Residents of Keelung have foregone countless late-night cravings, thanks to the non-stop operation of Keelung’s Kitchen: Miaokou Night Market. Having shortly been established around the newly built Dianji Palace in 1873 , Miaokou Night Market would continue to feed the appetites and culinary curiosity of all those who visited.
If there were one thing that Miaokou Night Market couldn’t offer visitors, it would be a boring culinary experience. Though such excitement comes at a cost. The sheer diversity and volume of foods found at the night market is certainly overwhelming, and for the unprepared, settling on a place to eat amidst the battlegrounds of clashing aromas is nothing but peaceful.
Fret not, soldier, since me and my comrades have taken to the fields of Miaokou and, with careful preparations, have delved into some of the most devious dishes the market has to offer! Our mission? Enter into the world of the weird and wonderful , giving our opinions on what strange culinary concoctions work (and the ones that we’d rather avoid). But before the mission, a good soldier observes the atmosphere; and with Miaokou Night Market, the atmosphere is electric.
Entering Miaokou Night Market
As the sun sets and the neon lights flicker to life, the streets of Miaokou Night Market swell with the scents of sweet, salt, and savory. Masses of hungry eyes, not distinguishing between locals and visitors, swarm the sanctuary of Keelung, filling up the seats of stalls and whisking life into the night market.
On first impression, the walls of stalls, tinted with the yellow light of the hanging lanterns, immediately distinguish Miaokou Night Market from the rest of the competition. For aesthetics alone, Miaokou is special. Regardless of food, the atmosphere is inviting, and, as you traverse the maze of its streets, the child in you can’t help but get excited. Each stall caries its own personality, and with each personality comes a unique character and cuisine. Couples on a romantic date; working men having their breakfast ; the diverse communal experience of Miaokou Night Market really sells this as the endearing mother of the Keelung people; and you know what they say, Mama’s food is always best 🙂
Each stall caries a number, with its specialty dish written in both Chinese, English, and Japanese. This makes the experience both easy and accessible, putting a bit of order into the chaotic sphere of Miaokou. Communication is smooth, with the added caveat that the people of Keelung are super friendly and often eager to speak with you (I’ve certainly had my fair share of Google Translate conversations).
Thus, with the atmosphere established, we move from the question of: “Should I eat at Miaokou?”, to that of: ” What should I eat at Miaokou?”
The Miaokou food review
I will remind you, this is a review on all the ‘weird foods’ that we’ve come across at Miaokou Night Market, condensed into a list of 5 items. Keep in mind that this is all from a foreigner’s perspective, and is therefore a super subjective (and silly) review. But, to keep some consistency, we have devised a 5-star rating system, measuring 3 components of the food: weirdness, taste, and overall score. Our definition of weirdness is both the strangeness of taste as well as appearance. We’ve even added an additional food, that we’ve been told fascinates the local people with its eccentricity (stick around to the end!).
Without further ado, in no particular order, here are our top 5 strange foods :
1. Fried Crab:
Appearance : Fried Crab is visually peculiar, and this trait actually inspired this blog. The mountain of golden-coated, crisp, bite-sized crabs, guide your intuition to guess the sorts of flavors that are to come: fishy? fleshy? crunchy, or crispy? That was to be discovered.
Impressions : The meat of the crab had a slightly salty, slightly buttery flavor, which contrasted with the shelled legs, which added a subtle crunch. Overall, I got the impression that this was a higher form of potato-chip, sharing similar flavors, but also bringing a meaty texture and volume that elevated the dish. A perfect bite-sized snack!
Rating : Weirdness: ⭐⭐⭐ | Taste: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ | Overall: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Side-note: We have also tried the larger crab variant of this dish, which was unfortunately not as good. The larger crab variant had a stronger taste of crab, which can be a plus for some, but also had a higher volume of shell that overpowered the experience. Given that the small fried crab makes for a perfect bite-sized snack, its older brother falls short. (taste: -⭐⭐)
2. Pig’s Blood Cake:
Appearance : Pig’s Blood Cake looks rather contrary to its name; a black-ish square block with a grainy surface doesn’t really remind one of pig’s blood. Rather inconspicuous, this strange dish could easily sneak past your radar.
Impressions : Surprisingly mild in taste, combined with a satisfyingly chewy texture. Compared with other rice-based cakes, pig’s blood cake does carry a hint of iron-like flavor, though this is very mild. Ultimately, the texture and chewing experience make this a good dish to try. Though it’s flavor is lacking, which holds it back, it could be solved with some added spices!
