As part of the around-the-island Taiwan tour to explore as much as Taiwan as possible in 8 days, when we landed in Taiyuan International Airport, we set off to explore Taiyuan, where we would be staying for our first night. Taiyuan is the metro area about an hour southwest of Taipei, and in general seems to be considered pretty rural by most people from Taipei city.
Rough map of ZhongLi Night Market from the airport
Certainly it’s not much of a metropolitan city, but Taoyuan district is still thriving and has several bustling night markets! The most notable night market in Taoyuan County, is the ZhongLi night market in Zhongli District 中壢區, which is just a few minutes south of the airport.
Welcome to Zhong Li Night Market Main Entrance!
As this was my first night market in Taiwan, I was incomparably excited for cheap and delicious street food. Note that the exchange rate during this visit is about 1 USD to 32 TWD. With most street food costing between 40-100 TWD each, every food stall offers an incredible deal!
Taiwanese night markets operate along a single street. Within that street there are usually 2 or 3 lanes of stalls set up that ranges from food, shopping, and carnival games. The Zhong Li night market certainly offered a variety of all these things.
In no particular order…
Definitely the best comfort food while walking around in a warm night is crispy, fried food on a stick.
Fried Sweet Potatoes Stall!
Fried Sweet Potatoes – crispy and caramelized on the outside, but warm and fluffy in the inside.
Fried Squid – A complete breakdown of the different cuts of the squid, battered up and fried!
QQ Balls – Fried does of mochi balls that are made fresh and fluffed up in batches.
QQ Balls – The fried mochi balls are crispy on the outside, soft and chewy in between, and mostly air fluff inside. Eaten with a stick, the mochi balls can come with a variety of seasoning from salt, pepper, spicy mayonnaise, paprika, plum, etc.
Big Sausage in Small Sausage – A Taiwanese appetizer where a sausage made of glutinous sticky rice is cut open to hold an actual pork sausage. This sausage-in-sausage creation is usually served wrapped up in a plastic- wrap so that you can hold it on one end to squeeze it up on the other.
Fried Quail Eggs on a Stick – Long skewers of crispy fried eggs that gushes out a delicious egg yolk with each bite
Fried Stinky Tofu on a Stick Stall – One stick for 35 TWD, 3 for 100TWD!
Fried Stinky Tofu on a Stick – Fried blocks of fermented, stinky tofu cut in the middle to hold a spread of fermented cabbage (kimchi). It’s a good combination of fermented, somewhat smelly, deliciousness that combines several textures of crispy and silk smooth together on a stick.
Fried Stinky Tofu Cubes with Fermented Cabbage – A bit more traditional serving of fried fermented tofu served with fermented cabbage. Although because the cubes are cut so small in this style, there’s less non-fried tofu meat inside each cube and the texture is of a crispy sponge, soaking up the spicy oil and soy sauce with each bite.
Stinky Tofu in Chili Broth with Various Level of Spiciness – A non-fried version of the traditional fermented tofu dish, where it is soaked in a stock of chili oil broth.
Stinky Tofu in Chili Broth with Various Level of Spiciness -This silky smooth, stinky tofu does a great job at soaking up the spice and flavors of the broth.
Fry or Boil Anything on a Stick – Pick out anything you want displayed here and they will fry it or boil it in broth. The options range from chicken feet, pig blood, stinky tofu, vegetables, chicken heart, chicken liver, fish balls, meatballs, sausages, and chicken wings, to name a few.
Pan Fried Oyster Pancakes – Oysters fried with sweet potato starch, green onion, and eggs. A real delicious Taiwanese comfort food.
Noodle soup with a pork broth – Good, cheap, and hearty noodle soup is definitely a popular choice on the streets for locals and tourists
Boneless Chicken Feet – Love the texture and flavor of braised chicken feet without the hassle of bones? This de-boned chicken feet with the same sweet-savory sauce makes it easy to eat on the go
Japanese Taiyaki with various fillings- Brought over from Japan, these fish shaped fried pastries traditionally with red bean paste inside are really comfy desserts. In the Taiwan night market scene, you can also get fillings with sesame, matcha, red bean, butter, chocolate, or any combination of those
Hong Kong Style Dim Sum – Just to add variety, a spread of steamed dim sum dishes is also among the night market options
Fruit Bites in a Bag – Combinations of different fruits are crafted and seasoned in bite-sized pieces
There are actually a few more food options, but I’m going to move on…
Of course there’s going to be many options of tea, milk tea, fruit juices, and shakes all with optional toppings of tapioca boba, grass jelly, pudding, etc. The number of drink options and combinations will make you dizzy.
Milk tea, chocolate milk, fruit tea, or rose tea with topping options of tapioca, red bean, jelly, etc
Boba Mlik Tea and Iced Tea
More varieties of milk teas and drinks with various toppings
Winter Melon Tea – Freshly made cups of winter melon tea. Winter melon is generally good for you and has a cooling effect on the body, which will do well to counteract all the fatty fried food in the night market (so they say)
Winter Melon Tea Boiling – The winter melon tea is made from cut up winter melon, water, and sugar. Pretty simple and delicious.
I feel like these are more for kids to win large stuffed animals or a pet turtle, but I find these very dear and festive to a local community night market.
Pinball – Get a certain amount of balls in the right holes to win a prize, or simply reminisce childhood
Poker tournament – Tournament style with prizes for winners depending on the number of people that show up
Arcade and Claw Machines
Mahjong Bingo – Pick a set of mahjong tiles from a pile If those tiles connect a line on your map, then you win a stuffed animal
Fish a gold fish or turtle with paper nets – The number of fish or turtle you take home depends on the number you can get into a bucket with a paper net that practically melts in water
Bunny Rabbits – Not quite a game, but a local stall selling rabbit to kids was kind of cute
That’s pretty much it for the Zhong Li Night Market. As you can see in some of the pictures, there are also many stalls selling shoes, clothes, and knickknacks, which I was less interested in. The Zhong Li Night Market is a one-street night market covers one long block with three rows of stalls. The night markets are pretty poplar and festive places for both locals and tourists to visit and hangout.