As I have stated before in another post, Taiwan’s sights and cuisine (but mostly the food) is incredibly diverse and also in some cases, mind-blowingly delicious.
Case in point: let me take you on a tour through Shilin Night Market, possibly the most famous and ridiculously large market in Taipei. And what I mean by tour is showing you photographs of delicious-looking things. As in a tour of Shilin Night Market’s world of cuisine. As in I didn’t really take pictures of the market itself.
As soon as you arrive at the main entrance of Shilin Night Market, you will see a huge line. You will in fact, see many huge lines, but one line will be considerably longer than the others. This is the line to the world-famous (seriously. they have branches abroad) Hot Star deep-fried chicken fillets. I first laid my eyes on these babies in the Taiwan episode of Vice’s Fresh of the Boat with Eddie Huang.
Even though I hate standing in lines, I faithfully queued to get my hands one of these hot, crispy behemoths. Whilst standing in line a man will come up to you and ask you how many you are going to order and then hand you plastic bags to hold them in.
You can’t really see the true size of the fillet, but it was literally half of a whole chicken that was butterflied and deep-fried. Much bigger than the average human head, while they’re still hot the fillets are spicified with chili powder, five-spice, salt, and sugar. It’s safe to say that when in Taiwan, eat the large fried chicken from Hot Star.
There was a row of small restaurants within the market that exclusively sold different kinds of grilled meats on sizzling plates. Of course, we had to have some. Before we got our steaks, we were given a very classy appetizer of a cream of mushroom soup with a pastry top in a cat-head bowl.
We also stood in another huge line to have a taste of these dumplings. They are more like a bread than a dumpling, filled with a meat mixture with punchy herby flavors. They dumplings are made and then they stick them onto the side of a huge tandoori-like oven so they end up having a very crusty, nutty crust.
This was one of my favorite snacks. Sweet potato stewed in a sugary goop of molten hot goodness. Very similar to the Korean “mattang” of deep-fried and sugar coated sweet potato. The sweet potatoes are so sticky and delicious to the point that it just felt sinful to bite into them. If you have a sweet-tooth, you should definitely try this.
I did indeed waste good money trying to fish for these little shrimps or crawdads or whatever they were. They give you long sticks with hooks attached to them rather flimsily. You then try to hook these little critters and put them into the buckets. If successful, they will grill them on the spot for you. While fishing unsuccessfully for these little guys, two men beside us were ballin’ and had like ten of them in their buckets.
Actually, despite Taipei being so near the sea, we didn’t really see a lot of seafood. We saw and tasted some succulent grilled squid though.
And that wraps up my visit to Shilin Night Market. I recommend you spend at least two nights at the market because there is no way you can eat everything you want to eat in one night. If I were to go again, I think I would spend all of my nights at the market. The place is very crowded and bustling, but it’s worth it because the food is so good. On top of the main outdoor market there is also a indoor market underground that actually has places to sit and enjoy your food. If you would like to enjoy a beer or other alcoholic beverages whilst tasting delicious street foods, make sure you buy some at a nearby convenient store.
At the market you will be faced with all kinds of terrifying-looking snacks and dishes, but trust me, that shiz is good and you don’t want to regret not having tasted that weird deep-fried disc you saw at the indoor market. So go out and don’t forget to be adventurous!