Undoubtedly the most well known of all the night markets in Taipei is Shilin Night Market.

It’s huge, busy, overcrowded, packed out to overcapacity every single night, and there’s an almost unbelievable amount of street food snacks to taste and experience.

Although some have said it’s become touristy and vendors may overcharge customers, for its giant scale and for its night market history, it’s still a night market you don’t want to skip when you’re in Taipei.

best night markets in Taipei
Shilin Night Market – most famous night market in Taipei

Shilin Night Market

Before going to the market, it’s really hard to imagine the scale of just how big and how busy the market is.

I was thinking it was just going to be a street filled with some street food stalls and some stores and a few tourists walking around enjoying the atmosphere.

It was much bigger and much busier than I had imagined.

It reminded me of Bangkok’s Chatuchak Market, but in night market form – a labyrinth of endless shopping and food stalls and massive crowds.

Watch the video:

If you have a few minutes, check out the full video below.

(or watch it on YouTube here)

The Shilin Night Market almost occupies an entire neighborhood, and there’s a huge mix of stores selling clothes, gadgets, random things, souvenirs, and then a host of food stalls and restaurants throughout the market.

You could really wander around the market for hours and keep finding new things.

honey lemon juice
Fig seeds lemon juice

Lemon aiyu jelly

As soon as we arrived at the market, being quite hot and humid in the summer when we were there, we began with a quick beverage.

On the stall you’ll see a big frog, and while what they call frog eggs are similar to little boba jellies, they also sell lemon aiyu jelly juice. Similar stalls are located throughout the market.

The aiyu juice is made with a type of fig, though to me it tasted a lot like honey, and then balanced out with lemon juice. It was served cold to make it very refreshing.

Taiwanese street food
Skewer of fried fish balls

Fried fish meatballs

After walking around for a few minutes, already overwhelmed by the scale of Shilin Night Market, we headed down one of the main food streets.

The street was so packed it was honestly hard to maneuver, and to even distinguish where the line for the street food stalls started, with where just normal people were walking or standing.

So in order to eat anything at Shilin Market, it requires you to be a bit friendly aggressive, or you’ll never get anything to eat.

what to eat at Shilin Night Market
Fried fish balls – pretty good

We started with some fried fish balls, and the vendor asked if we wanted the spicy or the regular version. Given the choice, there’s no way I’d never not go for the spicy.

The fish balls were deep fried, then poked onto a skewer, and dusted in just a bit of fine pepper.

I’m not a huge fish ball eater, normally my wife and her sister really love them in Thailand, but I usually skip them.

However, these fish balls, especially since they were fried so fresh (since the line never ended so they didn’t need to keep any stock) were quite good.

They were hot and the texture was nice and spongy with a salty fish flavor. The skewer of fried fish balls was pretty tasty.

Shilin Market in Taiwan
Pepper pork bun at Shilin Market

Pepper pork bun

Located on the main road on the outskirts of Shilin Night Market, I was actually walking past to get to a different section of the market when the barrel tandoor ovens caught my attention, and I knew I needed to eat whatever they were cooking.

Turned out to be pork pepper buns – a round of dough filled with marinated pork and green onions, wrapped into a bun, and cooked in the barrel oven.

pepper pork bun
Pepper pork bun

The buns were served hot and fresh, and they were pretty good. Along with a pork filled bun we also had a sweet bean filled bun, also cooked in the same method.

However, the next day I went to Raohe Night Market and tried the Fuzhou pepper pork bun stall, and I think they may have been even a bit better than this one in my opinion.

But this pork pepper bun was still good, and worth trying when you come to Shilin Market.

Note: I missed it when I was there, but after reading more about Shilin Market I found out there is actually a Raohe Night Market pork bun stall branch at Shilin Market.

stinky tofu stall
I can’t read Chinese…

Stinky tofu (the surprise experience)

It was our first real night in Taipei when we went to Shilin Night Market.

And before I get into telling this story, I have to say that I had eaten stinky tofu before when I was in Yangshuo, China, and it was black in color. And I thought it was pretty good, I really liked it.

Back to Shilin Night Market, I saw a vendor selling tofu, which I love, and it was in big pieces and I thought it was just braised regular tofu because it was the normal brown golden color.

