Here's your warning - long post ahead!
Hubby and I live about a 10-15 minutes walk from Shida Night Market (師大路夜市), and since we can't cook in our tiny apartment (we don't really want to, why would we?), every other night is a leisurely stroll in search of good food to eat.
Most of the time we trust our noses, although every so often this method gets us into much trouble with stinky tofu. Yes, it is very, extremely stinky. If you think natto smells bad, that's because you haven't smelled stinky tofu. Honestly, natto actually smells good in comparison to stinky tofu. Yes, I've had natto several times and no, I haven't had stinky tofu. I don't know about hubby, but I will probably skip it. I just can't, excuse the pun, stomach the stench, which I can detect from blocks away. Seriously, the very first time we got a whiff of stinky tofu, hubby wondered out loud, "Is that garbage?" For the record, hubby thinks everything smells like garbage, including durian, which I think doesn't smell bad at all xD Anyway, when he said that I thought to myself, "No, it's not garbage, hunney. It's more like vomit." Actually, to be more precise, it smells like vomit mixes with parmesan cheese. Ick. May be I'm missing out big time, but I'm not going to put myself through aroma torture (or should it be odor torture?) just to get a taste of stinky tofu.
Anyway, so there will probably be subsequent parts to posts like these as hubby and I explore more of Taipei. But for now, the below are the places/stalls/carts at Shida Night Market where we've eaten at least twice. I'm not going to bother with the shop names, street names, or directions though. If you're going to stroll through a night market, I do think it's best to just take a walk through the whole place and find what you like. If you happen upon one of the shops pictured here and like what you see, by all means try it. But if not, just pick a place, any place really. The local food here is so cheap, about $15 for a stuffing meal for 2, including snacking and desserts, and is generally decent. Even if you're not overly impressed with what you ate you won't be burned with a huge tab like you would in Japan.
My Mandarin teacher recommended this Alisan Green Tea (阿里山綠茶) shop, which is famous for their fragrant tea. We agree. We've tried several tea chains now and Alisan has the most fragrant and least bitter tea. They also give you a choice of honey or brown sugar boba (or pearl, 珍珠), which is pretty awesome!
That said, their boba isn't as soft and chewy as some of the other tea chains, particularly GuDi Tea, my favorite shop so far! So yeah, it depends on your taste I guess, whether you like your boba tea for the tea or for the boba. We definitely favor the boba over the tea :P
This tiny stall specializes in roasted chicken also has a crowd surrounding it all the time. Naturally, we had to take a peek ^.^ In addition to the main roasted chicken thighs, which you have a choice of with bones or boneless, they also offer a variety of grilled items on a stick such as sausages (meh), mini wieners (meh), fish cakes (great!), tofu (bland), chicken drum sticks (good, but messy finger food), and chicken butt(s) on a stick (umm...haven't tried this LOL!). Definitely try their roasted chicken though, because boy oh boy it's yummy, so, so delicious! It tastes like a cross between roasted soy sauce and char siu chicken, at the very least the chicken has that reddish char siu coloring and smells of fragrant soy sauce. The chicken is not too juicy but is instead perfectly chewy with each bite confuses me into thinking I'm eating pork char siu. It's definitely chicken though, because they roast right there in the column-like grill behind the cart!
What you do is to pickup a steel tong and fill the aluminum pan with whatever you like from the frequently refilled pans of freshly grilled food. Then you hand your pan over to the gal and she cuts up the larger pieces for you (like the tofu, fish cakes, or chicken thighs) before funneling everything into a paper pouch. She'll ask if you want to sprinkle some pepper over, and then she'll stick in 2 bamboo sticks and put the whole thing into a plastic bag! Then you pay, and off you go with a hot bag of delicious snacks you can eat on a stick ^.^
This little shop sells Thai style grill chicken thighs. Not sure how authentically "Thai" it is, but the chicken was tender, juicy, and flavorful. Also, in the dining area they have a gigantic rice cooker as well as a huge stock pot, so you serve yourself as much rice and chicken broth as you like.
Left: the main offering, grilled boneless chicken thigh.
Right: poor hubby, he wanted to try something different and ordered roast pork. And ended up with just a few paper thin slices of roast pork versus the huge chicken thigh that I got. Not sure why the portion was so drastically different (pork is way more expensive than chicken?), but given both were charged the same price (NT$100 each, ~$3.50), don't make the same mistake hubby did and just stick with the original grill chicken thigh.
There's always a huge crowd around this fried dumplings (煎餃) stall, Hsu's Fresh Fried Dumplings (許記生煎包) so we had to try it too. Ah, here is crowd wisdom at its best - though a bit oily, the fried dumplings were delicious, especially with some hot sauce on top!
You have to enter the little shop and order with the aunty. You can either order individually for NT$8 each (~ $0.30), 5-pack for NT$35 (~ $1.20), or 12-pack for NT$80 (~ $2.75). We order just 5 the first time and didn't have enough, but when we ordered 12 the second time, it was too much as the oiliness gets to us after a while, not to mention the dumplings themselves were filling.
The 5-pack gets you a little paper pouch.
The 12-pack gets you a more "official" looking paper box ^.^
Went to this Korean House Village (韓屋村) restaurant after reading 2 separate reviews, one from the Taipei Times and one from a blog called Lao Ren Cha. Both reviews were convincing, and we were in the mood for Korean that night. We knew it would be expensive, but we were curious to see how Korean food fares in Taipei versus Yokohama. And the fact that it's conveniently located at Shida Night Market doesn't hurt.
We were served an array of picked and stir fried sides, which to us is always a good sign. Most were decent, however the kimchee disappointed us, being way too "briny" and the flavor of the vegetable and the chili peppers were subsequently lost to the overwhelming "briny" taste.
Next we ordered a seafood jeon, which came out on a huge iron plate. We didn't quite like this either. First of all it was too thick. I'm no Korean food expert, but all the jeon I've had in the past were thinner, crispy on the outside and a tad chewy on the inside. This was not crispy at all and being too thick it was rather doughy. Secondly it was too big, because being an appetizer instead it was big enough for a lunch portion for 2! Finally, the seafood in it were minced, so instead of getting the chewy texture of the squid or shrimp or whatever that were in it, we couldn't tell what was what, or if there was any seafood in it at all. Perhaps that was the point, so they could save on the seafood LOL!
Oh, and I ordered a cup of Korean citron tea (柚子茶) and got a tiny cup of bland, almost water-like concoction. When things like this happen, I'm not sure if I should feel insulted or learn my lesson and not go there again. Do they see me and hubby and immediately think we're foreign tourists and therefore are dumb and don't know our food or can't recognize good food? Then again, perhaps we just ordered the wrong things on the menu.
Then hubby ordered chicken hotpot, which came out in a gigantically wide but thankfully shallow steel pot. This was salty but good, and expensive too, being NT$500 (~ $17). However, it did feed us for 2 nights ^.^ In conclusion, unless we go with Korean friends who know what to order, we won't come back here again. Our experience was unfortunately meh and we had much better Korean food in Japan, Ojori to name one, and that is just a mall restaurant no less!
This mocha cake is from one of the 2 bakeries on Shida Road (I forgot which one :P). Unfortunately, it looked better than it tasted. Oh well, I got my sweet tooth satisfied temporarily at least.