One of the greatest things about being in Taipei is going to the night markets.
I can’t think of anywhere else in the world where the night markets are so much ingrained into a culture and fit into the Taiwanese way of life.
When you’re in Taipei there’s a handful of popular night markets to visit, and while Shilin Night Market is the grandest and most famous, Raohe Night Market is a bit smaller and more friendly, but is just as packed with delicious food to eat.
Even though I came far from eating everything at the market when I went, I’m about to share with you a few of the must eat things you’ve got to try…
Fuzhou Pepper Buns (pork pepper buns)
Conveniently greeting you right as you enter Raohe Street, is Fuzhou Pepper Buns, one of the most well known street food stalls in Taiwan that serves a delicious snack called hujiao bing, or in English, pork pepper buns.
They are so famous at Raohe street, that even though they are a street food stall in the middle of the road, they actually set up official lines that made me feel like I was waiting in line at the airport or immigration.
We arrived to the market in the late afternoon, quite on the early side as many vendors were still setting up, but Fuzhou Pepper Buns was already open and bumping with customers.
It took about 10 minutes waiting in line, but luckily, I was able to get a good view of them making the pork pepper buns as I waited (make sure you watch the video below).
The 10 minute wait was well worth it.
You can see the full cooking process in the video here, but in order to make the pork pepper buns they first took a piece of dough, flattened it out into a circle, and added a scoop of marinated pork into the middle.
And then came my favorite part, they actually put the entire handful of dough and meat onto a pile of green onions so the green onions stuck to completely cover the entire surface of the pork, and then wrapped the entire handful into a ball shape with the dough surrounding the pork and green onions.
After assembling the pork pepper bun and topping it with a layer of sesame seeds, they were then slapped into a barrel like oven, very similar in looks and function to a tandoor oven, and the buns cooked until golden crispy perfection.
You can imagine I was pretty excited to get my first taste of the pepper bun after waiting in line.
One of the best things is that you get served when it’s hot and fresh, right out of the oven, and it was crazy hot.
One side was more crispy, while the other side was thicker and more gooey – I decided to take my first bite from the gooey side.
It was ridiculously good.
Price – 50 TWD ($1.52)
The bread was cooked nicely, crispy golden on the edges, with a fragrance of toasted sesame seeds, and the pork inside was salty and slightly sweet, with a nice pepper taste, and a host of green onions which still retained a bit of their fresh texture.
Even though it’s what I started off eating before walking around the Raohe Night Market, the pork pepper buns remained one of the best foods I ate at the market – it’s something you don’t want to miss when you go.
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One of the many common snacks you’ll find at all night markets throughout Taiwan is grilled squid.
My wife and I really like squid – the flavor the texture – everything about it; squid is just an amazing creature to eat.
So just a few strides down Raohe street from the pork pepper bun stall, the next stall that caught our attention was selling grilled squid (this was just one of the many grilled squid stalls, there were probably about 10 stalls selling grilled squid at the market).
They had two different kinds, one that was flattened out and looked like it was butterfly cut, and the other version was left in its tubular shape and then sliced into rings.
We ordered the tubular squid.
I caught a glimpse of the behind the scenes cooking, and it appeared that they first boiled the squid (maybe to get the texture nice and tender), and then grilled the squid, brushed on some type of dark sauce that looked like teriyaki, and then sprinkled on some chili powder before serving it to us.
The grilled squid was excellent, very fresh, and very flavorful, and the texture was tender yet still retained a bit of its chewy squid texture that makes it such a good snack food.
The teriyaki sauce was mild and not too sweet, and the sprinkle of chili powder added a bit of heat. Another great snack accomplished at Raohe Night Market.
Price – 160 TWD ($4.87)
Okonomiyaki at Fukushima Yaki
Japanese foods and snacks seemed to be pretty common at night markets in Taiwan, and one of the really popular stalls at Raohe was selling okonomiyaki – the Japanese version of a cross between pizza and a pancake.
Perhaps for the die-hard okonomiyaki fan this would have satisfied a craving, but I wasn’t too impressed by the flavor or texture of the okonomiyaki.
It was alright, but tasted like a budget okonomiyaki.
One of the most challenging things about visiting Raohe Night Market, or any night market in Taiwan, is figuring out what to eat and then choosing which foods to try.
But after a couple loops walking around the street, a lady selling freshly cooked dumplings caught my eye, and I knew it was going to be my next course.
The dumplings were round-like balls, similar in appearance to xiao long bao, not like the long finger thin sized fried dumplings I ate at the night market in Keelung City (more about this later).
They were filled with minced pork, and maybe some other vegetables like leeks or green onions, and were then fried on one side to get a nice golden crispiness on the bottom while the rest of the wrapper remained gooey and soft.
We ordered the large portion size of dumplings, and she quickly scooped them into a cup, and then asked if we wanted spicy sauce, to which we agreed.
