My girlfriend told me, that the Luodong Night Market 羅東夜市 was one of the biggest, most famous and most crowded night markets in Taiwan. When I heard that, I wasn't really sure, whether to believe it or not. After all, Luodong is a less known small town in the scarcely populated northeastern part of Taiwan. But once I was there, I've realized that was completely wrong: This night market is huge! But not only that, it's even more crowded than most night markets in Taipei. I think only the one near Shida draws crowds, that could be comparable to the ones in Luodong. When it comes to food, I have to say I was a little disappointed, but that's probably because my expectations were too high. I definitely need to return more times before I can give preciser answers about the culinary delights of the market.
MY IMPRESSION: This is a night market, that's probably not suitable for every tourist, because the crowds are huge on weekends. Those, who want to avoid them, visit during the week. We had to wait for 20 min to try a popular snack, some queues are very long, the longest I've ever seen. There are two central streets, that are the most crowded, other parts are ok. Some stalls are so popular, that even if you manage to order your snack after a long wait, you won't find a free spot at the table to eat it. You can eat finger food while walking, but it's hard to do so with a soup. See my video from the central area:
WHAT KIND OF FOOD IS COMMON: There are all kinds of foods available here, because the market is really huge, so I'll mention only few. I've seen a lot of green onion cakes 蔥油餅 (cōng yóubǐng) sold here, they're definitely yummy, because the lines were long. Probably the most famous and crowded stall is selling lamb soup with mutton 當歸羊肉湯 (dānggueī yángròu tāng) and an uncle is selling the soup for decades, he's very famous. It's amazing, how many people queued for that soup. For us it was too many, we decided to revisit on a less crowded day and try it. Another famous snack found in Luodong and Yilan county is bu meat 卜肉 (bǔròu). These are small pieces of tender meat coated with batter, seasoned and fried in wok. Another popular stall was called Longfong chicken thighs 龍鳳腿 (lóngfòng tueǐ), but we haven't tried it as well. I saw meat and vegetables on skewers was popular as well as a stall selling steam stuffed buns commonly known as baozi 包子 (bāozi). When it comes to desserts, there's a sort of ice cream found on many stalls throughout the night market. It's called ice with tapioca pearls and red beans 包心粉圓 (bāoxīn fěnyuán), definitely a very delicious treat.
MUST-TRY FOOD AT LOUDONG NIGHT MARKET: I haven't tried much food, but the dishes mentioned above are all worth to try (only skip meat on skewers, if you're a Westerner). I think, if you find yourself there on a less crowded day, go and try the lamb soup, it's really famous. The chicken thighs also look yummy as well as the green onion cakes. I definitely recommend you the ice with tapioca pearls, it's really delicious, because it had one of my favorite flavors: coconut. I think you can find a lot of food here, that will satisfy your taste buds. But from what I've learned, don't always expect something superdelicious, just because the line is long. More about that below.
Let me show you my photos of the Luodong Night Market in Ilan (March 2011):
POPULAR SNACK: CHESTNUTS
POPULAR SNACK: SCALLION MEAT SKEWER 蔥肉串
POPULAR SNACK: BU MEAT 卜肉
POPULAR SNACK: LAMB SOUP WITH MUTTON 當歸羊肉湯
This uncle is famous here. He's serving this soup for many many years, he's a legend. I'm glad I got a photo of him, he was very busy, as if he's in his own world. His stall is the most popular in Luotong.
POPULAR SNACK: MEAT ON SKEWERS
I'm not sure, what meat it was, but when I tried it, it was so awful, that I almost couldn't eat it. It was sour and chewy and the taste was really bad. It was the first time something like that happened to me and I've tried all kinds of stuff here before, from chicken testicles to a cooked frog... but to swallow this was really tough. I don't recommend to Westerners, Malayisans and Singaporeans might like it.
POPULAR SNACK: ICE WITH PEARLS AND RED BEANS 包心粉圓
HOW TO FIND THE LUODONG NIGHT MARKET?
Check out Google Maps here.
IN CONCLUSION: This is one of the most crowded night markets in Taiwan, it attracts a lot of people from other parts of Ilan county or even from Taipei. It's definitely a big adventure to visit on a Friday night, but you need to have a thick skin and be used to crowds. If you're not, you were warned: It can get pretty crazy. Food wise it may not be among the top 10 night markets in Taiwan, at least not for me. But I have to say I need to try more in order to give a better judgement on this. When that happens, I will update this post.