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Come nightfall, certain sections of Taiwan become flooded with the bustle of foot traffic as people drift down long avenues of food stalls and trinket vendors. These were once called ghost markets, according to Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but they are, in fact, bright, energetic locales that exist entirely for the realm of the living. Travelers who want to get their fingers on the pulse of the island need only head to one of the many popular Taiwan markets frequented by locals and tourists alike.
Taking a pick
It isn't difficult to find these market, but it may be interesting to note that they have evolved due to time and region. The oldest type of night market is the one that travels, having moved from town to town offering wares to new buyers. With industrialization, however, many of these vendors settled down in one place. At first a nuisance, these vendors were then given their own space and licensing in towns, creating permanent markets, as seen in the big cities. In rural parts of the province, however, they are a periodic event, much like farmers markets.
While the night markets sell wares as well as food, it is the latter that is the main draw for hungry night owls. As CNN Travel noted, pedestrians will find sustenance in the form of snacks, not unlike tapas vendors in Spain. Oyster omelets, stinky tofu and bubble tea are all popular dining choices, but by no means the only ones. Taiwan's government site gives an overview of just some of the meals worth salivating over.
Braised pork, shrimp rolls, meatballs made of pork, mushrooms and bamboo shoots, dumplings and spring rolls are all safe bets for Western tongues. Pig blood cake is one of two types of blood rice cake in Taiwan, the other being duck blood cake. In keeping with the ghostly theme, one Taiwanese innovation is coffin bread, a piece of thick bread shaped like a coffin with the top sliced off to create a lid. The inside is filled with potatoes, carrots, shrimp, pork and other ingredients to make a chowder.
Where to go
Markets are usually found near temples, cultural centers, universities and business districts, where people tend to gather. They can also be found at municipal government construction projects. Markets also have a tendency to reflect their surroundings, so that city center markets will be more cosmopolitan, while rural ones will feature regional foods. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs provides a partial listing of some of the top markets around the island.
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