Some of the best places to get dinner in Taiwan are at night markets. They’re crowded and busy and there aren’t many places to grab a seat, but there’s so many different foods to try. Ningxia is the one my friends suggested, mostly for their famous fried taro ball.
Last time I ate at a night market I was with friends, so I could easily share whatever I ordered and we could try more things. But because I was on my own I figured I shouldn’t go too crazy. First I got bubble tea.
I ordered the brown sugar black tea, but I did it wrong. Brown sugar tea is all the rage in Korea at the moment and it originated in Taiwan. Everywhere in South Korea has their own spin on it. Even convenience stores are now carrying it. However the whole point of it is to be sweet. It has brown sugar in it. I wasn’t thinking about that when I ordered it and the lady asked “How sweet do you want it?” and I said “Not sweet.” Which means I essentially just ordered plain milk tea. It also wasn’t the thing I was going to the market for, so if it was disappointing it’s okay. Lesson learned.
I figured I’d do a lap and see what all they had. But then I found the the taro.
With Ningxia if you see something you want to try first see if there’s a line and in what direction it goes. Because for both food items I got, the line for each went around and behind the booth so as not to block the small area of foot traffic on the street. For the taro ball it was easy to spot and I knew there’d be a line. Since it’s arguably the most famous item that’s sold there. They sell a minimum of two and they make two types of taro balls. But first I should probably explain what taro is. Taro (Colocasia esculenta) or Kalo is the name of the plant and the food. Usually the form I eat of it or the flavor is related to the yam like root. It has a sweet nutty flavor that I absolutely adore and sometimes it makes things a fun purple color. Aka how I end up with purple milk tea all the time. Aesthetically pleasing and delicious.
The line however for the taro balls was decently long for the market having just opened. As previous mentioned they sell a minimum of two and have two flavors. I got one of each. One regular and one with pickled egg. It was 55NT$ total (~$1.78 USD).
It was kinda fun to see their booth. They were making a lot.
Since they were fresh out of the fryer, after I paid I put them in my bag thinking I’d save them for dessert and find something for dinner. I ended up at a scallion pancake booth, and this is where my warning for looking for a line comes in handy. I saw a line, but it was small, so I got behind one of the ladies only to realize I was in the way and the line went behind the booth. Not as long as the fried taro line, but still long.
When I eventually made it to the front for my 50NT$ scallion pancake they asked me what I wanted on it. They had a couple different sauces and one was spicy. Since I can’t do spice, I went with the other which was a little sweet.
This was another oily fried food. It kinda made me feel like I was at a country fair back home. Only less deep fried Oreos and Twinkies. It was also piping hot. So I ate it carefully while walking down the rest of night market with plans to catch a bus around the corner. I do wish, I’d had a napkin or something because while delicious it was very greasy.
Scallion pancakes have a couple different options. Some of them are cooked on a grill and a little less crispy/deep fried and more flaky. The one I had was gigantic and they took their pancake with scallions or spring onions throughout and deep fried it and \covered it in a sweet sauce then put an omelet in the middle. Fillings can change depending on who makes it, sometimes it’s spicy, sometimes it’s eggy, sometimes there’s ham or cheese. I was pretty happy with mine but it was also a lot of food for me. A lot of deep fried oily food.
Before leaving the market I found a quiet-ish corner to stand on and finally ate my fried taro balls which were quite warm still. The plain one was quite good, lightly sweet, a bit dense but very nice. The pickled egg though was my favorite. There was a nice sweet and salty balance in it that I loved. I’m really glad I got one of each to try.
There are several night markets in Taiwan that sell different things. But for a quick dinner on my own Ningxia night market was perfect. Plus how could I not go and try fried taro balls?