The most famous night market north of Taipei is in Keelung, a sleepy port town of about 400,000. The Miaokou Market (廟口夜市, literally “temple mouth market”), begins at the entrance of Dianji Temple (奠濟宮) and is home to a variety of interesting street foods.
Taiwan’s public transportation system is simply amazing. We were able to tour Northern Taiwan just by rail and bus. We ended up staying a night in Keelung to give us time to visit the rural north, including the cat village of Houtong and Jiufen, an old coal mining town that inspired the classic Miyazaki animation, Spirited Away.
While we were in Keelung, there were throngs of local Taiwanese from other parts of the country. All were there to witness the Giant Rubber Duck, which had made its way to Keelung.
We were absolutely drenched from the downpour we experienced in Jiufen. I had made the mistake of wearing a leather jacket, so you can imagine how tiring it was to walk in soggy and heavy clothes and shoes. Completely exhausted, upon our return to Keelung, we took a quick nap, let the rains dissipate, and walked down a few blocks to visit the night market.
The Miaokou Night Market is quite tourist friendly by Taiwanese standards. All the stalls near the temple were numbered and labelled in Chinese, Japanese and English.
№ 1: sushi 壽司
At the entrance to the night market, I spotted a cart selling a bunch of nigirizushi, including more unusual flavors like corn and mayo. We grabbed a few pieces, the braised eel and and roe. Not the best idea, the sushi were lukewarm and the seaweed soggy.
№ 2: Taiwanese oden 甜不辣
Further down the street, we grabbed a small box of Taiwanese bite size oden (一口吃甜不辣) from the most famous tianbula stand in Taiwan. Tianbula (甜不辣, lit. “sweet not spicy”) is a popular Taiwanese street snack, made with pressed and fried fish cakes, and drizzled with a sweet ketchup and soy sauce. It’s a Taiwanese interpretation of the Japanese dish oden.
№ 3: dingbiansuo 鐤邊趖
Right at the entrance of the Dianji Temple is a very famous food stall that serves dingbiansuo (鐤邊趖, Hokkien tiáⁿ-pian-sô), a noodle soup that uses uniquely prepared noodles. Rice “milk” (a cream of rice per se) is steamed and baked at the same time, and sliced into long and thin chewy bits that resemble cuttlefish. The clear broth uses 12 ingredients, including napa cabbage, dried shrimp, mushroom, shrimp and meat paste, and squid. It’s so popular that the Wu family has since opened 4 branches on the Chinese mainland.
№ 4: braised lamb rice 羊肉魯飯
Right next to the dingbiansuo stall was a stall selling a more unusual lamb dish: braised lamb rice or yangrou lufan (羊肉魯飯), which uses minced lamb, which is stir fried with ginger and herbs before it’s stewed. It had the distinct aroma of lamb.
№ 5: spring rolls 薄餅
Sadly, I only tried the spring roll once and only in Keelung. The spring roll is the Chinese answer to the Mexican burrito. Known by various names, including chunjuan (春捲) in Mandarin, and lūn-piáⁿ (潤餅) and pȯh-piáⁿ (薄餅) in Hokkien, the Taiwanese version uses a chewy wheat flour skin, and the filling of jicama, carrots, peanuts, and pork is simultaneously sweet and savory.
№ 6: crab oil rice 蟹羹油飯
At another entrance to the night market is a stall called Wu Family Crab Stew and Oil Rice (吳記螃蟹羹油飯), which serves 2 dishes: crab oil rice and crab-based geng, a Hokchiu stew thickened with cornstarch. We got the oil rice ($25 NTD), which is made with sticky rice, mushrooms and bits of crab meat, and sprinkled with pepper.
Couldn’t help myself so we got a bag of brewed milk tea on our way back to the hotel. America needs one of these, pronto.
Keelung Temple Night Market 基隆廟口夜市