I might have already written about Shilin Night Market (士林夜市) previously, but the well-known place is so huge and full of goodies, I think two parts are needed to introduce it thoroughly! Part 1 will be on the indoor food arena of Shilin, while part 2 will talk about the outdoor shopping strips.
At Shilin, you can find most, if not all of Taiwan's celebrated street snacks at authentic quality and wallet-friendly prices. The indoor arena is definitely a sight to behold as every store jostle for your attention with their delicious-looking cooking. So here's a breakdown of my experience!
The sit-down eateries
After walking several rounds, you will notice that those with seatings sell roughly about the same items, and I dare say that each store's standards is about the same too. Usually I will just choose the one with seats available, don't worry if it looks overly empty now as it will just be full house in a matter of time!
鲁肉饭 is my favourite rice item in Taiwan, and every store will have this as a carbo staple without fail. Even harder to look for plain rice on the menu! (Although if you actually asked, I'm sure they will be glad to serve it naked for you) The lean minced meat has bits of melting fats in it, cooked flavourfully with caramelised onions and soy sauce. So good that I can eat multiple bowls of this on its own!
If rice is not your thing, I find the beehoon here pretty good too. Simple but well-oiled, the firm noodles pleasantly slides down your throat!
Now this is one snack which I think might be overrated and Singapore can perhaps serve up a better rendition. The oyster omelette used too much tapioca flour and was drenched with a sweet gravy, until I couldn't taste the oysters or its eggy flavour.
Tempuras here doesn't refer to your usual Japanese ones, but are battered, starchy fish paste deep-fried and served with the same sweet and thick gravy. Chewy on the inside, fish cake fans will like this!
And if you love fresh cubes of pig blood, the soup here will instantly warm you up on a chilly night!
The Other Sit-down Snack: 棺材板 (Direct Translation: Coffin Case)
Pineapple and Prawn (NT50)
Originating from Tainan (台南), the cheekily-named snack is basically a thick toast with its centre emptied, deep-fried, filled with a thick, cream-based gravy and ingredients of your choice, thus resembling a coffin case in the olden days. Simple stuffs that can be easily replicated, but its amazing how well the crunchy bread soaks up the tasty gravy!
Walkabout Snack 1: 大肠包小肠 (Large Sausage Wrapping Small Sausage)
Now you couldn't quite experience the street snack culture without grabbing a bite on the go! Voted by Taiwanese as the number 1 representative snack of Shilin, the large sausage (大肠) is essentially glutinous rice shaped like a sausage, wrapped around the familiar pork meat sausage (小肠).
NT50 per portion
Grilled and served with preserved pickles, the sticky rice and juicy sausage combo works like wonder as each mouthful is bursting with texture and flavour. For that extra kick, add sauces like wine, mustard or garlic to your sausages!
Walkabout Snack 2: 大饼包小饼 (Large Biscuit Wrapping Small Biscuit)
Taiwanese sure like to wrap things of different sizes eh! Made on the spot, the big biscuit (大饼) is a thin flour pancake wrapping around a smaller crunchy pastry (小饼).
NT35~SGD1.60 for one, NT100~SGD4.50 for three
Available in different flavours, one bite of this will give you both the sticky pancake and flaky biscuit, which I loved with sesame seeds for that sweet savoury taste!
Walkabout Snack 3: 大鸡扒 (Chicken Cutlet)
Of course, how can I miss out the legendary cutlet that has made its way to our shores too? Its obvious which store is the best as its queue at night is perpetually long with everyone patiently wait for their piping hot cutlets!
Larger than your face, that's seriously value-for-money! With its super crispy coating and spices marination, chicken breast has never tasted so tender and juicy before. Regardless of pricing, quality or portion, the copycats we have here are nowhere close which I arrogantly refuse to touch after having eaten the real deal. Simply awesome!
Walkabout Snack 4: Things to drink
With no lack of drink stores, the two juices that I will urge you to try are Honey Bittergoud Juice (蜂蜜苦瓜汁) and Lemon Ai Yu (柠檬爱玉).
Don't be put off by the former as it does not taste bitter like you have imagined, but rather a sweet, refreshing drink with a flora-like aftertaste. The other one is a lemon drink with jelly-like substance, much like aloe vera that will quench your thirst after all that eating spree!
Next up, exploring the outdoor shopping streets!
士林观光市场 Shilin Indoor Food Arena Most stores open from 4pm onwards till late
Directions: Take the MRT red line and alight at Jiantan (剑潭) station. Look at the main road on your left upon exit, the place should be easily visible. Cross the road and and turn left to reach it. Important: Shilin market IS NOT at Shilin station, so don't alight at the wrong place!