Eating street food in Taipei
The truth is, writing this blog has become a chore! Yet I find myself back here time after time, still writing about food that occurred around four months ago. Homework has made me weary and now I just dream about the summer vacation that Steph and I had and about how much vacation rocks. As promised in the post about awesome mochi, here’s a mostly photo post about street night market eats in Taipei. As kids were saying a few years ago, this shiznit was the bomb dot com. Affordable street food is a way of life the way fast food is here in the United States. It’s better in places like Taipei or Hong Kong or Singapore because there’s more variety and quite often the food is pretty good regardless of which place you pick.
We went to Shilin Nightmarket because that’s where my moms brother said we should go. It’s the biggest, baddest street market and goddamn is it crowded. There’s all kinds of street food available, and many are in snack form. For example you could get some grilled squid. It comes on a stick and you can munch on it as you walk around the tightly packed night market.
Of course since it’s a crowded place, you can be sure to find all types of vendors satisfying all types of tastes and preferences. You can get all sorts of things in a ball shape that comes on a stick. There are various braised things you can find as well. Mostly everything is cheap and if you don’t have a guide, it’s kind of hard to tell what is what, or even how to navigate the market in any sensible way. It’s just madness.
First stop was stinky tofu. I guess when you leave the mothership at an young age and never to return, you don’t have a ton of chances to try as many things. For example, I never had stinky tofu in a stew/hot pot before. One could argue cooking up stinky tofu this way makes it smell even more, but actually I find it pretty pleasing because instead of just eating a plate of fried stinky tofu, you have other things to eat. Less texture since most things in a stew are soft, but also less palate fatigue, which is a big plus. This was a filling way to get our night started, although I’m sure this is even more satisfying in the winter than in mid-July.
After walking around some, my uncle got us pigs blood cake on a stick. It’s glutinous rice with pigs blood that’s steamed, and then cut up into rectangles and put on a stick. They dredge it with peanut powder and add some cilantro on it. It’s not for people who don’t like pigs blood, sticky rice, or cilantro. Definitely stay away if you have a peanut allergy. For normal people like me though, this shit was AWESOME. I ate this stuff as a kid and definitely love it. I’m not sure if it’s a homerun for those who didn’t grow up on it. But if you didn’t grow up on it, there are government programs that can help you (provided tea bagging House Republicans open up the government).
And after the pigs blood cake we went for some shaved ice. I took a picture of the place, although if you ask me to find it again in Shilin night market, I would tell you to get lost because I have no idea where the hell it is. But when we arrived, there was a line out the door. In a market where it’s super packed, it’s always a good sign when there’s a line for something…
A short wait later, we were inside the place and it was packed (duh). Most of the tables are for sharing and we sat next to some teenage/college kids who were busy with their phones. As much as Shilin night market can be a tourist trap, I didn’t see too any non-Chinese folks in the shaved ice place. Hurray for good signs!
My uncle wasn’t too hungry so Steph and I shared two shaved ices. The first was a green tea shaved ice with red bean topping and condensed milk. There are all sorts of shaved ice out there, but the ones where they make the ice with milk (condensed perhaps?) are the best. The texture on these things are velvety soft, and quite different than the regular shaved ice where the ice is just pure water.
We also got a mango shaved ice. This was also spectacular. Light, fluffy, and delicious. This thing was so easy to eat that I could have probably eaten another one all by myself. There are plenty of other shaved ice places in Taipei that probably give a better mango treatment, but the quality of the ice was pretty good at this place.
After this we were quite full and we walked by more than a couple of places that looked good, but we had no room left. One thing I wanted to try in a night market was fried tiny buns, but the lines on those places were usually long. There’s everything being eaten at a night market, but some things are still more popular (and cheaper).
We got ourselves a drink to cool off from the muggy heat and made plans to go do a foot massage. Yea… do this if you ever visit Taipei. Get a foot massage. It’s money well-spent and gives you time to see how cheesy Asian dramas can be for an hour while some dude punishes the pressure points on your feet. Feet masseuse have super strong hands yo. Don’t mess with them.
After that we went to go get more food… you know, by that time I couldn’t eat much anymore so I had to save room for oyster omelet. But wifey and I wanted to try the grilled sausage wrapped by a glutinous rice sausage so we got one to take back to the hotel room. Pigginess never ends, you just try to save it for later.
As is the norm when following my trusty uncles, we went to a place with a line. I love going to places with lines on vacation! I mean that, really. With limited days, you want to go to places that even the locals are willing to wait. So we waited for about fifteen minutes for this oyster omelet place where there was a guy cooking like a machine. He had this round cast iron looking pan where he just made oyster omelet in bunches, nonstop. He was kind of my hero.
The oyster omelets did not disappoint. They were super good and my stomach magically made room for them. Funny how that works sometimes… but I ate them too fast to really take any good pictures of them close up. So all I got is just a picture of them on a tray. Fuck, we need this in New York! The mothership has too many delicious things and a nightmarket is definitely a good way to try out a ton of things in one place.
Posted by Danny on October 14, 2013 at 3:47 pm
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