The Taipei Night Market

The long hours of work are taking their toll on my ability to keep up with my own adventures. This last week has, for the most part, been spent (from waking to sleeping) in the line of duty. Last night I was doing e-mail until after midnight. But today is Saturday so I’ve had a chance to shift gears and have a little R&R. I’ve just gotten back from a fabulous adventure to the Taiwan Coal Mine Museum and I’ll be leaving shortly to take the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) to a friend’s for dinner with his family. Sandwiched between these two adventures I will attempt to backtrack to Thursday so I can share the adventures of the Night Market.

First, let me clarify this was not just a trip to any night market, but the most famous one – Shilin (or Shihlin). Previously, whenever I would mention to locals that I’d been to the night market they would raise a brow and ask, “Shilin?” When I’d confess that I hadn’t been to Shilin they’d say, “Well Shilin is the most famous one.” So now I can say, “Why, yes! I’ve been to Shilin!”

The opportunity presented itself at the end of a long but (I believe) successful review of our proposal, delivered to MFE’s (My Former Employer) engineering team, as we bid for their next generation of products. I was carefully reviewing my notes (and I will assure you, the role of note-taker requires tremendous concentration and diligence and my ADHD-self found it exhausting), preparing to publish my summary of all open action items to a broad distribution.

My friend Molder (the key presenter of the proposal) interrupted my efforts with, “Do you want to go to the Night Market with me?” It turned out that he and his wife were planning to go there to eat and relax for a bit on their way to pick up their children and go home. I asked if both of my travel-companions could join us and it was agreed we would all go together.

I mention the context because I so appreciate the opportunity to share in what I consider a run-of-the-mill evening for locals. The inclusion, sort of a “Hey, we’re going…wanna come with?” opportunity, didn’t come across as an obligation or intrusion at all, which made it all the more delightful.

So off we went! Molder drove his new RAV4 and we quickly made our way to the Shihlin District.

Shihlin Night Market

Shihlin Night Market

Once there, we went directly to the vendor of Stinky Tofu. If you’ve never heard of Stinky Tofu, I can tell you that it is a local treat commonly sold anywhere there are street markets in the city. Most tourists are offered the dish but few accept the challenge. I can also tell you that Stinky Tofu stinks – at least it stinks during the process of preparing the dish. And I don’t mean a little stink, I mean the “WHAT IS THAT SMELL???” sort of stink that overtakes you when you’re walking through the market. It’s actually not that bad of a smell once it’s prepared and sitting on a plate in front of you.

Night Market

The making of oysters omelets & stinky tofu. Molder in the back, pondering our options.

One thing I learned that night is that there are (at least) two types of Stinky Tofu: fried (Chou Doufu) and “super spicy” (Mala Chou Doufu). We tried both.

Stinky Tofu

Fried tofu and super-spicy stinky tofu.

We also had seafood soup and a dish made of oysters and eggs (I can’t seem to get a handle on the name of that one, but it’s basically an oyster omelet).

Dining at the Shihlin Night Market

Enjoying our meal: Stinky tofu, seafood soup and oyster omelets.

After gorging on those delicacies we were treated to “Frog Eggs” (which is a tea drink) and double cookies (I don’t even know how to describe these except it’s like a crushed, not-sweet cookie wrapped in a crepe).

Frog Eggs

The fixin's for "Frog Eggs" tea.

Cookies

The making of a "double cookie".

We were introduced to “big big” chicken but we were way too stuffed to try that treat. Also, the line for the flattened, tenderized fried chicken breast was remarkably long.

Cookies & Frog Eggs

Enjoying our cookies and "Frog Eggs" tea, standing in front of the line for "big big chicken".

By the time we finished dining it was time for Molder and his wife to leave to pick up their children. They gave us a ride to the nearest MRT station where we began the next phase of Thursday night’s adventure.

The telling of this episode was interrupted by the living of another episode. I’ll pick the story-telling back up tomorrow.

About Fran Hart

Disciple of Christ, earning a living as the director of US-based operations for a Taiwanese company, managing an engineering organization while carving out time to write. Wife, Mother, Grandmother.
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