There is a saying that you haven’t properly experienced Taiwan if you haven’t visited its night market culture. Night markets are the essence of Taiwanese culture and if you are travelling around Taiwan you’d be silly not to experience one!
So we took on the challenge and visited as many night markets in Taiwan as possible.
Why are night markets so fascinating?
Well, for starters, there is no such thing as night markets in the western world, and even in a lot of other Asian countries, there are very limited markets that still open all through out the night.
It is at the night markets will you experience some of the most authentic and unique Taiwanese culture.
Sure, in Asia, you could say most places are night markets as shopping centres often open until wee hours, however none so crowded, so chaotic and so Taiwanese that will keep you entertained in all sorts of ways.
In Taipei alone, there are five major night markets, each with their individual charisma and charm.
The largest being Shi-ling night markets, with two whole streets of shops and hawker stalls and a separate section for food and games, you could spend hours just browsing and not get bored.
The Hua-Xi St night market is small but interesting, it’s where the snake handlers are. If you are interested in seeing snakes and taste some snake dishes this is a must to visit!
The largest night market in Taiwan is in the city of Taichung, mid-island on the west coast. The market expands several streets with all side streets filled with hawker stalls.
Night markets are the best places to sample Taiwanese snacks.
Taiwanese cuisine is slight different to what you could get at your local Chinese takeaway or restaurant. Most dishes are a blend of Chinese, Aboriginal and Japanese styles with slight variations on each.
Also, Taiwan as a simple agricultural society before it became one of the technology giants, so many of the snack dishes are simple, yet to a modern westerner possibly could not imagine to eat.
However, don’t forget a very long time ago, we used to eat sheep’s brain too! For a farmer with limited income, you can’t afford to waste food.
However, never fear, not everything is yucky to the eye.
There are food made with ‘normal’ ingredients too. Make sure to try some Taiwanese meat balls, which are minced meat coated with corn flour fried and served with a pink sweet and chili sauce.
Oyster pancakes are nice too and lots and lots of refreshing desserts such as herbal jelly is great for a hot summer’s night. They are good for you too.
After you’ve eaten, stroll the street stalls and shops for that bargain you are looking for.
In a night market you can virtually find anything and everything, from clothing, shoes, accessories, stationary, books and even pets. There are also games you can play.
Modern games such as shooting rifles and handguns to try to take down balloons, or more traditional games like trying to throw hoops at bottles or mini-fishing.
Night markets open all night and it just seems like the Taiwanese never sleeps!