Shida Night Market 師大路夜市 (actually Shida Road Night Market) is a popular night market in the southern part of Taipei proper, located between two biggest universities in Taiwan, namely Shida 師大 (short for National Taiwan Normal University) and Taida 台大 (short for National Taiwan University). Because of the proximity to these famous universities, this night market is full of young people, among which are many foreigners, who come to Taiwan to learn Mandarin at the NTNU. Shida is together with Shilin Night Market one of the most crowded night markets in Taipei, especially on weekends.
MY IMPRESSION: The Shida night market experience is overwhelming! I strongly advice you to pay a visit, when you're already an experienced night market visitor. What I want to say is: You need to be totally fine with huge crowds. There will be people pushing from left to right, from back to front and you can't do anything. You can only walk at minimum speed and hope for the best (check my video below). Aside from the crowds on weekends, this night market is not really what I understand under that name. It doesn't have a main entrance with a big gate and a name on it, hence it's not considered a traditional night market. Most parts are occupied by shops selling all kinds of stuff, but mostly clothes and accessories. Only a small part looks like a typical Taiwanese night market and that area is so crowded, that it's very hard to find a place to eat. If you order a snack from a stall, you have to eat while walking, because people move and push you forward, but that's not really comfortable. I have to say: I would not return to Shida Night Market to eat food from the hawkers. If you want to visit this night market, it's best you focus on the wider area and check the numerous restaurants there. Don't go into the crowded area, you'll only lose your mind and waste time. But if you must, well... your choice. You've been warned, though. Other than that, I have to add that the whole area is very clean and fragrant, something which is not very common at traditional night markets.
WHAT KIND OF FOOD IS COMMON: This night market is really loaded with food, but less so with hawkers. Sure, you have some stalls selling the regular night market food such as takoyaki, chicken cutlet, buns, crepes and all kinds of noodles. But those are only few. Shida is more like a modern evolved version of a night market. It reminds me of Ximending, only the lanes are narrower and more crowded. The best food is found in the various restaurants in the area, of which are many preparing delicious foreign food. From American to Italian restaurants, from Indian, Japanese, Korean to Tibetan and Malaysian food, you can find cuisine from almost any country in the world. There's a restaurant selling egg tarts from Macau, the owner is real Macanese. You can also find a restaurant with only vegetarian food and judging by the big number of visitors, it must be pretty good. As for the most crowded area, almost every stall is famous and popular. I remember there are huge queues for a Taiwanese crepe. It's just hard to mention everything here, best is you explore it for yourself. I'm sure you'll find lots of good stuff.
MUST-TRY FOOD AT SHIDA NIGHT MARKET: I would recommend you the crepe, but the stall is massively besieged. I guess you need to come early and during the week, not weekend, if you don't want to stand in the middle of huge crowds. I heard a stall selling tteokbokki is very famous, you could try this popular Korean snack. And there are many Indian restaurants in the area, my girlfriend told me they're pretty good. When we tried to go to one, it was full. So we decided to go and look for something else. We visited a restaurant with Tibetan food and I have to say I highly recommend it to you. Read more below.
Here are some photos of the Shida Road Night Market (Feb 2011):
Can you take it? I can, but it's not something I would like to experience every weekend.
SAMDON TIBETAN RESTAURANT, SHIDA:
As we crossed the Shida road, we saw a small park. Opposite of there you can find small lanes with restaurants. One of them is full of various foreign restaurants, I saw Indian, Korean, Japanese and Tibetan. We planned to try some Indian food, but I felt why not try something new? And so we ended up in the Samdon Tibetan Restaurant. And we were pleasantly surprised.
Not sure, if Tibetan flags are allowed in China, but in Taiwan this is no issue. I think for the average Taiwanese person Tibet is like a foreign country they have heard of, but know very little about. I have to say the same applies to an average Slovenian like me. I knew Tibet from history class, but when it comes to the Tibetan cuisine, I had no idea how it looked like. "How bad could it be?", I thought, before I entered the restaurant. Luckily, we chose the right food and had a very good experience.
I had Tibetan milk tea, which was very good, but the taste was totally unique. It tasted like tea, but looked like milk. My girlfriend had a yogurt. And she ordered Tibetan fried noodles. It was very tasty.
I ordered Tibetan steamed dumplings. The sauce was spicy, but very tasty. I liked the dish very much, but that's because I'm a big fan of dumplings. We paid something over 400NTD (10 eur). I highly recommend this place, but I can't guarantee that other food is as yummy as these two dishes.
HOW TO FIND SHIDA NIGHT MARKET? SEE MY MAP:
IN CONCLUSION: This night market is vibrant and crowded, full of young fashionable people, most are students. You'll also see a lot of foreigners here, mostly sitting in various restaurants and wacky bars observing the hustle and bustle of the market. Don't go here, if you hate the crowds or if you want to get a lot of food for small money. The prices here are higher, because there are not so many hawkers. If you take all these things into account, you can have a lot of fun here. Best is you come with a group of friends and visit some of the interesting restaurants in the area. I'm sure you'll have a good meal and a pleasant experience.