Night markets are one of the most exciting aspects of Taipei culture. We live very close to the Linjiang Night Market – sometimes also called Tonghua – and it’s our go-to dinner spot. Even after dozens and dozens of visits, I’ve yet to tire of it, which is really saying something.
Taipei has several night markets. During my time here so far, I’ve been to 6 of them, all unique in their own way. When I return (as I’m currently in Malaysia), I hope to hit up the few left and put together a comprehensive guide. But I can tell you this now: I really believe the Linjiang market is one of the better ones. Maybe I’ve just developed loyalty to my backyard market, but I’d like to believe I kind of know what I’m talking about when it comes to food.
Linjiang Night Market is pretty low key but still plenty lively. Despite its proximity to Taipei 101, it’s very rarely visited by tourists, so it feels more local. You won’t get the shoulder-to-shoulder claustrophobia like at Shilin or Rahoe. It has a very nice variety of food options, and also a fun selection of clothing and accessories shops.
I’ve recently gotten a couple of emails asking where to eat in Taipei (my contact form broke, btw! So I’m soooo sorry to those who emailed me and I never replied!!), and Linjiang would be at the top of my list for those looking for a relaxed, more local night market experience. Through the few months we have spent in Taipei, we have already shown a fair number of people around it. I think it’s pretty safe to say that we’ve got a tour routine down now!
But for those I cannot take on a tour, here are my favorite things to eat at Linjiang night market. Everything on this list was chosen to introduce a traveler to traditional Taiwanese food/snacks.
No, I have not tried everything, and yes, there are probably “famous” stalls I neglected to include. This is just what I like to eat here. But if you know of a really good one, please let me know and I will definitely check it out!!
Stinky Tofu at Ya Kou
I’ve talked about stinky tofu a couple of times already, but I’ll introduce it again for anyone new. Stinky tofu is tofu that, due to its fermentation in a brine mixture, has developed a – for the lack of a better word – stench. I’ll say it again: it’s a lot better than it smells. I’ve tried my fair share of it in Taipei and hands-down, the best, most palatable version is from Ya Kou at Linjiang night market. We’ve taken many a dubious traveler to this eatery, watched them scrunch up their noses to take a bite, and I can assure you, not a single one have said that they don’t like it!
There’s a large picture of this on the wall in the front, so all you have to do is point at it to order. The version here serves it in 3 large deep fried cubes, very crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The top is slightly cracked and some garlicky sauce is poured in. Eat with pickled cabbage and fresh cilantro.
If you’re feeling more brave, you can try the duck blood stewed stinky tofu stew as well! But for the uninitiated, just stick with this fried version. :)
Trust me, if you come to Taiwan intent on trying stinking tofu, I’d make it this one here.
Steam fried buns (生煎包)
At the very end of the night market (or the very beginning, depending on where you start) is a little stand specializing in steam fried buns. These buns are made fresh onsite, and put in the large black pans to cook as soon as they’re wrapped. These buns are special because they are steamed on top and pan-fried on the bottom, at the same time. Sprinkle on some toasted black sesame and they’re good to eat. Depending on the time and night you go, you will most likely see a long line of people waiting for these little bundles of porky goodness.
Now, they’re not as crusted as the ones I’ve had in Shanghai (where this concept originated), but they are still pretty damn good. There are only two options here: dumplings and buns. The dumplings seem to be popular as they tend to sell out earlier in the evening, but I personally prefer the latter.
Fried stinky tofu cubes (version #2)
If the Ya Kou one can be considered the refined version in stinky tofu cookery, then this one can be considered the dirty street food version. The one at this street vendor stand is served in small bite sized cubes, doused with a slightly sweet brown sauce, garlic sauce, and hot chili sauce (if you so wish), and pickled cabbage on top. Grab some wooden skewers so you can eat them on the go!
Personally, I prefer Ya Kou’s large cubes, but D likes this one so he’d be upset if this didn’t make it into the guide.
Lu rou fan – braised pork rice (滷肉飯)
Across from the stinky tofu cart is a vendor that makes really good braised pork rice. Lu rou fan is one of my favorite Taiwanese eats… all that fatty pork juices steeping into the rice… delicious! I really like the flavor of this stew. Also order a meatball + daikon soup to round out the meal. This stand also makes a killer version of that!
Pork blood cake (豬血糕)
This may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is a very Taiwanese thing to eat and D actually likes it, so I’m including it on this list. It’s really not as bad at it sounds; it’s just sticky rice cakes mixed with pork blood (hence the purple/black color), and also soaked in more of that blood. It doesn’t taste as bad at it sounds either. It gets coated with a sweet crushed peanuts crumble and fresh cilantro. You really can’t even taste the blood.
