Sunday, August 22, 2010

Luodong Night Market 羅東夜市

There isn't much to do in Yilan in the evenings - it certainly can't rival Taipei for nightlife. However, one of the biggest and most famous night markets in Taiwan is in Luodong. While the rest of Yilan county closes down after dark, this place starts to come to life. The Luodong night market is always very crowded, and there's a big selection of food as well as the usual night market stuff to buy.

It is easy to reach the market. It is right in the center of town on the streets surrounding Zhongshan park 中央公園). After sunset there can be a traffic jam of cars inching toward the parking areas around the market. There is a lot of parking above B&Q, as well as some private lots in the area.

To visit the entire market you just walk down all the streets facing the park. Since Taiwanese expect night markets be crowded, some of these little streets have been designed to maximize congestion. The crowd can be dense and sometimes it's impossible to move. If this is too much to take, you can step into the park to recuperate for a few minutes.

Of all the night markets I've visited, this one has the longest lines. Even on weeknights, there are long lines at many of the stalls. I don't have to tell you which foods are famous - just see which stands have the longest lines. Those are the famous ones. Local specialties include anything made with scallion, especially different varieties of scallion pancakes (congyoubing 蔥油餅) - thick, thin, stuffed, and fried. They even sell scallion ice cream. There is also an odd local specialty called gaozha 糕渣 - it's made from potato starch, broth, and minced meat, which is mixed together into a dough, cut into pieces, and deep fried. Another local specialty is burou 卜肉 - pieces of deep fried pork. Although Taiwanese usually don't care for mutton, the lamb here is particularly famous. Several stands cook it in different ways - stir fried and in soup. People are willing to stand in shockingly long lines to get a bowl of mutton soup.

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