Sunday, March 06, 2011

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Ningxia Night Market, Taipei

3/06/2011 Taiwan Explorer
A lovely small night market in the old Taipei


Taiwan Night Market List
Ningxia Night Market 寧夏夜市 is a small and traditional night market in western Taipei proper. It's located in one of the oldest parts of the city, in a small district called Datong 大同. Stretched along the Ningxia Road, it's very close to Taipei Circle (台北圓環), a famous day market, that was located inside a big roundabout and dated back to 1910, when Taiwan was under Japan. The whole area used to be one of Taipei's most vibrant parts in the 20th century. Some of it is preserved, but a lot of it was transformed and modernized. If you visit Ningxia Road and the surrounding parts, you might feel the atmosphere of how Taipei once was.

MY IMPRESSION: I like this night market a lot. It's definitely one of the best I've seen in Taipei so far. Even though it's a very small one, it was full of interesting and tasty food, friendly vendors and was not so crowded like some other tourist night markets in Taipei. I have to say that few stalls very very popular and the queues were really long, but we didn't need to wait so long to try the famous snack. What I like here is the fact that most stalls have small tables and you can seat down and eat. Of course it's still not as comfortable as sitting down in a restaurant, but the night market experience is not about comfort, but about eating outside among people amid all the smells and noise. And Ningxia Road is the perfect place to enjoy good food, have a little comfort and still be out there in the middle of the hustle and bustle (for more see my video).

WHAT KIND OF FOOD IS COMMON: The night market is full of 小吃 (shiǎo chī), which means "little eats", commonly known as finger food. Besides the usual night market food such as the salty chicken, the marinaded dry tofu and oyster omelettes, you can also find some unique snacks here. One of them is muachi 麻糬 (the word comes from Hokkien, in Mandarin it's called máshǔ), a popular desert made of glutinous rice flour and topped with peanuts and a sweet peanut soup 花生湯 (huāshēng tāng). A special sort of tea is also very famous here. I've heard it's only found on this night market and it's called bitter tea 苦茶 (kǔchá). I haven't tried this one, but my girlfriend told me that she has once tried a sip and it was so bitter, that she couldn't take it. If you buy that tea, you also get a sweet candy, in case it's too bitter for you. How nice, isn't it? A very popular stall is selling fried taro cake 芋餅 (yùbǐng), that one had the longest queue. More about it below.

MUST-TRY FOOD AT NINGXIA STREET NIGHT MARKET: I recommend the muachi together with the peanut soup, the oyster omelette and the fried taro cake. According to my girlfriend, the quality of the food is very high here, most of the things you'll try will be tasty. But keep an eye on the number of people queuing, the more popular a stall is, the longer the tradition and usually the better the food. This rule doesn't always apply, but most of the times. If you want to try the bitter tea, go ahead, be adventurous, but please tell me, if you were brave enough to finish it.

Let me show you my photos of Ningxia Night Market (March 2011):

This is the main entrance.

There are two lanes and in the middle there's an area with tables and chairs.

The market is clean and looks very nice.

We were lucky, most stalls were not besieged by many people.

Here are some stalls we saw while walking around Ningxia street.

POPULAR SNACK: OYSTER OMELETTE 蚵仔煎

And then we decided to try an oyster omelette here.

It was very yummy, cost 60NTD (1.5 euro). This is the most common night market snack.

People eating at the neighboring stall.

This stall sells thin noodles with oysters.

Right in the middle of the market all kinds of books are sold. Interesting.

POPULAR SNACK: FRIED TAROT CAKE 芋餅

This seemed to be the most popular stall in Ningxia Night Market. They sell taro cakes.

They sell two kinds of taro cakes: A plain one and one with yolk and pork floss inside.


Upper two photos: Fragrant crispy tarot ball 香酥芋丸, not bad, but very plain to me.
Lower two photos: Taro cake with yolk 蛋黃芋餅, this one was better, I recommend.

Then we walked further to a part with less stalls and more shops.

But we saw these delicious treats along the way.

A Taiwanese hot dog, perhaps?

They even sell bread here. I wonder, if it tastes good.

The southern part of the night market was empty.

The famous Taipei Circle, renovated in recent years, but not open anymore.

POPULAR SNACK: MUACHI 麻糬

This dish is famous in Malaysia and Singapore, I knew it from before.

But the way they prepare it here is different. You need to use your chopsticks like two knives and cut the muachi in small pieces. Then you dip them into the peanut or sesame powder and eat it. We paid 80NDT (around 2 euros) for the muachi and the soup.

This is one of the most interesting soups I have ever tried. It's sweet peanut soup, very delicious. A little salty, maybe, but very mildly. I totally recommend muachi and the soup.

This auntie sells green onion pancakes, a common night market snack in Taiwan.

We paid 35NTD. It wasn't bad, just normal, but I would not recommend.

And then we were so full, we decided to leave Ningxia Road.

HOW TO FIND NINGXIA NIGHT MARKET? SEE MY MAP:

Take the MRT train from Taipei Main Station (Danshui line, red) only 1 or 2 stations, either Zhongshan Station (Exit 2) or Shuanglain Station (Exit 1) and walk for 5-10min westards. My map created via Google Maps (here's the source map).

NINGXIA NIGHT MARKET IN CONCLUSION: We really enjoyed a lot of good food here, I definitely recommend the night market to everyone, who comes to Taipei on a shorter or on longer stay. The food is top, the place is clean and the vendors were mostly very friendly. Here you can really enjoy a lot of Taiwan's famous "little eats", I'm sure you won't be disappointed. I will definitely return here. For additional info, see this video in Chinese about the Ningxia Night Market.