Most of us already love the classic egg tart, but prepare to get your mind blown! How about egg tarts with a matcha green tea crust? Or a chocolate crust, or caramel filling? If you’re ready for a creative spin on the classic egg tart, then you will love this stand! You will not miss the vendor, with her display of hundreds of multi-colored tarts, just beckoning for you to choose one (or three). Besides what I just mentioned, other flavors available include: black sesame, mango cheese, and coffee.
The egg tart lady is usually there everyday (trust me, I know because we used to go everyday for our daily treat), but in recent weeks, it’s been more sporadic. I’m not sure if all the rain lately has to do with her absence. I was very disappointed that it wasn’t there when I gave the tour to Amanda.
END SECTION PAST THE GATE
On the other side of the street past the night market gate is a small section with plenty of more dining options. This section is my favorite. Here are the places I always go!
Sha Gua Mian – “Dumbass” Noodles (傻瓜面)
Okay obviously this isn’t the official name, but it is the direct Chinese translation. I asked my local friend why this dish is named “dumbass” noodles, and he said it’s because it’s just plain noodles and you add your own sauces to flavor it.
Yes, the noodles may look plain, but the taste is anything but!! The noodles are very doughy and chewy – the perfect texture! The base bowl is served with a light garlicky oil, fresh minced garlic, and chopped green onions. Add in black vinegar and chili oil as per your preference. This noodle dish is simple but so good! We took a couple here and they loved it enough to come back by themselves the next night, and Amanda can also testify!
This is a must try for the garlic lover!
Bubble Milk Tea (珍珠奶茶)
You cannot come to Taiwan and not get bubble tea! I hope this needs no explanation (but hey, a couple of the people we’ve toured around have never had it in their life), but it’s sweetened milk tea with tapioca balls. Next to the left of dumbass noodles are a couple of tea vendors. I like the one with the red signs. They are known for really good bubble milk tea. Just be careful with the sugar level. I find that 100% sugar is waaaay too sweet, so I usually go for 50%. The tapioca balls already have a wonderful sweet honey flavor.
A few feet away from the dumbass noodle on the other side is a dumplings eatery. Well actually, it also serves various noodles and soups, but I go for the dumplings. The skin here is thick and chewy (yes, I’ve been using that description a lot, but that is the indicator of good dough!) and the fillings are flavorful. I noticed that most of the dumpling eateries In Taipei only have two kinds of filling: leek and cabbage. Both are delicious, but I prefer the cabbage.
Another thing Taiwan is known for are their xiao cai, “little dishes”. Most eateries will have a display for you to select from. This place makes them really good, so grab whatever catches your eye. A happy meal for me is a plate of dumplings and a few little dishes. In fact, that was exactly what I chose to eat for my last meal in Taipei before going to Malaysia!
TONGHUA STREET EATS
If all that isn’t enough to keep your tummy full, I’ve got more!
The night market is bisected by Tonghua street (see map below), which is a foodie’s paradise in its own right. I could probably write another full length post on what to eat here, but as it’s so close to the night market, I’ll lump in a couple more suggestions.
Gua Boa (割包)
A photo posted by Anna (@slightlyastray) on
石家割包 is a eatery that specializes in gua boa, or pork belly sliders. They have a couple dozen different fillings options, but #1 is the classic one: half fatty, half lean pork belly, pickled mustard greens, sweet peanut crumble, and cilantro shoved inside a soft fluffy steamed bun. This is another very Taiwanese food not to be missed!
You’ll recognize this eatery by a large wall picture menu showing these sliders.
Mee Sua (Oyster Vermicelli)
If you’re looking for something very traditional Taiwanese and a bit more adventurous, try this out. I have no idea what the name of this eatery is called (sorry!) but you shouldn’t miss it because you’ll see this picture in front and large bubbling pots of this stuff.
Mee sua is basically oyster + pork intestine vermicelli soup. Oyster is a stable in Taiwanese cuisine and can be found in a lot of dishes. The broth is thick and the whole thing kind of has a slimy texture. I know, it doesn’t look or sound very appetizing, and I admit that I’m not a fan. But D is, and it’s a very Taiwanese dish, so I always point it out in case someone wants to try it.
Sorry, I don’t know how to make one of those cool interactive maps. But I did create a printable PDF version so you can take it with you.
Linjiang Night Market is located off of the Xinye Anhe MRT Station on the red line. Take Exit 3, continue to walk one block towards Taipei 101, and turn right at Tonghua Street at the Watson’s.
These are the things I would recommend at Linjiang Night Market. I hope some of these have caught your eye! Let me know if you’ve been to Linjiang Night Market or any other night markets.
Do you like night markets and street food? Which of these would you try?