This place has been mentioned repeatedly in travel guide books, blogs and even the Taipei handy road map. Thus, we scheduled our visit to Shilin Night Market on our second night in Taipei. It was quite unfortunately that it began raining late in the afternoon and didn't stopped till dinner time. Still, my friends were determined to check Shilin out even if this means walking under the rain and getting our feet wet.
In contrast to XiMenDing which had a very cosmopolitan Tokyo vibe, Shilin was more oriental and laid back. We entered the main Shilin Market and came face to face with rows after rows of food stalls. There were lines forming everywhere! From milk teas to fruit stalls to a kiosk selling the biggest chicken chops I've ever seen and a lot more!
It was like a big open-air buffet where we happily roam around first to let our eyes feast on the sights of food and our nose enjoy the smell of Taiwan's best dishes. In one corner, I spotted a group of teenagers deep in concentration. They were trying to catch some shrimps which I later found out would be their prize and dinner at the same time.
Our first stop was a stall selling Oyster Cake. Admittedly, I try to stay away from shellfish, corn and anything that can upset my stomach when on a trip as I do not want to run the risk of falling sick given the very short time I have to explore the country. Oysters have been a big no-no for my mom and I'm sure she would definitely advice me not to try the Oyster Cake had she been with us in this trip. However, I just couldn't help it! (Sorry Mommy!) Taiwan is known for the Oyster Cake and I just cannot end my trip without trying it.
I'm lucky though that Paul and Pan were willing to share it with me. I watch the elderly stall owner prepare our Oyster Cake which only took 5 minutes to cook in total. We were ready to dig in! I love the sweet red sauce on top of this sticky Oyster Cake. It had big oysters and the cake itself was so well put together. No falling apart halfway from the plate to my mouth.
After enjoying our Oyster Cake, my sister bought bags of Giant Chicken Chops from a stall called Hot Star. Believe me, you won't miss it. I saw it the moment I entered the market with the long line in front and the ginormous chops displayed in front. I love how fragrant the chops are due to the five-spice powder added. It was freshly deep fried so we took careful bites while walking. I just noticed that the chicken chops still had bones in it. Very similar to the ones being served by Big Daddy Chicken locally.
While my sister patiently lined up for the chicken chops, Paul and I zeroed in on this stall selling Pan-Fried Siopao Buns (TsienPao). We both love the TsienPao being sold in Chinatown and were told that the ones in Taiwan are even better. Of course, we didn't waste any time to check if this was true. Once again, this stall had a line of customers and it took Paul around 5 minutes to finally get our very own bags of TsienPao. I took a bite and noticed that it may be slightly meatier than our local versions but I got a bit turned off with the huge chunks of pork fat inside. Ugh. I guess this type of TsienPao is just not for me.
After enjoying our second and third stops, we settled down in yet another food stall to try their Minced Pork with Rice (NT 25). I think I had a total of three bowls of this all throughout the trip. I just couldn't help it! I love the tiny pieces of juicy pork with a bearable amount of skin and fat on top of sticky fragrant rice. It actually tasted like Pork Knucles Stew (Pata Tim) that my grandfather would make for us. It's so good! The best part is it's normally served in a tiny bowl making it just right for one without making me feel so guilty with all the calories I just took in.
We walked further into the market and saw more food stalls selling variety of dishes. There's this one guy selling Stinky Tofu. This dish was actually part of my list but I just couldn't stand the smell of it that I had to back out. In fact, I was able to try almost everything that was on my food list for this trip except for this one. For me, it simply smelled like a piggery.
Before heading home, we chanced upon a stall selling a lot of Peanut Candy. Of course, they had bowls filled with samples for us to try. I immediately recognized this as our friends Richard and Irene gave us a back of Peanut Candy and we were able to finish the entire big bag in no time. I knew I have to bring more of this home. There's a lot of different types of peanut candy available. My sister love the one with almonds while I prefer the one with sunflower seeds. Yum! Knowing that we're buying a lot, the stall owner even gave us a couple of free bags to bring home.
It was a good thing we decided to brave the rain and spend our evening at Shilin Night Market. Aside from this one where it's covered, try walking around the area and you'll see more stalls selling food, clothes and even pet items!
Truly, a visit to Taiwan is not complete without going to Shilin.
*photos taken using a Canon S95
How to get there: Take the MRT and get off Jiantan Station. The market is located right across the MRT Station.