Somehow I didn’t smell anything (perhaps I was upwind from the stall when I ordered?).

stinky tofu
Stink tofu on skewers

I got my tofu, and we were filming a video, and I still thought it was just a normal piece of tofu.

But after taking my first bite, and getting a hint of a rotting sensation in my mouth, I started to suspect it might have been the famous Taiwanese stinky tofu.

After doing some research when I returned back to our hotel, it was confirmed.

The stinky tofu was cooked in a giant piece, then wrapped like a hot dog bun, and served with two skewers on each side for handling. Inside of the stinky tofu piece was a scoop of pickled cabbage and an assortment of sauce.

I quite enjoyed my surprise Taiwanese stinky tofu experience, even though I didn’t know I was eating it at the time.

There was also another type of deep fried stink tofu available throughout the market, which I tried later on during my time in Taipei, and liked even more than this version.

bowl torched steak in Taiwan
Blow torched steak – a great street food snack

Blowtorched steak

Walking around at numerous night markets and any markets in Taiwan, you’ll notice there are a few franchises that specialize in steak… not just any type of steak, but blow torched steak (seems to be the in thing right now).

This type of street food stall is not exactly a traditional Taiwanese food, but I thought it was pretty cool, and being my first full day in Taiwan, I needed to try it.

Taiwanese street food at Shilin Night Market
Blow torching the steak in Taipei

The steak was cut into cubes, first grilled, then finally blow torched to speed up the cooking and to give it a little bit of a smokey flavor to enhance it.

There was also a menu where you could choose which seasoning salt you wanted sprinkled on top of your steak cubes.

Steak in Taiwan
I chose to go with the cumin seasoning salt

I chose the cumin.

After the cooking was finished, the steak was packed into a takeaway box, and served still nice and hot from the blow torch cooking.

street food steak in Taiwan
Street food steak? Yes please

The steak was actually quite flavorful, nice cubes of meat, cooked medium well (although I would have liked it more rare), topped in a nice and salty and cumin-y seasoning.

Being able to order and eat a little box of street food steak while walking around the night market was pretty cool I thought, even if it is a relatively new and an innovative Taiwanese street food snack.

Hot Star Fried Chicken
Hot Star Fried Chicken – Original location at Shilin Night Market

Hot Star Fried Chicken

Probably the biggest success story to come from Shilin Night Market is Hot Star Fried Chicken.

One of the corners of the night market is home to the original Hot Star, an incredibly popular Taiwanese fried chicken brand.

When I was at Shilin Night Market, the fried chicken line literally wrapped around the side of the road and onto the main road and it appeared people were actually risking their lives lining up in the main road to wait for their piece fried chicken.

I decided not to wait in line, so when I was at Shilin Night Market I actually didn’t try it.

hot star fried chicken in Taipei
Hot Star Fried Chicken – Large fried chicken

But I did have Hot Start Fried Chicken at a different branch in the Ximending shopping district of Taipei on another day. I’m guessing it tasted pretty similar, if not identical to the original location at Shilin?

The chicken is flattened into a chicken steak type of cut, then battered and deep fried, and finally sprinkled in plenty of salty seasoning and chili powder if you ask for it.

I wasn’t all that impressed with Hot Star Fried Chicken.

It kind of tasted like potato chips in the form of fried chicken, and the batter was a little too thick for my liking. But nevertheless, it was still kind of a tasty junk food snack, and if you want to try the original version, jump in line at Shilin Night Market.

There’s also another fried chicken stall at the front of Shilin Market towards Jiantan Street, where there was an equally long line for fried chicken.

Shilin Night Market
Street food stalls at Shilin Night Market

Conclusion

Shilin Night Market is the biggest and busiest night market in Taipei.

And even though it sometimes has been given a bad reputation for its large crowds, touristy setting, and reports of some vendors overcharging (which I didn’t personally have any experience with), it’s still one of the best night markets to visit for its massive size and buzz of thousands of people.

In our few hours of visiting Shilin Night Market we didn’t get to explore the entire market or even come close to trying all the food available.

But even so, I enjoyed walking around, people watching, doing a bit of shopping, and of course, enjoying the food we tried.

Even though I probably enjoyed both Raohe Night Market and Ningxia Night Market a bit better overall than Shilin Night Market, this place is still a must visit night market when you’re in Taipei.

