When I thought I’d seen all of the famous markets in Far East Asia, I then stumbled into Raohe Night Market in Taipei where once again I learned something new about Taiwanese street food. However, some of what I saw was a shock to the senses!
After dark in Taipei is a strange time for a solo traveller (unless you go to Wan Hai district for some, ahem, fun), but luckily you will find some of the best street markets in the world in Taiwan, and a few of them are here in the capital city of Taipei. Raohe is arguably the finest night market in Taipei and I didn’t waste any time after a day’s sightseeing to come and check out what all the fuss was about.
I had tried some Hot Star Large Fried Chicken for my lunch, after a trip to Taipei Zoo, but apart from that I was coming to Raohe on an empty stomach. I was STARVING by the time I got there, and the smells coming from every nook and cranny of the meats and fish being grilled/fried/burned was almost too much to handle! I am not a HUGE fan of seafood when travelling (I try to avoid it, most of the time), but it was nice to experience my first ever authentic oyster omelette, which is a Taiwanese delicacy.
As always with Taiwanese night markets, it was good to see what was for sale. You can find the weird and the wonderful here, such as oversized mushrooms (magic mushrooms?) and the largest kind of crabs I have ever seen in this part of the world. On the whole, the vendors at Raohe are very friendly, although language can be a problem for them (or should that be ME?!), especially when compared to the even-more-tourist-friendly Shilin Night Market. One disappointment with Raohe is that I didn’t find anyone selling gua bao, which is a Taiwanese hamburger. Oh well, I got my fix of gua bao later on during my stay in Taipei.
Undoubtedly one of the main attractions at Raohe Night Market is the Hujiao Bing (otherwise known as the Black Pepper Bun). These are sold here by a famous vendor and it seems the whole of Taipei knows about this delicious delicacy as there were queues as long as the eye could see for these buns. The bread crust is soft on the top and grilled crispy on the underside, which gives a unique texture. They are filled with meats (I had pork) and some leafy vegetables and coated in pepper, which I guess is how they got the name. Although I only tried one, the taste has stayed with me ever since, and if I ever return to Taipei, I will be coming back here for even more!
When you watch more closely (“people-watching” is the term, I think), you’ll notice the locals simply strut their stuff through this market and head straight for the food items that tourists have no idea about (certainly not western tourists, anyway). This was what I observed with a vendor selling Aiyu jelly, which at the time was a completely new dish for me. It is a sweet and sickly dessert that many people in these parts simply LOVE! Customers are encouraged to scoop up their own juices from the large pan provided and fill a bowl/cup – but I was happy just to watch!
I wondered when I would bump into some Stinky Tofu in Taipei, and it wasn’t long before I was getting a whiff of something I had preferred not to! At Raohe, the Stinky Tofu is prepared on the street before your very eyes, and is served completely “fresh”, although maybe that’s the wrong word to use! Fear not, Stinky Tofu does not actually taste as bad as it smells, although I still didn’t like the taste – I threw it away! You live and learn!
As far as ice cream is concerned, I was not to miss out on it like I did at Shilin earlier in my trip. Here at Raohe, I saw some weird-looking peanut butter ice cream rolls, which were delectable! I think Thailand has similar style of ice cream, but certainly the Raohe vendors get extra points for effort and presentation! Pork Bone Soup is served at Raohe in medicinal broth, which is another favourite of the Taiwanese people. There are vendors all around Taipei that serve it up, although it was not my favourite snack by any means, yet I still enjoyed getting my teeth into yet another traditional Taiwanese treat.
The soup was the final snack I tried at Raohe before heading back to my hotel in the early hours of the morning. It was a later end to the day than when I was at Shilin, but what surprised me was the feverish and frenetic pace of the market, even at that ungodly hour! Luckily for me, the Taipei Metro was still running at that time, so I didn’t need to spend money on a taxi. I left the Taiwanese foodies to their feasting – and feast they did!
Further reading: Taiwan’s Best Street Food!