The lights, sounds, and aromas of some 300 markets fill the night across Taiwan every day. Taiwan’s night markets have their roots in activities around temples – the sale of food and sundries, and random street shows that kept onlookers around the area. Even today, some night markets are mini-carnivals where merchandise, games, and food fill the streets.
The array of food at these nocturnal bazaars is bewildering. Dozens of stalls and holes-in-the-wall hawk braises, fermented “stinky” tofu, skewers, fritters, and all kinds of fruity and caffeine-laced concoctions. Scallion pancakes, gua bao—buns stuffed with pork and pickled greens—and red-bean-filled pastries are fixtures at many markets. Japanese street fare like grilled octopus balls and okonomiyaki pancakes are common. Some operators up the game with flash-seared steak, even freshly shucked oysters.
Markets located in fishing ports and southern Taiwan have the best seafood options. At the famed Miaokou Market (Keelung) and the popular Ruifeng Market (Kaohsiung), visitors gorge on shellfish and squid. Foodies flock to Donggang Market (Pingtung) for mud crab and shrimp. Zhongxiao Market (Taichung) has fantastic vegetarian selections. In Hualien on the east coast, charming Fuding Market offers indigenous flavors, food-wise and also in nightly music performances.
Tainan’s reputation as Taiwan’s snack-food capital draws fans to the southern city in search of native nibbles like braised eel noodles, bean curd dessert, and milkfish. These delicacies have long made their way to the rest of Taiwan, but many still insist they are tastiest on their home turf.