Friday, February 24, 2012

Shilin Night Market

Shilin Night Market is probably my favourite market I've visited to date. This was back two Decembers ago but despite the cool temperatures (it wasn't actually that cold in Taipei), the general atmosphere was exceptionally warm and lively. I had gone on a Saturday evening so I was certainly expecting huge numbers of people and clearly there was no mistaking the market's location once you get off the metro.

The first stalls I passed by were food stalls and while it was certainly still early in the evening, around 5-6 pm, it certainly started to get my stomach juices going. From stinky tofu to beef noodle soup to fried fritters, there was definitely a lot of things available for you to try if you dare. In comparison, Shilin definitely felt far bigger than the Danshui night market and far, far more lively and boisterous.

For those who love to sing, Holiday KTV, which I saw all around the city, is located here as well. Just wish I had the time to pop in.

As I continued heading down the street, I passed numerous game stalls where you can pop balloons, throw baseballs into baskets and try your luck at winning the small prizes. There was even a game where you can try to catch small fish for keeps or in the case below, shrimp! You're essentially given these flimsy 'paper' nets which break easily so you have you be very careful in attempting to pick up the fish. Any struggles by the fish will break your nets and you'll end up losing the game. Definitely a challenge to take on!

One piece of advice I have is to go with a local if possible. The Shilin Night Market is huge and you can easily get lost in the maze of shops, food stalls and game booths. This shot was taken in a section where there weren't so many people...

The food was one of my favourite parts of the market.  Below was a skewer of fried quail eggs going for about $1 USD.  Just be careful with these babies as they're quite hot coming off the grill.

I finally found an area where a couple of food stalls had sectioned off some room for a few tables. Although some of the stalls here were selling beef noodle soup, I had already had dinner so I only had enough room for some further snacks. The first was an oyster egg pancake with some sweet sauce on top which was quite delicious (keep in mind they're hot so wait til they've cooled down before chowing down).

This was followed by a plate of Taiwan's infamous stinky tofu which I actually loved!  I know this might not be everyone's cup of tea as the smell is exceptionally pungent but I was definitely glad I didn't miss out on this delectable treat which is served with pickled cabbage and carrot slices.

As I headed away from the night market section itself, I passed by an area where they had a small mini-stage setup for a mini-concert where lots of people were just enjoying the atmosphere, eating night market food and taking in the music. The building immediately next to the stage was the Shilin Food Court, which was packed with as many if not more crowds than I had just encountered. If you thought the market had lots of food stalls, this food court will astound you as its is packed with rows upon rows of stalls serving various treats.

If you're travelling, I'd advise you not to go for the cold foods as the sanitation and hygiene of the area makes me a little suspect. But if you get food from stalls where you see lots of steam and open fire are likely safe to eat. Here, you can find another Taiwanese specialty of 'sausage wrapping a sausage'. Basically, the outer sausage is made of a sticky rice and you can wrap that around various types of chinese style sausages which have different flavours like traditional and black pepper. Note that these sausages are quite a bit chewier than one might be used to with western style sausages. Each one of these 'hot dogs' goes for 50 TWD which is about $1.50 USD.

Last but not least, I came across the Shilin steamed dumpling/buns - unfortunately, at this point I had already maxed out the space in my stomach so alas, I had to skip out on this delicious looking snack.

As Shilin is the largest and most famous night market in Taiwan, I would definitely have liked to have spent more time exploring the area but my trip was pretty time-limited so I'll have to leave further exploring til next time. If you're planning to visit, do make sure to leave plenty of time and I'd definitely recommend bringing a local guide if possible as its quite easy to get lost.

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