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Miaokou Night Market: Anthony Bourdain’s #1 night market in Taiwan

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In a country famous for its night markets, the port city of Keelung may be home to the best: Miaokou Night Market

Bourdain goes to Taiwan

Anthony Bourdain, the legendary food documentarian, only visited Taiwan once during his 20 year television run. It was to shoot a 2013 episode of The Layover, a short-lived series created by Bourdain on the Travel Channel. Naturally, as a seeker of cultural experiences and good food, Bourdain had to visit a night market. The night market is a core part of the Taiwanese experience: an enticing blend of street food, history, and entertainment. 

1024px President Barack Obama with Anthony Bourdain at Bun cha Huong Lien Restaurant in Hanoi Vietnam
President Barack Obama with Anthony Bourdain at Bún cha Huong Lien Restaurant in Hanoi, Vietnam (Records of the White House Photo Office 2016)

 

From Shilin to Raohe, Taipei is known for its vibrant and delicious night markets (aka 夜市). Yet, just 30 minutes away from Taipei City Hall lies Miaokou Night Market in the eastern port city of Keelung. It was at Miaokou that Bourdain made his first stop, proclaiming it to be “Taiwan’s best night market”. (The full video can be seen here)

Miaokou Night Market, Anthony Bourdain's favorite night market in Taiwan.
The famous entrance to the Miaokou Night Market.

Anthony Bourdain at Miaokou Night Market

Keelung’s Miaokou Night Market is famous among locals for its abundance of fresh seafood and emphasis on serving up quality Taiwanese dishes. In an area of 400 meters, around 200 hawker stalls set up shop, usually from about 12PM all the way until 2 or 3AM. The best time to go is of course, at night, usually anywhere from 5-10PM when vendors are operating at full swing. Visitors should be aware that not all stalls are open everyday, especially on weekdays (Friday nights and weekends are busiest).

The way the market is set up is unique: stalls are lined up with raised silver metal signs in Chinese, Japanese, and English, marking what each vendor underneath is selling and the stall number. For tourists, it’s easy to navigate, turning the focus on what it should be: eating good food.The sheer abundance of food led Bourdain to wistfully remark: “I need three days in this market just to do it justice.” 

Miaokou night market
An example of a numbered stall at Miaokou, complete with Japanese and English translation.

 

Bourdain tried several dishes at Miaokou, including Rice Pot Sticker Soup (Stall 25-1, no longer in business), Oyster Omelettes (Stall 36), Gua Bao (aka “Steamed Sandwich” at Stall 49), and fresh uni & crabs at 松山活海鮮 (Songshan Fresh Seafood Restaurant). 松山活海鮮 still advertises Bourdain’s visit in its sign, next to an array of seafood on display. 

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seafood restaurant at night market
松山活海鮮, the seafood restaurant that Bourdain ate at, still advertises his visit in the front of their stall at Miaokou Night market. The restaurant is famous for their fresh crabs, clams, and uni (sea urchin).

 

Best Food at Miaokou Night Market

Though each of these stalls offers delicious food, they number few among the dozens of other stalls as well, so don’t be afraid to try anything and everything (visit here for recommendations on cheap foods, and here for “weird” foods).

The market has undoubtedly changed in the decade since Bourdain’s visit. In recent years, Miaokou has suffered from economic woes, with many stalls closing down as they get priced out by landlords. Yet, the iconic night market remains a crucial cultural and community institution attracting guests from outside Keelung. 

Having visited similar night markets across Taiwan, here’s what I ate when I visited Miaokou. 

Gua Bao: Stall 49, 60NT

Gua Bao
Gua Bao at Stall 49, costing 60NT, is a delicious Taiwanese food consisting of pork belly, coriander, pickled mustard leaves and peanut powder wrapped in a fluffy white bun.

 

Nutritious Sandwich: Stall 58, 60NT

Nutritious Sandwich at Miaokou
Contrary to the name, a Nutritious Sandwich at Miaokou (Stall 58) consists of a deep-fried loaf of bread filled with sausage, century eggs, cucumber, tomatoes, and a creamy sauce.

 

One Bite Snacks (Sausage, Tempura, Takoyaki): next to stall 45, anywhere from 8-25NT

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One-bite sausage served on a stick with garlic, costing only 8 NT. The so-called “one bite” snack foods are clustered around Stalls 45 and 43-2.

 

Interested in a more guided experience with a guarantee of good food?


Keelung Food Culture

Follow Albert:
Albert Chang-Yoo is currently an undergraduate student studying International Relations and Communications. He has contributed to publications such as "The Trail", "Asian Avenue Magazine", and "Nichi Bei Weekly". Since January 2024, Chang-Yoo has been traveling throughout Southeast and East Asia, researching street food culture.

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