One late afternoon/night in Taipei
I've been to Hong Kong/Southern China about 14 times, but never to Taipei. I'll be there 3 nights next week, but only one late afternoon/night where I can explore a bit before heading on to Hong Kong.
Can anyone recommend a cool area that has night markets and places to eat. Those are my favorite areas in Hong Kong. Not looking for fancy, but rather small, hole in the wall places in the middle of busy markets where I can really get a flavor for the area.
Specific dish recommendations would also be appreciated.
Where did you go last June? What did you eat there?
You're right down the street from the flagship Din Tai Fung and their competitor, Kaoji, which have decent XLB, of which I'm sure you're aware. The Hsin Tung Yang before you get to Yongkang St. has really nice pineapple cakes and dried fish floss. IIRC, there's a small branch of a Singaporean or Malaysian company that makes jerky on that same block, too. I think my favorite was a sweet pork jerky. Yongkang St. itself is a great place for eating. There are several really great spots (lurou fan, beef noodle soup, two wonderful all around great dinner spots) within ten minutes of walking, but I'd have to check my notes...
There's a nice Tainan style noodle place in Yongkang St - 度小月 - homemade noodles with a pork based sauce, and a wide variety of side dishes. I particularly like the chayote squash leaves (龍鬚菜), and the mullet roe ( 烏魚子). After eating there, you can wander around Yongkang St and have some dessert (there are a couple of shaved ice places) or tea.
Frequent poster, KK, has pretty reliable information on his blog: http://beefnoguy.blogspot.com/
I'd scroll through the entries since I don't know if they're in any order. There's a pretty famous island-wide chain of huge chicken patties (blue writing on a white sign) that I think started at Shilin, the best shaved ice place in Taipei (I liked it better than all others, including Ice King) that's been around for a long time (it's in an alleyway), and always a huge line for shengjianbao near one of the main intersections. Try also this blog site: http://5daysintaipei.wordpress.com/ and just be on the lookout for long long lines that don't seem to get any shorter! Best of luck!
For a Taiwanese night market, I find the focus is more on street food than hole in the wall places - spring onion pancakes, oyster omelettes, sweet grilled sausages with garlic, dumplings, grilled squid on a stick, deep fried chicken breasts, soy braised stuff, takoyaki, deep fried pretty much anything on a stick, papaya milk, bubble tea....
Shilin is the biggest market in Taipei and also the most packed with tourists. When you exit the MRT you can turn left, which takes you to the tourist food area (more organized than is usual in a night market) or turn right to the main market, where you will eventually hit some food areas. Shilin is the one I usually take tourists to, but I never go there on my own - I enjoy the smaller, more local night markets more.
There's the Huaxi market, next to Longshan temple (aka Snake Alley), and the Raohe market near the Songshan train station, and the TongHua market, which is not far from Taipei 101.
There's also the Shida night market, near Shida university, which is more of a student dominated area (coffee shops, clothes and cheap foreign restaurants), and has a lot more hole in the wall restaurants.
For truly local you can go for something like the Jingmei market, near the Jingmei MRT station. There's a food area with seating part way down the market (it's long an skinny, with a few cross roads) as well as a the usual carts. If you go at ten in the morning, it's totally transformed into a morning market.
I remembered having freshly-rolled sping rolls at Shida night market which included (besides savory shredded jicama & meats) sweet peanut brittle - we never have these in our spring rolls in Singapore, despite our common shared Fujianese/Hokkien heritage with the Taiwanese. I liked the savory-sweet contrast with each mouthful. Unforgettable.
Another memorable dish I had at Shida was "oh-mee suah": vermicelli soup with oysters. Absolutely delicious!
Shilin night market is the best-known of them all, and should provide you with everything you're looking for:
I didn't do Shilin during my last trip to Taipei, but I visited Liouhe night market (southern city, Kaohsiung's answer to Shilin) and had some fabulous "shao bing" (biscuits stuffed with minced pork & leeks), oyster omelette, glutinous rice with pork floss, spring rolls, etc. Some street food pics here:
BTW, do NOT miss Taiwanese beef noodles - probably the best you'd find anywhere in the world!