LuoDong night market, or “La-Dong” as a decrepit fluorescent sign proudly announces, is one of the largest night markets in Taiwan, attracting tourists from as far afield as mainland China and Singapore. You can tell that they are tourists because unlike the local Taiwanese they *gasp* drop litter and occasionally ask Charlie and I to pose for photographs with them!
The confusingly named “night market” is open during the day and most of the stalls show signs of closing at about 9, but it is really only by darkness that the crowds reach their fullest and the lights are at their most dazzling.
Although you can get most everything at a night market – the stalls go up on the same road as stores selling authentic designer jeans, iPhones and quirky ’boutique’ clothing – it is the food that is the most interesting element. As everyone keeps telling us, food is an integral aspect of Taiwanese culture. Food from your home region is an excellent gift and it is not uncommon for a Taiwanese family to photograph their meals before they eat them, then discuss them again moments after finishing. It seems like every street has it’s own famous speciality, one stall is famous for it’s BBQ chicken, another for it’s kumquat tea and yet another for it’s cong yong bin (a type of green onion ‘pancake’ that they fry with egg and lather with chili sauce). We were perplexed for some time by one particular cong yong bin stall that manages to perpetually attract a crowd despite looking exactly the same as five or six others than are customless… Only to be later informed that this stall is renowned for an unparalleled degree of crispyness in its pancakes.
There are enough different stalls selling weird, wonderful or downright questionable foodstuffs that you could eat there every night for a month and try something different each time, provided you were adventurous enough. My favouite snack so far has to be “tem pula” (which I’m spelling it phonectically as I don’t know the pinyin) a kind of rice cake that they skewer and barbeque with a slighly spicy sauce, along with mushrooms and peppers (or meats if you like). Tomorrow I’m hoping to try the peanut brittle grated onto ice cream, which they flavour with corriander and wrap in some kind of thin white roti pastry. I would’ve tried it sooner, but have only just realised that the grated substance is peanut and not pork!
I will try to some photographs of the more unusual foods and one that gives you a better idea of the sheer size of the crowds when it stops raining (can you spot me in the photograph above?) In the mean time, this one of a flaming poys performer just about to do his thing wil have to do: