Taiwan Knows Food: A Guide to Taipei's Michelin-Worthy Night Markets
WORDS BY Francesca Chang PHOTOS
Tien Hsiang Stinky Tofu
WORDS BY Francesca Chang
PHOTOS AND ILLUSTRATION BY Taiwan Scene
Taiwan’s food traditions are a defining characteristic of its culture. In addition to Taipei’s high-class Michelin-starred restaurants, one can easily witness the country’s devotion to gastronomy and tradition with an evening stroll through the capital’s high-spirited night markets. A long-practiced tradition, the minute the sun goes down, shop vendors, including local families with generations-old recipes, pop up and line the streets with every kind of food imaginable. The lively environment is accentuated by fryers, grills, and glowing blow torches that attract locals and travelers who willingly form lines around the block for their favorites.
More than just a quick snack for hungry tourists and local Taiwanese, the small Mom and Pop stalls at Taiwanese night markets have garnered international attention, most recently from the Michelin Guide Taipei 2019, in which 24 night market stalls were awarded the Bib Gourmand distinction, an honor that signifies “good quality, good value cooking” for eateries offering a three course meal not exceeding NT$1,300.
Night markets are a must-visit for all visitors, and here we explore all 24 stalls from various Taipei night markets recently listed in the Michelin Guide, including 15 shops that are appearing in the guide for the very first time.
a. Raohe Street Night Market 【饒河街夜市】
1. Beef Noodles and Beef Entrails Soup (紅燒牛肉麵牛雜湯)
Beef noodles is a Taiwanese staple that evokes a similar feeling of comfort like that of the Western-style chicken noodle soup. The signature dish here is actually the beef entrails (organ) soup, notable for its richness and lack of a strong, gamey flavor.
2. Fuzhou Black Pepper Bun (福州世祖胡椒餅)
Easily spotted by its long line, the black pepper bun at this stall is made fresh for customers using a traditional cooking style in a circular clay oven. The result? A crispy outside with an oozing pork and minced spring onion filling on the inside.
3. A Kuo Luwei (阿國滷味)
Luwei is a cooking style where customers fill a basket of food from a huge selection of meats, vegetables, and other local ingredients. The food is then boiled in a savory broth, chopped and plated. A Kuo Luwei was selected on the list for their luwei style duck wings, crispy intestines, and baby corn.
Chen Tung’s soups are simmered for hours with Chinese herbs believed to have medicinal benefits. This stall has received the Bib Gourmand twice now for its strong and refreshing herbal soup that contains pork ribs and a sweet aftertaste.
b. Linjiang Street Night Market 【臨江街夜市】
1. Yu Pin Yuan Iced and Hot Tangyuan (御品元冰火湯圓)
Tangyuan is a Taiwanese dessert made of small, sweet glutinous rice dumplings. Yu Pin Yuan’s unique tangyuan is soaked in fermented rice, served on ice, and drizzled with osmanthus syrup. Eat these sesame or peanut-filled rice balls while they are still hot before the ice changes their texture.
2. Lo Chi Hsiao Chao (駱記小炒)
Lo Chi is a small, but authentic stall that has mastered the art of stir-fried, or re chao (熱炒) dishes. A true representation of some of Taiwan’s most beloved comfort food, their fried lamb, beef, and clams are a must-try for anyone visiting Taipei.
3. Liang Chi Lu Wei (梁記滷味)
The interactive dining style of luwei, together with Liang Chi’s extra large selection of food items keeps this stall busy. This business stands out for its soy sauce broth, made from a secret recipe passed down for generations. Signature dishes include duck wings, braised cow stomachs, seaweed, and dry tofu. All served with Taiwanese pickled cabbage.
4. Tien Hsiang Stinky Tofu (天香臭豆腐)
Most foreigners find it hard to tolerate the pungent smell of Taiwanese stinky tofu that permeates almost all night markets. Tien Hsiang’s special care in preparing this delicate fried dish earns them their Bib Gourmand mention; even foreigners are willing to try their version!
c. Gongguan Night Market 【公館夜市】
1. Hsiung Chi Scallion Pancake (雄記蔥抓餅)
As the name suggests, this stall is famous for its edition of Taiwan’s signature scallion pancake, a fluffy, yet hearty snack. The dough is first rolled to create layers within layers that reveal delicious green scallions. It is then fried and fluffed right in front of you on a large, oiled skillet.
2. Lan Chia Guabao (藍家割包)
Deemed the “Chinese hamburger,” guabao is a soft, white bun stuffed with fatty pieces of braised pork, ground peanut, coriander and Taiwanese shredded pickle. Lan Chia captured the Michelin guide’s attention with its preparation of both fatty and lean cuts of meat; in comparison with other guabao stalls, they carefully and skillfully shred and flavor their meat, thereby creating an exceptional taste.
d. Nanjichang Night Market 【南機場夜市】
1. A Nan Sesame Oil Chicken (阿男麻油雞)
A warm dish typically eaten during the winter, this fixture contains tender chicken legs in a warm, sesame oil and ginger broth. Soft vermicelli can be added to balance the strong flavor. Another option is to ask for a whole chicken leg in the broth, which is eaten by hand with plastic gloves that are provided.
