Lights, Tofu, Action! The night markets are poppin’ full of the hustle and bustle of the city all crammed into a few crazy blocks. They have everything you could ever want- makes me feel like a fool for even packing a suitcase.
The markets are full of smells, colors, games, people, sounds, clothes, school supplies, bedding, aromatherapy, animals and more. At night the street shuts down and the vendors come out setting up their goods for the hordes and the hordes LOVE IT! We were like salmon fighting our way up stream moving from vendor to vendor.
We were mesmerized by this guy’s skill on the grill- as were about a dozen others waiting patiently. His system of coating the grill with an egg soy milk mixture, adding cabbage, another layer of egg mix and then precise maneuvering had obviously been practiced for years. Once cooked and portioned his partner boxed it up adding pickled veggies, wasabi, parmesan cheese, cooked chicken and dried fish.
Make sure you head to the market with an empty stomach because you will want to sample from every booth…. if you dare.
With a significant language barrier it is difficult to have much confidence in what you are actually eating. A few of the booths have some english words and even fewer of the vendors speak few english words. Most of the time you rely on pointing and body language.
The market has plenty of live animals for pets and dinner. We passed cages of live snakes and vendors selling snake blood soup- the specialty of the Zhongli market. When we came upon cages of birds I pretended I hadn’t read about songbird soup- a delicacy to Taiwanese.
From the advice of our innkeeper and internet research we knew we had to try “stinky dofu” but we weren’t sure how we would find it…. that wasn’t a problem! Approaching within 15 feet of this odoriferous booth we cringed as we followed our noses to the line of Taiwanese eagerly drooling. Before cooked the fermented tofu is reminiscent to the bottom of a dirty old trash can but once deep fried it is coated with spicy pepper sauce and some pickled cabbage and is quite appetizing.
Every town has its own night market each with its own specialty. Some have blood cake, fried pig uterus, cooked brain and anything you would never imagine eating. Maybe its best we can’t understand much!
How far would you let your curiosity take you? Would you want to know what you are eating or blindly enjoy your potentially new favorite food?