Night Market

People of the Night 17 (基隆廟口夜市)

It has been a while since I posted photos in my "People of the Night" series of street photos from Taiwan's night markets - Last year I had introduced several of Taiwan's night markets and the people who make them what they are but after fifteen posts I was feeling like I had to move on and put the project on hiatus. I still have plans for other night markets but they will come out periodically over the next year or so.

With this new series from the Keelung Miaokou Night Market (基隆廟口夜市) I'm going to combine photos that were taken last year with some new shots that I took over recent weeks and split it into three different posts with a gallery of all the photos used in the posts as well as those that didn't make the cut in the final post. I will also do what I have normally done by explaining some of the interesting and unique aspects of this particular night market and the people who I've come to recognize after visiting so many times.

The Keelung Miaokou Tourist Night Market is often introduced by Travel guides as a MUST visit on any travellers as the night market is well-known for its diversity of Taiwanese delicacies and being so close to the sea - it's fresh selection of seafood dishes. The night market is jam-packed with Taiwanese and foreigners walking shoulder-to-shoulder every night of the week and it truly is a purely Taiwanese experience that shouldn't be missed while visiting the country.

1. Crab Soup (螃蟹羹)

This first post in the Miaokou Night market series is going to deal with seafood. This night market is particularly well known for seafood so I’m going to start out with a thick soup known as “geng” (羹 or 焿) that has several stalls throughout the market. This type of soup is thick, hearty, full of flavour and also has quite a bit of crab meat inside. Almost all of the crab soup stalls seem to be owned by the Wu family (吳記) and there are several stalls throughout the night market and they likely all serve the same uniform version of soup. Keelung is a coastal city and the area supplies northern Taiwan with most of its seafood. Tourists travel to the city and to the night market for cheap and fresh seafood and this soup is a popular example of that. 

2. Takoyaki (たこ焼き) / Octopus Balls (章魚燒) 

Takoyaki is a popular Japanese delicacy that originated in Osaka and made its way to Taiwan. You can find Takoyaki stalls all over the country and in any night market. Takoyaki is essentially a ball-shaped snack made of a wheat-flour based batter and a chunk of octopus tentacle in the middle. The balls are prepared on a special molded pan and when they're ready they are placed in a paper tray and the chef applies a special Takoyaki ponzu sauce and another sauce of your choice (I always choose wasabi) and then topped with bonito flakes. These are one of my favourite snacks here in Taiwan and they are always really cheap. In this night market you can be sure that the seafood is fresh meaning that you are likely to have one of the better Takoyaki experiences of your life in Keelung!

3. Giant Shrimp (大蝦) 

Shrimp is a popular dish at this night market and this stall sells a variety of large fresh shrimp to customers all prepared in different flavours. It is common in other markets around the country to find vendors selling Thai shrimp in a variety of flavours but not in the Keelung night market - these are all fresh shrimp taken from the ocean near Taiwan. Stalls like this can be expensive depending on the size of the shrimp and the price depends on the market value of the day. I'm a big fan of Pepper shrimp (胡椒蝦) and Spicy Sichuan (麻辣蝦) flavours while friends of mine like the garlic and lemon flavours. If you're visiting the Miaokou night market you may want to splurge a little to get some of the seafood that the market is famous for and this is probably a pretty good choice!

4. Fried Shrimp and Bite Sized Crabs (蝦猴 / 一口蟹)

Taiwanese people love deep-fried foods, they're also big fans of fresh seafood and anything bite-sized (一口吃). What better combination could there be than bite-sized crabs deep fried with Japanese tempura? This is a popular stall within the night market as the prices are set and the boss just fries up a bag of deep-fried shellfish goodness for customers. The shells of the crabs and shrimp at this stall are edible and you don't have to worry about making a mess with your hands! There are different size portions available and the boss will also sprinkle some chilli sauce or or the absolutely delicious Taiwanese style mixed salt/pepper concoction (胡椒鹽) to make it even more delicious!

5. BBQ Seafood (海鮮烤肉)

This particular vendor is a fun one to visit as its not your typical night market stall. It's more of a restaurant that has tables and seating along the side of the road. You just order the seafood you want and the chef will grill it up for you and serve it to your table. Vendors like this typically also have draft beer on tap and you can leisurely sit down with friends and have a big feed of fresh seafood while thousands of people walk past you. Stalls like this remind me of the Temple Street Night Market in Hong Kong where you take a seat along the road and order some really amazing HK-style crab dishes. Here in Taiwan though vendors like this specialize in Japanese-style grilling and the flavours of the seafood are more important than what was used to season it. Stalls like this can be a bit pricey but they are fun and the food is always really good!

