Raohe Street Night Market 饒河街觀光夜市 is one of the oldest and most famous tourist night markets in Taipei. I think only the one in Shilin and on Huaxi Street can match up when it comes to history and fame. It's located in the northeastern part of Taipei called Songshan. The famous main entrance resembling a Chinese paifang is just next to the magnificent Ci You temple (慈佑宮), probably one of the most beautiful temples in Taipei. The food, the history and the temple are three reasons, why every visitor to Taipei should pay this night market a visit.
MY IMPRESSION: The night market is clean and well maintained and has a security guard at the two main entrances. The narrow and winding street is about 600m long and fairly small compared to other famous night markets. The food stalls are mostly lined up in the center and people walk up and down in two lanes. There are a lot of shops that sell all kinds of goods, from shoes to clothes to souvenirs: You can get lots of stuff for a great bargain here. The food is not bad, but not my personal favorite, that's why I would continuously return to this place. I think the flavors would be more appreciated by Asian taste buds, visitors from South East Asia might like the food a lot here. Another problem is the accessibility. It is a little more complicated to buy a ticket for the normal train than for the subway, but if you're an experienced traveler, it shouldn't be that hard.
WHAT KIND OF FOOD IS COMMON: When it comes to food, there's one very particular dish found here: Pork rib soup 藥燉排骨 (yàodùn páigǔ). There are several stalls inside the market as well as in the area nearby. It's a soup made of pork ribs with barely meat on them. I have to say for a European, this dish is a bit unusual, because you get a lot of bones in a cup and you have to skillfully pick the bones to get some taste of the meat. I told my girlfriend, that the dish would be more appealing to Westerners, if there was more meet on those ribs. But for the local Taiwanese, this dish is very delicious, a real specialty (read more about it at the bottom of this post). Another famous dish is found right at the entrance of the night market: It's called pepper meat bun 胡椒餅 (hújiāobǐng). Apart from these unique dishes, there's the usual variety of typical night market food, such as fried and roasted sausages, all kinds of fried meat (usually chicken, pork and squid), fried tofu, fried sandwich, salty chicken with vegetables and fruits. Interestingly, I haven't seen many oyster omelettes, but I have to add, that when we visited, it was a rainy Friday and a lot of stalls haven't opened, the night market was half empty.
MUST-TRY FOOD AT RAOHE STREET NIGHT MARKET: I think, if you're very interested in the local food culture, you should try the pork rib soup. I think, if you're Asian from countries such as Singapore and Malaysia, you will like this soup. As a European, you may find it at tad unusual to pick on bones. I have to say, the soup tastes quite nice, though. I also think you should try the pepper meat bun at the entrance of the night market, because it's a very popular and traditional stall. A small shop sells a tasty Taiwanese dish called oyster thin noodles. You may hardly find a foreigner in that shop, but I think the food is top and very affordable, I highly recommend it to you.
Let me show you some of my photos and videos of Raohe Street Night Market (Feb 2011):
This is my video of the entrance to Raohe Street, shot on a rainy Friday eve.
POPULAR SNACK: PEPPER MEAT BUN 胡椒餅
I have to say the bun was so hot, you need like 15min to be able to eat it. So you better get some and then walk around and eat later. The bread is almost like the one in Europe, the meat is savory and juicy, I like it. But all in all, it's not a dish to die for. The bun cost 45NTD (about 1 eur).
POPULAR SNACK: RICE NOODLES WITH PORK INTESTINES AND OYSTERS
This dish is called oyster thin noodles 蚵仔麵線 (kèzǎi miànxiàn) is similar to Ah Zong's rice noodles in Ximending. My girlfriend says they changed the recipe, the noodles are not as good as they used to be. I personally liked the dish and I would recommend it to you. We paid 100NTD for both soups (2.5 euros).
POPULAR SNACK: PORK RIB SOUP 藥燉排骨
Right before we entered the Raohe Street Night Market, we went to a shop nearby (to avoid crowds) and tried the famous pork rib soup. It's an interesting dish, called 藥燉排骨 in Chinese. The first two characters would be translated as "medicine stew", which indicates the belief, that the herbs mixed in the soup are very good for health.
The soup cost 60 NTD (around 1.5 eur). It was a bit tedious to pick the bones for me. Taiwanese love this dish, but for Western taste buds, it may not be something for everyone.
HOW TO FIND RAOHE STREET NIGHT MARKET? SEE MY MAP:
Finding the market is very easy. Take the normal train to Songshan Station and you are almost there. Just cross a street and head to the temple, you will spot it immediately (Map by Google, click on it for a Google Map).
IN CONCLUSION: This popular tourist night market has a lot of history and is very well maintained. Food wise, it may not be so special like some other less known night markets all around New and Old Taipei. But if your expectations are reasonable, I believe that you can still have a great experience visiting Raohe Street during your Taipei trip. And don't forget visiting the temple, you would miss a lot.