The dumplings were hot and fresh, and again, they were excellent.
The mixture of minced pork was really flavorful, while the sauce was salty, kind of like teriyaki sauce, but less sweet, with some nice pieces of chopped chili in the mix as well.
But what I really enjoyed about these dumplings was the texture. That pan fried bottom combined with the gooeyness of the other parts – that’s what really made the dumplings good for me.
Price – 50 TWD ($1.52)
Taiwanese herbal pork bone soup
If you walk around Raohe Market a few times in the evening, you’ll start to notice that the most popular stalls on the entire street serve herbal pork bone soup – so it’s definitely a must eat. When you walk past a restaurant selling it, you’ll be engulfed in a cloud of pork bone soup steam.
It seemed entire Taiwanese families came to Raohe Street Night Market just to get their dose of pork bone soup.
So after walking a few more rounds around the market and deciding if I wanted to eat more snacks or sit down for a bigger bite to eat, my decision became clear about the pork bone soup – I needed to try it.
There are a bunch of Taiwanese herbal pork bone soup restaurants at the market, and I’m really not sure the difference.
They all seemed to be as busy and serving virtually the same thing. So it probably doesn’t really matter which restaurant you choose, just so long as you can find an empty seat.
Even though every seat was taken and it was packed out, it didn’t take long for a family to stand up and leave, and we vultured onto their seats before someone else grabbed them up.
The main thing to eat was herbal pork bone soup, and so I ordered that, plus a bowl of lu rou fan, Taiwanese rice topped with braised pork.
In just a few seconds after ordering, our bowls of herbal pork bone soup arrived on the table, steaming hot, very fragrant, and ready to be licked clean.
The bones were indeed quite boney.
There’s wasn’t a lot of meat on the bones, but the meat that was there was very fragrant, and tasted really good.
The meat was not fall-off-the-bone tender, but it still had some texture, and all the flavor had come out of the bones and become saturated in the broth.
To accompany the bits of meat still left on the bones, there was a big plastic container of sauce communally on the table which I dished out into a little pink sauce bowl.
The sauce tasted like it was mostly made from fermented soy beans, plus maybe some vinegar and chili. Dipping the bones and meat into the sauce and licking them clean was actually quite enjoyable.
However, I think the real reason people were enjoying the pork bone soup so much was because of the broth.
The broth was a little on the oily side, but it was very fragrant with an array of Chinese herbs and spices, and had a soothing, not too strong but just light, medicinal flavor and aroma.
I’m a huge fan of the rice in Taiwan. They often use a short grain rice similar to the rice used most commonly in Japan.
It was semi-sticky, and then served with a scoop of braised pork oil and sauce over it. Even though I’m not usually a huge fan of oily foods, this bowl of rice was pretty tasty and there was just the right amount of the braised pork oil topping.
Along with serving good pork bone soup and rice, one of the best things about eating at this stall was the packed out energetic street food atmosphere and the opportunity to sit down and enjoy it.
Price – pork and rice 85 TWD ($2.59)
After finishing the pork bone soup and rice combination, I was feeling pretty satisfied and we decided to call it a night and head back to Homeyhouse (the excellent hotel we stayed at when we were in Taipei).
The street food night markets in Taiwan all share some common foods and snacks that seem to be at every market. However, they also each have their own specialities that are either unique or the best versions of certain things – and those are the things to really go for when you go to any night market in Taiwan.
At Raohe Street Night Market, the pepper pork bun and the herbal pork bone soup are the two things that really stood out to me as must eat – two dishes I would gladly return again to eat over and over again.
Additionally, although I read from another blog that the stinky tofu was really good at Raohe street, I didn’t try it as I had already eaten stinky tofu a number of times, and wanted to try other things. But next time I go, I’m not going to miss it, and if you love stinky tofu, that’s another good looking option.
Raohe Night Market Video:
If you have a few minutes, watch all this food on video!
(If you can’t see the video, watch it on YouTube here)
There are many street food night markets in Taipei, and for its mixture of food and shopping, and neighborhood community feel, Raohe Street Night Market is one of the best.
One evening during our trip to Taiwan, we headed to the market ready to eat. The two things that I really enjoyed most were the famous Fuzhou pepper pork buns and the medicinal herbal pork bone soup.
What I also really liked about Raohe Night Market was that it was relatively small, friendly and easy to walk around, and the food selection was excellent.
When you go, don’t miss the pepper pork buns or the pork bone soup!
Information: Raohe Night Market
Opening hours: About 5 pm – 12 midnight daily, however we arrived right at 5 pm and only about 1/2 of the stalls were open, which is alright, but to catch the full market open it may be better to go around 6 or 7 pm.
How to go: Taipei is one of the best cities in the world for its public transportation. Just take the MRT Metro to Shongshan Station, and follow the signs for Raohe Street. You’ll see the entrance gate of the market about a 1 minute walk from the exit of the station.