.
As usual, the choice between grilled or deep fried meats is the hardest for fast food addicts, having to choose between sinking our teeth into juicy crunchy fried chicken or meaty grilled sweet sausages.
Here we’re being taunted by Taiwanese sausages and XXL fried chicken the size of steaks. Well, make those plates!
Having said that, eating fat is not an excuse for being fat, right? So to me No. 4 and 5 are interchangeable.
#4 XXL Fried Chicken
These are breaded and deep fried in hot oil and sprinkled with white pepper, chili, and fried basil powder. The chicken is crunchy on the outside and still slightly sweet and moist inside. So be warned. It’s really addictive if you’re not counting calories.
#5 GRILLED TAIWANESE SAUSAGES
The faint smell of grilling red pork sausages is appetizing. One of the pleasantries of life.
Up close, the obsession is primal. It goes down to the chant of man, meat, fire. The sausages are made from a proper ratio of shoulder meat and fatty pork. Sausages may be barbecued, pan-fried or steamed. But in the night markets, they are grilled over hot coals.
The sweetness of Taiwanese cooked sausages is robust, chewy and juicy. Once cut up in into small pieces these are served with raw garlic.
The perfect beer food.
Makes that limp Malaysian version of vacuum packed chicken sausages fried with onions and birds eye chilis pale in comparison.
#6 SHAVED ICE
The kids weren’t going to share when it comes to eating an enormous bowl of shaved ice with their choice toppings.
The treat was an amazing marriage of technology and wizardry as the ice had a cotton candy texture that just melts in your mouth like cool air.
I kid you not.
We ordered two types. How to resist Taiwan’s Ai Wen Mangoes best known for their sweet juiciness and summertime flavors.
The topping had all kinds of jelly, custard, and mushy red beans. The entire bowl is doused repeatedly with syrup and extra condensed milk.
Now you know my secret sin. It’s called sugar addiction!
#7 QQ BUBBLE TEA
Non-alcoholic and non-carbonated, this milky tea is hard to push on to the uninitiated. QQ bubble tea fans will extoll the virtues of the giant black tapioca balls “bubbles”. Most enjoy the freshly brewed milk tea with ice.
The giant black QQ tapioca pearls are the main ingredient that transforms a plain insipid milky tea drink to a drink worth lining up for; even if it means being 10th in line!
But which stall?
The length of the QQs or queues (pun intended) seems to rival each other.
The “QQ” texture translated as the chewiness or springiness. The tapioca balls are quite addictive to bite on.
To many this is a lifestyle rather than merely drinking tea, it’s worth a try in its birthplace even though it’s now available almost worldwide in cities since its invention in Taichung, Taiwan in the 1980s.
#8 AIYU JELLY
Aiyu Jelly is an authentic Taiwan dessert. This is natural jelly and not made from seaweed or gelatine (derived from bones of animals).
This jelly is made from the seeds a climbing plant of the figs. This plant grows in the high mountainous areas of Taiwan. Mostly it is found in the Alishan area.
A popular refreshing summer dessert. The Aiyu Jelly is served cold with lemon juice or honey.
For visitors to Taipei, Shilin Night Market is the biggest and busiest night market not to miss.
We didn’t get to explore the entire market as we only had a few hours after dinner. Even when we started off in a group, in the end, we split up to explore due to its massive size.
We circle back to meet several times. Each one of us bought packets of street food to try. We didn’t even come close to trying all the food available.
We enjoyed the food we tried, walked around and doing a bit of shopping. The touristy setting, waves of large crowds of people walking towards you can be a bit overwhelming! What I found best to do is to stand still and let the crowds pass you by. That way you won’t “lose” your friends.
Overall the Shilin Night Market is still a must visit night market when you’re in Taipei.
Shilin Night Market
Shilin night market opening hours: 5 pm – 2 am daily
Near Dadong Road, Danan Road, Wenlin Road and Jihua Road, Taipei, Taiwan
Jiantan MRT station
Travel Tips to Get There
Take the MRT Metro to Jiantan Station. Follow the signs for Shilin Night Market (don’t worry it’s clearly marked out from when you exit the metro)
You will reach the market after a short 2 minute walk away from the station.
Other Night Markets to Check Out
Raohe Night Market
North end of Kee Lung Road, Taipei, Taiwan
Song Shan station Exit 5
Gongguan Night Market
Between Roosevelt Rd and Tingzhou Rd Section 3
Gongguan MRT station exit 4
If you have other favorites on top of the 8 Best Street Food At Shilin Night Market Taipei, Taiwan, leave us a comment. We would love to try that on our next trip to Taiwan!
If the night markets overwhelm you, don’t worry. Taiwan 7-Eleven open 27/7. There are lots to eat if you get hungry in the middle of the night.
Looking to stay longer? Book the 7+ Night Rate!