Rating: Weirdness: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ | Taste: ⭐⭐⭐ | Overall: ⭐⭐⭐
3. Chicken ‘butt’
Appearance : Wait, this is chicken butt? I’m not sure what I was expecting, but you could easily pick up a couple of these without ever realizing what exactly it was. Spherical in shape, with that sweet, glossy surface that entices any meat-lover with the slightest appetite. Certainly, chicken butt’s bark is worse than its bite.
Impressions : Certainly a fattier snack than other chicken parts, this dish is notably void of any protein. Chicken butt holds a fatty flavor with a gelatinous texture, combined with a slight crunch of what seems to be the tail-bone. The lack of resistance in the bite can be off-putting for some, but overall, this dish is non-controversial and scores quite underwhelmingly here.
Rating: Weirdness: ⭐⭐⭐ | Taste: ⭐⭐ | Overall: ⭐⭐
Appearance : Chicken feet look just as you would expect. It’s bony appearance leaves little up to the imagination. With skin tightly gripping bone, each joint and feature is emboldened, making this one a bold dish to tackle. Despite the questionable appearance, the color and searing of the skin had added some optimism to this endeavor.
Impressions : Chicken feet taste just as you would expect. It’s bony structure leaves little meat to the dish, meaning you’re primarily chewing through slithers of skin, fat, and thin bone. I could imagine that if the chicken feet were warm/hot , then this could make an interesting snack. We had it cold, making the fat and skin more tight and cohesive, and less satisfying. Additionally, it’s anatomically awkward to eat; some parts are accessible, while others aren’t. This culminates in a little game of rotating the foot around, probing for the edible parts while leaving the majority untouched. This also featured the nails of the chicken, which visually looked bad, but actually added more of a chew (rather than crunch) to the texture and wasn’t so bad at all.
Rating : Weirdness: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ | Taste: ⭐ | Overall: ⭐⭐⭐
Additional Notes : I would try this again if it were warmer, as I’d imagine the fat and skin would be more palatable. It is also definitely worth a try, simply because it’s a chicken foot, and for foreigners, it doesn’t really get weirder than that!
5. Steamed Sandwich (Guabao)
Appearance : The steamed sandwich looks simply delicious. It’s folded bao-bun exterior obscures the contents hidden within, adding to the anticipation of the first bite. The bun looks fluffy and soft, and between the fold, peanut paste leaks out. What else sits inside the sandwich, stays a mystery, but the bulky bao suggests it’s something hearty and delightful. Not so weird, but certainly unique!
Impressions : The Steamed Sandwich is built in layers, going from a peanut-rich exterior to a meaty middle to a slightly tangy, cabbage-filled end. Notably, how these layers merge is genius! The transition of peanut and pork to pork and cabbage , all within the constant context of a soft and satisfying bao bun, sets this dish apart from your usual sandwich. Got bored of one flavor? of one texture? Well, let’s change that. It stays both delicious and entertaining to eat, making the Unforgettable experience! Would definitely eat again!
Rating : Weirdness: ⭐⭐ (1/2) | Taste: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ | Overall: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
The local favorite:
Appearance : A deep-fried hot-dog bun; a modest filling: tomato, lettuce, egg, cucumber, and ham. This mix of healthy vegetable and protein, with a not-so-healthy base, is certainly enough to leave you conflicted . The crispy brown body reminisces of donuts, while the filling brings you back to school pack-lunches. Not to say this combo is deterring, but rather compelling! The clash of such familiar yet polar ideas draws you to this uncanny market item, leaving you with just one question: Does it work?
Impressions : Breaking through the crisp shell, into the warm, melty meat of the bread, and then landing upon the crunchy, creamy core of the sandwich, was about as adventurous as its appearance had suggested. You thought that sentence was a mouthful? Well , so was the first bite! The mayonnaise perfectly adapts to the heaviness of the sandwich, providing a much-needed light and fluffy taste, to contrast the intense flavors. The tomato bringing tang; the ham bringing saltiness; and the cucumber bringing some bite of freshness. Each ingredient adds something, and finds its place in the whirlwind of flavor.
Could I summarize it faster? 600 calories well spent.
Rating : Weirdness: ⭐⭐⭐ | Taste: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ | Overall: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Concluding then , Miaokou Night Market certainly has more than enough novelty to keep you coming back, night after night, with some great and iconic dishes that are both weird, and wonderful! If you can see past the intimidating or down-right strange appearance of some of these foods, you will be rewarded with some memorable and delectable delights 🙂
But for those looking to strike at the heart of what foods really embody the Keelung spirit, consider checking out our Miaokou Night Market Food Tour . Perfect for those passing by, looking to delve into both a delicious bite, and the even more delicious history : )