Shilin Night Market, Taipei, Taiwan

Shilin night market opening hours: 5 pm – 2 am daily
How to get there: Take the MRT Metro to Jiantan Station, and follow the signs for Shilin Night Market (which are clearly marked out from when you exit the metro). The market begins about a 2 minute walk away from the station.



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  • A

    6 months ago

    Hey Mark,
    I’m not sure what kind of stinky tofu you had while you were in China, but I’ve never heard of black stinky tofu. When my husband and I heard you saying that, we both looked at each other and wondered “What did Mark have? We hope he went to the right place . . .”

  • Vincent Dy Buncio

    7 months ago

    Thanks for the tips and insights. I am going with my youngest to Taiwan for some father-son bonding. Hope to try out the different street food and dimsum place you featured. God bles..

  • Oh My Janey

    8 months ago

    Wow! Thank you so much for this guide. I’m visiting Taipei for the second time this weekend and vowed to explore Shilin Night Market more. I unfortunately didn’t eat much last time I visited so I promised to come back and devour everything in my path. Haha. Thanks for the heads up on the Hot Star Fried Chicken. It’s on my list but the lines scare me. But seriously, thank you for this guide!

  • hayasaki

    1 year ago

    On my first visit to Taiwan, Shilin Market was my first stop. Just adjacent to the road where you’ll cross from Jiantan Station, there was a shop that sells something like mashed potato with a lot of toppings with melted Cheeze as the base sauce. I was in heaven when I had that. I also loved chopped Pig ears but I don’t speak Mandarin, i Accidentaly agreed to the vendor to put more spicy oil. LOL

  • W Zheng

    1 year ago

    A vivid portrait of scenes on the street of an oriental city. The music flows with the videos in a perfect way. Job well done!

  • GentlemensGazette

    2 years ago

    I loved the food in Taiwan! Even the mainland Chinese come over for the weekend just to eat!

  • Vanshika Dutta

    2 years ago

    Thank you for sharing this amazing compilation of food items available at Shilin Night Market. It would be very helpful for future travellers. The local cuisine mentioned in the post looks worth trying.

  • Luke Mitchell

    2 years ago

    What exactly IS stink tofu? What makes it taste that way and is it something that is an acquired taste or one of those things you just MUST try to understand? Someone told me I had to try durian fruit, which is the last stinky thing I’ve ever dared try and with great reason. Eating that was like what one might think eating a corpse flower tastes like.

    • Jay Dee

      2 years ago

      Stinky bean curd is fermented. The smell is awful, but if you can get past that smell, it basically tastes, well, normal in a way that isn’t quite true of durian (not to say that I don’t like it too!)

  • Jub

    2 years ago

    haha I only read the tofu section (vegan) but that’s funny. Can’t say I’ve even heard of stinky tofu…will be trying it when I get to Taipei (p.s. keep up the snapchatting gold)

  • Ross @FreeYourMindTravel

    2 years ago

    We had stinky tofu in China and really actually preferred eating it to smelling it! Great post and I’ll definitely keep this market in mind when we get to Taiwan!

    • Mark Wiens

      2 years ago

      Hey Ross, that’s a good way to put it. I think the smell is stronger than the taste many times. Thank you!

  • Jenn Flo Taylor

    2 years ago

    That pepper pork bun and the blowtorch steak look delish! Although I’m not sure about the stinky tofu. I think the rotting smell or texture would put me off. Another great post Mark! Thanks!

  • Annie

    2 years ago

    Hi Mark!
    My husband found your blog while researching for our Asia trip early next year. We can’t stop watching your food videos and always end up hungry by the end of them. It was also great to find out that you graduated from ASU the same year I did! I actually have a few friends that graduated with the same degree as you. Go Devils!

    We’ll be traveling to Taipei for about 2.5 days and plan on eating our way through the city. Out of all of the night markets that you visited, which one was your favorite and what was your favorite food stall?

  • Jay Dee

    2 years ago

    I love the pork bun stand there. Haven’t ever made it over to Raohe, but I’ll be sure to give that a try if I’m there. You missed my favorite snack there which has no English translation I can think of, but is a fried fritter with a variety of possible flavorings wrapped in a crepe. Good stuff