Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Night market, street food in Taichung and Hsinchu, Taiwan

I would think that the night market and street food in Taiwan is as famous as its beef noodle soup, stinky tofu and Betel Nut girls (scantily-dressed young women selling betel nut on roadside kiosks in Taiwan). One of the famous night markets in Taichung (central Taiwan), Taiwan is Feng Jia Night Market (逢甲夜市). If you think that duck blood cubes are digusting, you can find more disgusting stuff such as gizzards and intestines in night markets, and sound-weird stuff such as "frog eggs". We were really not that adventurous in trying those gizzards and intestines.

Almost every corner of the night market, you can find a 滷味 stall where poultry meat and innards and cooked/stewed in thick gravy sauce or broth of brine or dark soy - @ Fengjia Night Market

"Frog eggs" (青蛙下蛋) - it's just vegetarian gelatin and typically used in dessert drink - @ Fengjia Night Market

You won't be hungry walking the night markets. Find snacks such as grilled prawns, oyster omelette ( 蚵仔煎, pronounced oh-ah jian) and glutinous rice balls (粉圆).

This was real good and fresh. Cruel though since prawns/shrimps are directly removed from a live tank and instantly cooked live and struggling, on the hot charcoal grill, till dead and ready to be eaten - @ Fengjia Night Market

Oyster omelette - @ Hsinchu

We do not like the Taiwanese version laden with too much tapioca flour and red sweet sauce. Still prefer the Singapore/Malaysia version with more eggs and oyster, then served with chili sauce. :P

Glutinous rice balls (粉圆) made of sweet potato, taro and served in red bean soup - @ Fengjia Night Market

Night markets and street food is one characteristic culture in Taiwan. Make sure you visit one when you are in Taiwan. Some of Taiwan’s more famous night markets include Shilin Night Market and Huaxi Street Tourist Night Market in Taipei, Fengchia Night Market in Taichung, Siaobei Night Market in Tainan, and Liouho Night Market in Kaohsiung.

Day time in Taichung. Must be a lucky day to get a clear view.

Eating hotel food can be quite boring at times, especially when you have to eat the same buffet breakfast (part of hotel package) for 6 days. You can still put your creative works into play. Am I playing with food again? :P

In this exploration, I found that bacon with waffles drizzled with maple syrup is such a good match. It is not playing with food. It is experimenting! You can try making this at home.

The sweet and savory never fail to surprise me :)

Not very healthy but for the convenience, an instant noodle bowl can sometimes be an enjoyment in the hotel room.

Instant noodle bowl - dang gui (Radix Angelicae Sinensis - a kind of chinese herb) duck flavor

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Hotpots in Taiwan, 麻辣锅

Taiwan is touted as the Capital of Beef Noodle Soup. I need to verify that. I am still looking for my beef noodle soup with a clear stewed soup broth/base(清炖牛肉面) . Maybe I need to visit Taipei some day to testify this.

While in Taichung (central Taiwan), Taiwan at this moment, I rather call Taiwan the "Capital" of hotpots. They are so many eateries offering spicy hotpot. It must have got to do with the neighbouring influence from Sichuan, China. Like in the US, it is officially the Fall season in Taiwan. However, what a mild Fall it is over here - almost like Summer/Spring in California PLUS the higher humidity. I reckon eating hotpots is the IN thing to do during Fall/Winter season here. It keeps people warm.

We have already tried two places offering 麻辣 (literally meaning, "numbing and spicy"; pronounced ma la) hotpots. Typically in these two places, there is an option of the spicy soup base and/or the clear/white non-spicy soup base. If you want to have a combination of two soup bases in one hotpot, order the combination hotpot or what they call 鸳鸯 (pronounced yuan yang, meaning "in pairs").

What is similar in these two eateries - the "dark tofu" and braised tofu in the spicy soup base is FREE FLOW!

"Dark tofu" also known as congealed blood cubes, blood jellies or blood puddings

"Dark tofu" is just a better, less digusting name for duck blood cubes. You have not heard me wrongly. Congealed duck blood that has turned into blood cubes or blood jellies. There is just a bottomless source of this, I suspect. Makes me wonder if eating hotpots is an unhealthy business. Well, the "soup-everything" seems to sound healthy but the "blood"...errr....

By the way, eating blood cubes like these should be giving you excellent source of "natural" iron but how much cholesterol...I don't know. Maybe you can tell me. We have eaten too much of these dark cubes that I know that the next time I go for the spicy hotpot, I am going to request them without "dark tofu" but just the usual braised (卤, pronounced lu) tofu.

Combination soup hotpot of spicy base(red) and pickled cabbage and pork non-spicy soup base (clear or white) - at Tripod King

What I like about these hotpots so far is that you can find some of the freshest handmade fish, cuttlefish or prawn pastes which you can add them to the boiling, simmering soups to get fish balls. These pastes sometimes come in a slender bamboo case and you can scoop them into the simmering soups.

Herbal soup base with wolfberries and other herbs - at Old Sichuan

老四川, Old Sichuan
台中市公益路343號, Taichung City GongYi Road, #343
(Other locations available including Kaoshiong and Taipei)
This restaurant's main branch is in Harbin, China, with over 30 branches spread across northeastern China. The minimum charge per table here is NT$650(~USD21). Personally, I prefer this place to the one below. The white soup base is herbal and of better quality than Tripod King's non-spicy soup base of thin pork strips and pickled cabbage.

鼎王麻辣锅, Tripod King
台中精诚店, Taichung City JingCheng Branch
(Other locations available including Kaoshiong and Taipei)
The signature service you get from this chain of eateries is that the servers will bow 90 degrees to customers especially after presenting your dishes on the dining table - maybe it's to represent high service quality standards but this acutally made us feel so uneasy. The spicy soup base was spicy but not numbing. This is another difference from Old Sichuan.

Prices are almost similar. As a personal recommendation, I would suggest Old Sichuan. However, if you are not so keen on getting your lips numbed, try Tripod King.

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