After a long day of studying and writing, one of my favorite ways to relax is by paying a visit to one of the many night markets of Taiwan. Today I’d like to give you a glimpse of this special part of Taiwanese culture.
If you ever visit Taiwan, you’ll stumble upon night markets around nearly every corner. Kaohsiung alone has dozens of night markets, some large, others small. I think one reason that night markets are so popular in Taiwan because it’s very hot and humid here during the day, especially during the summer, and so people are only willing to go out for stroll well after dark.
Despite having to compete against other kinds of night entertainment, like movies, television, clubs, and bars, night markets remain a central part of Taiwanese night life thanks to their delicious food, fun games, and affordable clothing.
A few days ago, Carol and I paid a visit to Ruifeng (pronounced ray-fung
us) Night Market, located in the heart of Kaohsiung. While it would be impossible to try every kind of food in one trip, we did manage to sample a few dishes.
Below is a Korean pancake, known in Korean as “pajeon.” Filled with kimchi, its bursting with spicy and salty flavors.
You may be wondering why we bought a Korean pancake in Taiwan. The simple answer is because it looked delicious! Having lived in Korea for a few years, I can say that this was a fair approximation of the real thing.
Our other main dish was “da-chang bao xiao-chang” (大腸包小腸); literally “small sausage in big sausage.” Usually the larger sausage is made of rice, while the smaller sausage is full of meat. This is one of my favorite night market foods, and I buy one nearly every trip.
Generally, the vendor will cut the large sausage open and stuff the smaller one inside. However, because we were sharing, we decided it’d be easier to eat if the sausages were cut into small chunks, which we then skewered with long toothpicks.
After finishing our food, we bought a drink to wash everything down. Here’s Carol, holding a hearty glass of fresh mango milk.
One great thing about Taiwan is that it’s home to a wide variety of fresh fruit, with different fruits available in every seasons. We got to watch as the vendor put mangoes, milk, and a little sugar into a blender and spun them together. I can attest to you that the result was both delicious and nutritious.
Once we finished our food and drink, it was time to move along to the night market games. Most of the games are simple, skill-based challenges that require you to hit an object.
Above is a picture of night market basketball. Put enough balls into the hoops, and you can win a prize! Or, if you’re more of a marksman, you can give target shooting a try.
Yes, those are pellet guns. In the United States I might worry that someone could mistake them for real pistols, but because real guns are so rare here in Taiwan, it’s immediately obvious that they’re fake.
Of course, if sports and sharpshooting aren’t for you, there are still other games you can try. One is Mahjong.
I’m not much of a mahjong player yet, but it’s pretty popular here. Lots of times when I pass a park in the afternoon, I’ll see retired guys sitting around tables and playing together.
And a special contest!
After touring the games, we made one final pass through the clothing section. Most of the clothes at the night market are really cheap, and quality varies. Still, if you look around for a while you might be able to find some cool t-shirts that you like.
I didn’t buy any clothes on this particular night, but I did make sure to get my photo taken near a clothes vendor.
What does this sign say? I’ll give an Amazon Kindle copy of Ramses’ Thunder to the first person who can tell me. To participate all you need is an Amazon account and a good eye for Chinese! An approximate translation (or guess) will be fine. Leave your answer in the comments!