2. Sung Ching Taiwanese Burrito (松青潤餅)
Making its debut in the Guide this year, Sung Ching was selected for its Taiwanese Burrito, a light, flavorful roll filled with fresh bean sprouts, shredded carrots, radish, braised pork, crushed peanuts and cilantro if you like. It is wrapped in a soft, spring-roll like popiah roll creating a light, crunchy, burrito that magically never gets soggy.
3. Stinky Tofu Boss (臭老闆現蒸臭豆腐)
In Taiwan, there are two kinds of stinky tofu: stinky, and stinkier. The former is fried and served with hot sauce, while the latter is steamed. Stinky Tofu Boss features the stinkier version, steamed to order in a bamboo basket with sweet Taiwanese basil. Be brave: the dish doesn’t taste the way it smells!
4 Unnamed Clay Oven Roll (無名推車燒餅)
In Taiwan, it is common for a food item to become so popular that the vendor doesn’t even need a name. Such is the case at the Unnamed Clay Oven Roll shop, where crowds line up at this no-name stall for its long, crunchy, sesame seed-coated buns and sweet, flaky pastries filled with red bean or sugar.
e. Huaxi Street Night Market 【華西街夜市】
1. Hsiao Wang Steamed Minced Pork with Pickles in Broth (小王清湯瓜仔肉)
A new addition to the Michelin Guide this year, Hsiao Wang finally rises to fame with its forty-year-old recipes that include minced pork in “black gold” sauce served over rice, and the same minced pork and preserved pickles served in a clear broth with rougeng ( 肉羹 ), a carefully-prepared type of meatball.
f. Ningxia Night Market 【寧夏夜市】
1. Liu Yu Zi (劉芋仔)
You know a place is good when all the locals swear that the long line is worth the wait. Watch how Liu Yu Zi’s famous deep-fried taro balls are made, then be sure to taste the original taro ball as well as the pork floss and the egg yolk filled balls.
2. Fang Chia Shredded Chicken on the Rice (方家雞肉飯)
Fang Chia takes special care in preparing what might seem like two very simple dishes. Their shredded chicken rice is served with caramelized onions that create an irresistible taste that usually leads customers to order another bowl. And their braised tofu cubes are topped with thick soy sauce paste to perfectly match the light, velvety tofu.
3. Rong’s Pig Liver (豬肝榮仔)
Believed to be healthy for the body, Rong’s pig liver soup is a local favorite with its fresh, moist pig liver. Their zongzi (粽子), a triangular-shaped sticky rice ball wrapped in bamboo leaves, contains a moist egg yolk and fresh mushrooms. Don’t forget to add the sweet hot sauce.
g. Yansan Night Market 【延三夜市】
1. Cabbage Rice and Pork Rib Soup (高麗菜飯 原汁排骨湯)
All locals think of their grandma’s comfort food when eating this nostalgic stew. A seemingly simple dish, pork rib soup is not easy to master, and thus the effort and love put into this dish is something all locals appreciate. The pork rib is eaten directly with the hands, while perfectly moist cabbage rice accompanies it.
2. Shi Chia Big Rice Ball (施家鮮肉湯圓)
Shi Chia offers the savory version of Taiwan’s local dessert known as tangyuan. These large, glutinous rice balls are filled with juicy pork and are served in a warm, salty soup flavored with green onions and shallots. This dish has been a local favorite since the 1960s.
3. Da-Qiao-Tou Tube Rice Pudding (大橋頭老牌筒仔米糕)
These steamed towers of zongzi, or sticky rice, originally got their unique shape from bamboo tubes that molded each steamed unit. Da-Qiao-Tou has perfected this traditional process, churning out perfectly moist, chewy, but not sticky, “rice pudding” from bamboo steamers every day. Customers can choose from either lean or fatty pork and should try the homemade spicy sauce.
h. Shilin Night Market【士林夜市】
1. Good Friend Cold Noodles (好朋友涼麵)
As a simple-looking dish, “cold noodles” are dressed in a thick, rich sesame paste and julienned cucumbers. This dish is so ubiquitous that even local convenience stores sell it. Good Friend offers a true, authentic version of the staple with high-quality ingredients, and be sure to taste their egg drop soup as well.
2. Chung Chia Sheng Jian Bao (鍾家原上海生煎包)
With Shanghainese origins, shengjianbao, or panfried stuffed bun, has become a local favorite in Taiwan. The smell of the bun’s crispy bottoms and cabbage or pork-filled insides permeates Shilin night market, enticing not only locals already familiar with the scent, but also visitors who are immediately lured.
3. Hai You Pork Ribs (海友十全排骨)
This stall is hard to miss with vats of boiling soup lining the entrance, creating the image of a Chinese medicine apothecary. The soups at Hai You are simmered for hours with Chinese herbs considered to be medicinal. Don’t miss the herbal soups paired with their famous herbal-stewed pork ribs.