Between end of Wenlin Rd., Jihe Rd. and Zhongshan N. Rd.
(near the movie theaters)
MRT: Jian Tan
afternoon to 2-3am
date reviewed: 11/24/2006
Back in the 90s when I used to be a visitor rather than a part time resident of Taipei, I would always make sure to visit Shih Lin night market sometime during my trip. There is so much to see, eat, shop- you could spend all night fighting the crowds on a busy weekend night and not even cover half of it. One of the most popular destinations to buy souvenirs and bargain for goodies and eat everything and anything- it can also be a great people-watching spot as you'll find everyone there- students, families, couples, tourists.
A few years ago, they moved the main eating area to a enclosed space near the MRT Jian Tan exit, but disjointed from the main part of the night market. If you are looking for stinky tofu, oyster omelette, giant slabs of fried chicken or sausages wrapped in sticky rice sausages (YUM!!)- head over there (and I'll return to review another day!)
But you can also find lots of cheap good eats inside the main section of the night market- specifically the side near the movie theaters where there is a cluster of stands and shops, which is where we went on this night.
One of my favorite snacks is the pan fried dumplings (NT$10)- first steamed in this giant pot and then the bottom is fried to a delicious crispness. I think that the prices are the same as when I first ate them almost 10 years ago!
There are about 3-4 bao places- they are all pretty good, but there is one located next to the shaved ice place that usually has a line which is my favorite. The bao is almost too hot to hold and thankfully it's too big to eat in one bite so you can enjoy all the bites after the first. The skin is thicker than xiao long bao, with a steamed doughy texture accompanied by the crispy bottom. The ground pork is tender and juicy, so watch out for the juices dripping down your chin or to your shirt!
I love shaved ice. I rarely find good shaved ice at the malls- instead you find it at the night market with the whirring machines and big blocks of ice and larger selection of toppings. They were out of some of my favorite toppings (rice mochi balls) so I opted for a red bean with evaporated milk (NT$40) and my cousin had green bean with evaporated milk (NT$40).
When it was brought to our table, I was pleasantly surprised at how huge it was!! It's definitely enough to share with a few people and yes, it's just ice, but you'd be surprised the varying sizes of shaved ice you'll get for the same price at different places.
There's something about the crunchy ice and the mushy beans and the overly sweet milk that combines into a irresistible treat. The ice here is shaved the way that I like- not too fine and not too coarse. Some places have shaved ice that seem like you are eating the ice from your soda, and some have powdery ice that melts too quickly- this one falls somewhere in between.
They also have aiyu bing or lemon jelly ice, with boba and extra lemon juice (NT$40). It's more soupy than like shaved ice and the extra lemon gives it an extra sour punch.
You just wander around and navigate the crowds to find what you like. Since there's not a lot of English signs, but everything is on display, you can usually get by with just pointing and finger signs if you don't speak fluent Chinese. There's also lots of food on sticks, fruits, sausages, noodles, roasted corn and even a stand offering wraps made with freshly made naan and Indian flavored chicken, beef and lamb kabobs.
As the biggest night market in Taipei, it is PACKED on weekends, sometimes you can barely squeeze through the aisles through the people. But it's also a great place to go if you want to hang out- it's open late sometimes until 1am - 2am (but remember to head out earlier if you need to catch the MRT). Some shops have a place to sit, but most of the stands in this area you eat and walk. If you need to sit down, head over towards the enclosed area. If you want to avoid the crowd, go during the day, on a weekday or earlier in the evening. Just exit the Jian Tan/Chien Tan MRT exit and look for the crowds- or ask the taxi driver to take you to "Shih Lin yeh sih." (yeh sih= night market!) If you only have a few days in Taipei, definitely try and save one night to check it out!