People of the Night 16 (興仁花園夜市)

The Hsing-Ren Garden Night Market (興仁花園夜市) is a newly-opened night market located in Bade City (八德) in Taoyuan County. The night market is over 6000 square meters making it possibly the largest in northern Taiwan. While shooting this night market, I have to say that it has quickly become one of my favourite night markets to visit out of all of them.

It has almost everything I could want! Not only does this night market have all the typical night market fare you would expect, but it also has vendors selling fresh oysters and fresh Thai shrimp. There's San Francisco style pizza by the slice, American grilled steaks, Hong Kong Dim Sum, Ramen, Mongolian BBQ and Taiwanese Indigenous BBQ. There are places to sit down to drink some fresh draft beer with friends and places to buy cocktails mixed with fresh juice! What else could you want in a night market? You can eat, drink, and have fun all night long. 

The Hsing-Ren Night Market is a "garden" or "flower" (花園) night market which is the "new" thing here in Taiwan popularized by the Tainan Garden Night Market (台南花園夜市) and the Fu Da Garden Night Market (輔大花園夜市) in New Taipei City. 

These kind of night markets are quite popular among younger crowds and a lot of the food that has swept the nation over the past few years have been products of these style night markets as they attract younger people who are more willing to try new and more exotic foods.   

I will make four posts in this series with over thirty shots and I hope that you will like what I have for you! 

1. Grilled Oysters (烤生蠔) 

In my first post in the series I posted a shot of Oyster stand with the boss in the distance. In this shot we have a father and son manning a grill with fresh oysters being prepared for customers.

I'm not sure why oysters are such a big thing at Hsing-Ren night market, but my guess is partly because of the clever way the night market is set up with some vendors offering seating to its customers.

I've been to the night market several times while shooting this series and thus far the only seafood I've had is the fresh Thai shrimp, so I can't attest to how these oysters taste, but it seems like this stall is quite popular, so I imagine they're really good.  

2. Hong Kong Shao Mai (港式燒賣) 

The Hsing-Ren night market has five stalls selling Hong Kong style food. Food from Hong Kong is somewhat of a rarity in Taiwan's night markets, but Hsing-Ren has this vendor selling Shao-Mai (燒賣), another place selling Dim Sum, some curry fish balls (a popular HK street food) and a couple of places selling Hong Kong-style teas (凍頂檸檬) 

I haven't tried this particular stall, but I did have some Rice Noodle Rolls (腸粉), some dumplings and some Char Siu Buns (叉燒包) at another vendor close to this one which were all quite good, especially considering you are in a night market and not an expensive hotel.

Quality Cantonese food is a bit of a rarity in Taiwan, especially when it comes to traditional-style Dim Sum and it seems more often than not that the best Dim Sum I've had in my life was back home in Canada or of course on my many visits to Hong Kong. 

3. Seafood Hot Pot (台灣鯛魚砂鍋)

 Another night market rarity and probably a Hsing-Ren only vendor is this extremely busy Seafood Hot Pot vendor. For me, a trip to the night market usually includes a five-course meal with appetizers and dessert that altogether costs about 200NT (About 6 dollars) 

I probably wouldn't even consider going to a night market for just one dish and then leaving - but then again Hsing Ren isn't your typical place. People have been lining up to get a seat at this stall for a while and if you do get a seat, you're sure to be stuffed by the time you leave. 

If you look at the pots in the bottom left of the shot they give you an example of what will be in your soup. You can also add various other seafood dishes if you are in a group making it a more expensive affair.

The name of this shop is 「鯛魚」(diao1 yu2) which is more or less a nicer way to refer to "Tilapia" a fish most Taiwanese consider to be a cheap low-quality fish. The pot is filled with the fish, a bunch of vegetables and their secret soup base and then cooked extremely quickly over a hot flame. 

It was difficult to get a shot of these guys because they're extremely busy. They move extremely fast and they're never in the same place for more than a few seconds. I stead of having a portrait o decided to go for the environment to show what was going on.  

4. Braised Food (超黑的滷味)

Your typical braised food (滷味) comes steaming hot for you making a meal of various kinds of meat and vegetables. This is different kind completely. The kind this boss sells are more like freshly made appetizers or 「小菜」that you have before a meal here.

