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There are plenty of reasons to take a vacation in Taiwan, including experiencing its natural beauty, visiting its cultural attractions and sightseeing in its modern cities. But in-the-know travelers are drawn to the country not by their intellect, but by their appetite, as Taiwan is a hot spot for foodies. With its mix of sophisticated culinarytraditions and a creative street-food scene, it’s no wonder the country has exported a range of restaurants to urban centers around the world.
Visitors looking for the real deal should hit the streets and dine at some of Taiwan’s famous night markets. Here are my top market picks in three major cities — no reservations required.
TaipeiThere’s no shortage of great culinary options in Taiwan’s capital, including dozens of Michelin-starred restaurants. But true gourmands will find nirvana not in Taipei’s fine-dining spots, but at one of the city’s many night markets.
Every local has his or her favorite spot — popular markets include Ningxia and Raohe (where actor Hugh Jackman was recently spotted). However, my pick is Shilin Night Market.
Located near Jiantan metro station, Shilin is one of the most famous markets in Taipei — and it has the crowds to prove it — so let clients know that food stalls off the main street are more pedestrian-friendly.
Visitors will find a wide range of amazing dishes at Shilin. In particular, they should look for beef cubes, which are grilled by a huge blowtorch; fried pork buns, a local delicacy; and giant fried-chicken cutlets from outlet Hot Star that sell for about $3 each. (This famous Taiwan eatery has branches in Southern California, where hipsters line up to pay $10 for the dish.)
KaohsiungThe harbor town of Kaohsiung is the second-largest city in Taiwan. Despite being largely unknown to U.S. visitors, Kaohsiung has a sophisticated, international feel and features high-end shopping, dining and nightlife.
My favorite spot in Kaohsiung is Liuhe Night Market. It’s large, spanning several blocks, and features a wide variety of food stalls. Because the streets are closed to traffic, it’s very pedestrian-friendly.
Seafood is the star at Liuhe, where stalls offer prawns, lobster, squid and more for grilling. My favorite dishes here include oyster omelets; boiled pork dumplings (visitors can watch as entire families roll dumplings together, assembly-line-style); and a hot sausage that’s served tucked inside a larger sausage. Be sure to tell clients to save room for one of the market’s fresh fruit smoothies for dessert.
TainanLocated on the southwest coast, Tainan was Taiwan’s capital for about 200 years until 1887. It’s a vibrant city with an artsy vibe, and it’s also known as one of the essential foodie destinations in Taiwan.
There are several great night markets here, but one of my top picks is Yongle Market, a “breakfast market” on Guohua Street. Locals come here every morning to get their breakfast wraps (think extra-large spring rolls), soup, dumplings and strong coffee.
Several foods are synonymous with Tainan, including milk fish and Spanish mackerel, but I suggest visitors opt for a bowl of danzai noodles. This dish — supposedly created by a local fisherman more than 100 years ago — consists of a small bowl of broth and noodles garnished with minced pork and fresh shrimp. It’s available all over the city, including from the street vendors at Yongle Market, and it can be eaten morning, noon or night (or all three).
The DetailsTaiwan Tourism Bureaueng.taiwan.net.tw