A trip to Taiwan isn't complete without a visit to one of its famous night markets. They're open everyday in the evening and have become a gathering ground for tourists and locals alike. In addition to cheap bargain deals, Taiwan's night markets are vital destinations to experience some of the country's best small eats.
Here's a food tour of five Taiwan night markets near the Taipei area. Each night market has its own history and personality even if the shaved ice and bun offerings start to look repetitive.
Shilin Night Market
Shilin is perhaps the most famous and largest Taiwanese night market. Admittedly the food selections are not the best, but the sheer size of Shilin makes it worth the visit.
The market emerged in the beginning of the 19th century near a temple. In 1915, Japanese colonists constructed a little brick house and it was used as a day market to sell seafood, meat, fruit, and vegetables. The market grew after World War Two and eventually hundreds of vendors filled the roads in Shilin.
Keelung Night Market
The Keelung (pronounced "jirong") Temple Night Market is centered around the Dianji Temple. It's known for its paopao ice, a snack extremely similar to snow shaved ice but beaten up into a fine, smooth, snow-like texture.
Although a bit far off from Taipei's center, Keelung has a very large food selection and plenty of seafood because of its proximity to the harbor.
Raohe Night Market
Raohe is one of the oldest night markets in Taipei with one of the best food selections around. Some of the highlights are the the black pepper bun, or "hujiaobing" (vendor located at the very end of the market), and the squid stew.
If you're staying in Taipei and want a night dedicated to eating some of the best the city has to offer, Raohe is the best place to go.
Huaxi Night Market, a.k.a. Snake Alley
I like to refer to Huaxi as the night market of vices. In addition to bizarre food items like snakes and turtles, there are a good number of sex toy shops and porn DVD vendors around the area. The food highlight, though, would probably be the snakes. They are served plain or in soup, medicine, or wine. For those not too into the creepy crawlers, Huaxi had some of the best shaved ice I've ever tried.
Tonghua Night Market
Tonghua is more of a retail night market than anything (a lot of imports from Korea). The market is also surrounded by tons of pet shops. In terms of food, they're known for their cheap Taiwanese teppanyaki. Tonghua is a smaller night market than others and a great place to go if you're getting sick of the crowded foot traffic.
About the author: Clarissa Wei is a food writer. She writes heavily about Chinese and Taiwanese food and has yet to find stinky tofu in the States that has impressed her. You can follow her on Twitter @dearclarissa.