If you only have time to visit a single night market in Taipei, it’s got to be Raohe Street Night Market (饒河街觀光夜市). Located by the banks of Keelung River, it was the best night market I visited in Taipei, for having a nice mix of both eccentric and traditional street bites.
The entire night market is squeezed onto Raohe Street, beginning at the entrance of Ciyou Temple (慈祐宮), a venerated and lavish multi-storied Taoist temple complex. The temple itself is worth a good visit, not least because it’s dedicated to Mazu, who’s considered one of the most important goddesses among traditionally seafaring communities like the Cantonese and Hokkien (who make up the overwhelming majority of overseas Chinese).
The night we went, Raohe Street was buzzing with activity. A lot of crowds, both local and tourist, navigating almost single file through the densely packed night market, which stretches about half a mile.
№ 1: deep-fried taro duck 香酥芋泥鴨
After spotting the shopfront of Duck Pie & Fried Chicken Cutlet (鴨霸鷄王) on Raohe St., I could barely contain my glee. Let me just say that deep fried duck is to die for–it really is just a blissful marriage between the shell of the beloved taro dumpling (芋角) and duck. The crust was light, crisp, except underneath wasn’t more carbs, it was pure, unadulterated slivers of deep-fried duck meat surrounded by a juicy pate of taro paste. Also comes with julienned salad greens drenched in a light chili sauce as a balancing act.
№ 2: pepper pastries 胡椒餅
The Hokchiu pepper pastries (胡椒餅, hujiaobing, hô͘-chio-piáⁿ) of Raohe Street are really famous (the unavoidable lines attest to their popularity). The shop stall (look for 福州世祖胡椒餅, Fuzhou Shizu Hujiao Bing) is right at the entrance of Raohe Street Night Market, serving up these laboriously crafted pork pastries assembly line style.
There’s an entire army of workers prepping the dough, mixing the pork and green onion filling and baking them. I couldn’t resist and made the unfortunate mistake of biting into these round and piping hot pastries. The crust that surrounds the juicy pork and scallion filling was flaky and delicious.
№ 3: tamagoyaki 玉子燒
Tamagoyaki (called 玉子燒 or yuzishao in Chinese) is a kind of rolled up Japanese egg omelette, with each layer carefully cooked before the next. Baojiang Yuzishao (爆漿 玉子燒) serves up tamagoyaki with a number of eccentric toppings, like marinated cod roe (明太子) to crab meat with asparagus (蟹肉蘆筍), shrimp with pineapples (鳳梨蝦仁) to spicy scallop lips (辣味千貝唇).
I ended up getting the lobster salad tamagoyaki (龍蝦沙拉玉子燒), which came out to be $65 NTD or about $2 USD. Just delicious– the fluffy omelette was drenched with mayo, powdered seaweed, lobster meat, and tons of bonito shavings.
№ 4: popcorn chicken 鹽酥鷄
While we were on a gluttonous rampage, we decided to grab a bag of fried popcorn chicken, practically an icon of Taiwanese night markets. Yummy, bite sized pieces of boneless chicken meat fried in a lightly salted batter.
№ 5: quail egg takoyaki 鮮蝦鳥蛋燒
Before we reached the other end of Raohe Street, I came across a husband and wife team serving up takoyaki, another Japanese snack that’s made by grilling an eggy flour batter in a special pan to create the iconic shape of takoyaki. However, the stall added an interesting twist by using quail eggs and shrimp. I got the Thai flavored takoyaki and wasn’t disappointed. Sweet chili sauce drizzled atop 8 freshly cooked takoyaki balls. Yum.
№ 6: deep-fried taro pastry 芋頭酥
Another stall called Lao Yu-Ah’s Taro Pastries (老芋仔芋頭酥), selling deep fried taro pastries (芋頭酥, yutou su) caught my eyes. The stall’s banner exhorted its 60+ year history (since 1964), so I decided to give them a try.
The pastries looked good enough, fried to a crisp deep golden tan. There were also a bunch of flavors, from pork floss and egg to cheese, ranging from $20-25 NTD. I ended up trying the red bean ones and was sorely disappointed. Alas, that’s the risk, right? The pastries were completely drenched in oil, and had a disgusting chewy and chalky texture. No, thanks.
Raohe Street Night Market 饒河街觀光夜市