City God Temple Night Market 城隍廟夜市 in Hsinchu is a popular night market (although it's also open during the day). It's located near the famous City God Temple (城隍廟, pronounced Chénghuáng miào) that dates back to 1748 and is today the most important City God temple in Taiwan. The night market itself is about a century old and is probably the heart of Hsinchu today. Let me share my impressions and images from the night market, taken during an afternoon, that we spent walking around Hsinchu.
MY IMPRESSION: My girlfriend decided to bring me there, because she wanted us to try some of the most popular foods in Hsinchu. We just came from the famous East Gate, an area that's really neat an clean. It was a big difference, when we arrived at the famous Chenghuang temple, because it was crowded, full of hawkers, signboards, ads and scooters. This was the real Taiwan or the Taiwan as we know it. The market is separated in two parts. One is close to the temple, it's covered and very crowded. And another part is outside all around the temple in the open. That part is less crowded, but that means it's less popular. The good food is inside and so we went in.
WHAT KIND OF FOOD IS COMMON: Some of the typical and popular dishes in Hsinchu can be found in this night market and we tried 3 of them. The most famous is called in Taiwanese bawan (肉圓, in Mandarin pronounced as roùyuán, literally meatball). The gelatinous dough made of rice flour is translucent and is usually filled with pork, mushrooms and bamboo shoots. A sweet and sour sauce completes the dish. I have to say I didn't like it as much as the famous ah gei I tried in Danshui. The concept of the two dishes is similar, but the taste is very different. I still remember the spicy ah gei, but I don't really see bawan as something I have to try again. Maybe that's because the one we tried wasn't the tastiest bawan (according to my girlfriend). I'm not sure, but I'll definitely try it again. Besides the bawan, the pork ball soup and the fried rice noodles are popular here as well, but more about it below.
MUST-TRY FOOD AT CITY GOD TEMPLE NIGHT MARKET: You definitely must try the bawan and the pork ball soup. But you need to be lucky to try good ones, because there are many stalls and the quality varies. At this point, I can't say which stall sells the best bawan, but go to the one, that's most crowded.
Check my photos of City God Temple Night Market (April 2010):
POPULAR SNACK: BAWAN 肉圓
POPULAR SNACK: FRIED RICE NOODLES 炒米粉
Taiwanese fried rice noodles or 炒米粉 (pronounced chǎo mĭfēn) are a simple traditional dish, topped with bean sprouts and very fulling. The taste however may be less savory than similar fried rice noodles in Southeast Asia.
POPULAR SNACK: PORK BALL SOUP 貢丸湯
City God Temple from afar. An amazing piece of architecture, over 250 years old.
Yummy pork meatballs served in a broth soup. This is right outside the famous City God Temple Night Market.
Pork ball soup or 貢丸湯 (gòngwán tāng, literally gift ball soup) is one of the famous dishes from Hsinchu. This simple soup is really delicious. Pork balls are a very common dish in Taiwanese, Chinese and Southeast Asian cuisine. This one was very tasty.
LEAVING THE MARKET: These three dishes were the only ones we tried, because we didn't plan to go on a foodventure, we just had to fill our stomachs. We went out of the covered market, had some tea and slowly left the area.
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IN CONCLUSION: I haven't tried many foods here, so I can't really say much on the food. The one I tried wasn't bad, but wasn't my favorite. The night market is really worth to see, not only because of the food, but also because of the magnificent temple. It's a market with tradition, that's felt on every corner. If you want to experience the real Taiwan (I know it sounds cheesy), then this one is definitely the right one for you.
HOW TO FIND THE NIGHT MARKET: The market is not very far from the main railway station. When you arrive in Hsinchu, you can walk there, it will probably take you 15-30min, depending how fast you walk. We walked very slowly and stopped at various spots and took many photos, so I can't really tell. Use the embedded map for a detailed location of the market.