The black looking food you see the boss preparing are dried tofu (豆乾) which is a speciality food here in Taoyuan. Beside the dried tofu is coagulated pigs blood with rice (米血) and is really not as disgusting as it sounds. The vendor serves other kinds of braised foods including edamame beans (毛豆) and pigs ear (豬耳) that go great with beer at a restaurant!

After taking this shot the boss noticed me and asked me if I wanted to sample the tofu. I'm a big fan of the dried tofu that you can buy here in Taoyuan, so of course I obliged. It was really tasty and almost resembled black liquorice.

If I'm ever planning to have friends over for some drinks, I'll be sure to head over to this place to pick up some of his food for the party!   

5. Turkish Ice Cream (土耳其冰淇淋) 

Turkish Ice Cream is a pain in the ass. Whenever you try to order one they play a bunch of tricks and make a fool of you in front everyone. As a foreigner, I stand to stand out in crowds and would much rather blend in than become a public spectacle. With these guys it is always in good fun though. Their ice cream is homemade and is much different than what Taiwanese people are used to as it can be chewier.

It seems like these stalls are always popular wherever you go throughout the country. People like to interact with foreigners and they like the way the foreigner jokes around with them.

When I took this shot the Turkish man was playing some tricks on the girl with a really straight face while her friends were behind him watching and laughing. I wanted a portrait of the vendor, but I thought the addition of her friends in a wider environment would add more context. 

6. Grilled Shellfish (烤生蠔/干貝) 

This stall is yet another busy vendor selling grilled seafood - she is selling grilled oysters, scallops, clams and snails. Grilled seafood is a big thing at this night market although I think that this stall probably has the largest variety of shellfish of all of them.  

I come from Nova Scotia, a small province on the east coast of Canada that is well-known for its scallops and my mother is a master of cooking them - So its hard for me to want to buy scallops still on the shell with cheap cheese on top. That is my personal opinion however as there was a long line at this stall each time I visited.

If I had to choose, I'd probably go with the grilled snails over the rest of what is being grilled here. I'm a big fan of the mixed pepper and salt that is sold here and when its grilled on top of the snails it gives terrific flavour. 

When I took the shot the boss was busy at work. It wasn't easy to get a shot of her taking a break or getting her to notice me and look in the camera. Her business is booming and she doesn't have much time to take a break. 

7. Korean Pan fried Kebabs (韓醬鐵板串燒) 

This vendor sells chicken kebabs basted in a Korean chili sauce and then cooked on a Teppanyaki grill. These chicken kebabs are similar to the kind I wrote about in my first post in this series. The difference with these kebabs is that they have the Korean sauces, which is extremely tasty and appeal to all the young people who are in love with Korean culture. 

When I took the shot I tried to get the boss hard at work, but his wife noticed and made an interesting gesture. Street photography is all about candid gestures and it is common to see people like a deer in the headlights. That is part of what makes it interesting to me. 

I haven't tried these chicken kebabs yet, but I plan on heading back to the night market and trying them for sure. 

8. Taiwanese Sausages (台灣香腸) 

Taiwanese sausages are a mainstay of Taiwan's street foods. It seems like no matter where you go, there is someone selling some sausages and there is always a line of people waiting to buy them. 

I guess you could say that the Taiwanese love of their sausages is quite similar to the way Americans think of hot dogs. If you ask me though a hot dog has nothing on a Taiwanese sausage - They are served hot, juicy and are full of flavour when you eat them. They're served on a stick and you always have the option of taking a few cloves of garlic to eat them with. 

They're cheap and because of the high demand they are always made fresh. If you end up at a night market and you really have no idea what to get to eat, a sausage might be your best choice! 

This post concludes my Hsing-Ren Night Market series - I had a lot of fun shooting this night market and ate some great food each time I visited!

This night market isn't your typical night market and while it has all the foods you have come to expect at night markets around the country, it also goes above and beyond introducing new foods to the Taiwanese public! 

One could hope that grilled steak, pizza by the slice, döner kebap and fresh Thai shrimp become regular night market fare around the country! 

Below you will find a gallery of all the shots from this series as well as some shots that didn't make the cut. 

I'll going to take a few weeks off to post a few non-night market posts and then start posting from Taiwan's most famous and iconic night market - Keelung's Miaokou Night Market (基隆廟口夜市)