If you’re after a one-stop hub to find vegetables, fresh and dried meats, seafood, cooked meals, baked goods, dried fruits and all assortment of Taiwanese condiments take Exit 2 from Chang Kai Shek MRT and take the arduous ten second walk to Nanmen Market (南門市場), one of the oldest traditional markets in the whole city.
It really couldn’t be easier than that- it is located right in front of you after you take the stairs out of the station and emerge to street level. The exit sign even says “Nanmen Market”, so if you’re as terrible with directions as me -fear not- I assure you it is as simple as it sounds. And I speak with a certain authority as a member of the exclusive “People Who Could Get Lost in an Empty Room” group 😉
As the exterior of the building is rather unassuming (especially if you don’t read Mandarin), you could be forgiven for passing it by countless times.
Step inside and you will see rows upon rows of stalls set up in a maze-like fashion. On the street level you will primarily find processed meats, packaged goods, dried fruits and even some freshly baked buns. The vendors are super friendly, and greeted me warmly as I passed, mouth agape.
Take the stairs down to the bottom floor to discover fresh leafy greens and local vegetables, glimmering seafood, and meat carcasses out on display.
One of the great things about Nanmen is that the stalls are run by locals who have been running their businesses for years. The market itself is over a century old (it was established in 1906!), so it’s really lovely that it is still thriving even now.
Whilst buying your produce from a supermarket like Wellcome is quick and convenient, buying at a local market not only lets you support the local economy, but also benefits you by giving you as you can buy some of the freshest produce at more affordable prices.
When I was there, I seemed to be the only foreigner (though, who knows, everyone thinks I am Taiwanese so I can’t say this with full confidence), so you don’t need to worry about wading through big touristy crowds. Sure, it is increasingly becoming more popular with overseas visitors, but as it’s still not a major tourist destination you at least don’t need to fear being taken for a ride with the pricing.
Whatsmore, it’s damn fun! Even if you don’t intent to buy anything, I think walking around the market is such a unique and interesting experience in itself. If you’re a bit over taking visitors to the National Palace Museum (what is it, your tenth time?), then why not take them around a market- it is basically a food museum. It totally counts.
It would be a massive oversight in this write up if I failed to mention the free samples. There aren’t too many- some dried meat and pickled goods. But you will get a goldmine of samples at the dried fruits place. I was simply looking at the wares, and the lady working there kept dishing them out to me, to the point I had to stop her. I especially loved the dried mangoes, sweet dried roselle flower and dried strawberries. Don’t tell me I am the only one with an unhealthy love of “taste testing”?
What a sight! These gigantic buns are called 壽包 (ShouTao- Longevity Bun) and are usually eaten at birthday banquets for the elderly. These bean paste are a representation of Peaches of Immortality, which according to Chinese folk legends, ripen every thousands of years. When consumed, 壽包 is believed to grant immortality to humans. Sign me up!
If you head upstairs, there is a food court with a bunch of eateries serving affordable, Taiwanese cuisine.
My only complaint of the markets is that I could only find one fruit shop and it was very expensive. The fruits sure do look enticing, perfectly displayed and without but the slightest bruise, but the prices were a bit out of my budget unfortunately. This fruit shop can be found as soon as you enter the market from the left-hand side door.
I swear, when I hit the jackpot in Taiwan’s Receipt Lottery, the very first thing I will do will be to buy any fruit which took my fancy, without a care of the price. Oh, a NT$150 apple- what an absolute bargain darling! Throw in a couple of those NT$500 mangoes while you’re at it.
But for now, I will just bide my time at the Nanmen Markets, and another fantastic market I’m looking forward to sharing in a future post!
Nanmen Market (南門市場)
Where: No. 8, Section 1, Roosevelt Rd, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City
When: Tues-Sun 7:00-21:00
How to get there: Take MRT to Chang Kai Shek Station (Red Line). Exit 2 and you’ll see directly on your right hand side.
Website (Mandarin only): http://www.nanmenmarket.org.tw/