January 13, 2012

Elves in my kitchen day 1: Keelung food crawl

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Dyson 2000 and J are here in Taipei for the weekend.  I've set up a weekend of cooking lessons for them, and mom will show them some of her signature dishes.  I was really excited to receive my guest room's first visitors, and really looked forward to spending some quality time hanging with them.

After spending most of the afternoon in my kitchen with mom, my visitors met up with me for our excursion out of Taipei.  We met at Taipei Main Station (台北車站) to take the train up to Keelung (基隆).  Our destination?  The famous Miaokou Night Market (廟口夜市).  My first visit here came only about 2 weeks ago, and apparently Dyson 2000 salivated at the picture I posted after my visit.

But first a little something to whet our appetite.  We had a little time to spare thanks to the trains being delayed, so I stopped at Maison Kayser to pick up a few canelés.  The ones here are big, but actually pretty decent.  A little crispy on the outside and moist on the inside - although slightly more custardy than I would normally prefer.  Slurp.

After I finally got my bearings straight, we made our way from Keelung Station to the night market.  Our first stop was Wang's Tenpura (王記天婦羅) - Stall 16 at Miaokou.  No, they don't sell tempura (天ぷら), but deep-fried fish cakes like satsuma age (薩摩揚げ).  A little bowl of fish cakes, dipped in a light hot and sour sauce.  A few slices of pickled cucumber round out the flavors and textures.

Next up was the reason why we are here tonight: the "nutritious sandwich (營養三明治)".  It was a picture of this that got Dyson 2000 all excited, and I can hardly blame her.  What's not to like about a hunk of deep-fried dough?!  This is basically a long hot dog bun, coated with panko (パン粉) and deep-fried.  It's then stuffed with thick slices of ham, cucumber, tomato and spiced egg (滷蛋) wedges.  The finishing touches are in the form of Taiwanese mayo (美奶滋), which is plentiful almost to the point of overflowing.

Personally, I love this baby.  The taste is quintessentially Taiwanese, thanks to the sweet mayo.  And it is indeed "nutritious", as the major food groups (carbohydrates, vegetables, protein and even a little bit of dairy) are all represented.  I'd have it again and again, but I know Dyson 2000 wasn't impressed.  The original stall which invented this is Tian Sheng Pu (天盛鋪) - Stall 58 at Miaokou.

I didn't stop at Jun's Braised Eel Soup (圳記紅燒鰻羮) on my last visit, but they are apparently famous for their pike conger soup.  The conger is marinated in red lees (紅糟) before being deep-fried.  From my last trip to Tokyo, I knew that pike congers have lots of bones but never knew how long they were until today...  This was pretty good.

The steamed meatball dumplings (肉圓) from Tainan Shrimp Meatball (台南府城蝦仁肉圓) were so good that I made sure we stopped there.  Chunks of shrimp and pork flavored with pepper aside, Dyson 2000 was really impressed with the steamed dumpling skin.

I loved the oily glutinous rice (油飯) from this stall on Aisi Road (愛四路) so much that I went back for some more.  The rice has always been something I loved since childhood, and while this one can never hope to beat what mom makes for me, it wasn't bad at all.

I was curious to try the crab soup (螃蟹羮) from the same stall, and decided to have some even after Dyson 2000 a.k.a. the Food Neanderthal dropped a load of ground pepper on top.  Pretty decent.

There is little to complain about the bite-sized sausages at One Bite Sausage (一口吃香腸) - Stall 43 at Miaokou.

There are two stalls right by Dianji Temple (奠濟宮) - which gave Miaokou night market its name - selling the Fuzhou specialty rice flour roll soup (鐤邊銼).  Tonight we patronized Xing's Rice Flour Roll Soup (邢記鐤邊銼) - Stall 25 at Miaokou.  This turned out to be Dyson 2000's favorite nibble of the evening.  The rice flour rolls have a certain bite to them, and the soup is delicately flavored.

I was pretty full by now, and my hair is wet from being under the drizzle for the last 2 hours or so.  There was one more stop to make - to get ourselves some shaved ice.  Unfortunately Far East Bubble Ice (遠東泡泡冰) was closed for the next couple of months, so I went back to Shen's Bubble Ice (沈記泡泡冰) - Stall 37 at Miaokou.  The staff use a tablespoon to whip the shaved ice together with the syrup or ingredients, creating that special mixture where the flavors are evenly blended into the ice.

Having had the black plum (烏梅) and the pineapple (鳳梨) last time, I decided to get myself some peanut and white Dutch runner beans (花生花豆).  What a mistake this turned out to be!  While this was absolutely delicious - full of the flavors of the beans - it was akin to feeding myself a mound of peanut butter...  Not something you want to do when you are already full.

It was getting pretty late, so we made our way back to the train station and headed back to Taipei.  I think it was interesting to show my guests this particular night market, featuring some items which aren't usually found in Taipei.


Michelle Chin said...

googled up what pike conger and red lees is. found out that pike conger is used in crabsticks!

Beef No Guy said...

Yeah that Keelung sandwich is awesome. Loved the pig feet stall @ Keelung, as well as the restaurant that does a clear herbal soup stew of it too. Probably will take multiple visits to try all of the very best items.

Peech said...

I had pig trotters on my first visit, but my uncle ordered so much food at that first stop I was almost full...

Jon said...

I would try the nutritious sandwich. Those bite sized sausages look good too.


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