January 18, 2023

A little street sweeping

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Not having been back in Taiwan much during the pandemic years, naturally it also means I haven't visited any of the famous night markets. As we had a "free" night on our first day back in Taiwan, I asked Four Sheets what she wanted for dinner. I was somewhat surprised that she wanted to visit a night market, but I guess it's something that both of us kinda miss.

I grew up right next to Tonghua Street (通化街), so that was the first night market I got to know. It's also the market closest to the hotel I used to stay at on my many business trips back in the day, and I'm most familiar with the stalls there. Many, but not all, of the ones I used to patronize are still around today.

My first stop was at Shi Jia Gua Bao (石家割包), an old favorite that's been around since 1953 serving something that has become famous all over the world - guabao (刈包), or otherwise known as bao. Slices of fatty pork belly - and I only want the pork belly without any slices of lean pork in my guabao - wedged in a fluffy steamed bun together with pickled mustard greens (梅乾菜) and a generous sprinkle of sugared peanut powder. Very, very satisfying. But then again, how could it not be when there's fatty pork?!

I also had a few sips of Four Sheets' Fuzhou eight treasure soup (福州八寶湯), which was mostly shredded vegetables like marinated bamboo shoots, wood ear fungus... etc. It was OK.

Next was another familiar stall - Hu Ji Mi Fen Tang (胡記米粉湯). This place has been around since 1967 and is famous for their thick rice vermicelli in soup (米粉湯), as well as an assortment of pig offal. I ordered up a bowl of the vermicelli soup, which was really filling, as well as some blanched pig's large intestines (豬大腸).

After strolling to the Keelung Road end of Linjiang Street (臨江街), we doubled back to the Tonghua side so Four Sheets could get her Taiwanese sausage fix. There are two competing carts grilling these sausages, one on each side of Tonghua Street, and we chose to order from Hong Hua Hong Gui Sausage (紅花紅桂香腸). I just had a sausage with spicy sauce and garlic scapes, without having it wrapped in a larger glutinous rice sausage.

Qingdao Soy Milk (青島豆槳店) has occupied one corner or the Linjiang/Tonghua intersection for more than 60 years. After a 2-year break during which it was under different management, the shop is now owned by the former owner's nephew. I used to get their delicious scallion pancakes (蔥抓餅), and I was itching to get one for old time's sake. As they were made to order, I figured I'd spend a little more money by adding an egg to it. I've always loved having a fried egg added to these type of pancakes - or even roti prata - but I must admit it changes the texture completely... and it's no longer dried and shredded. Still pretty happy and satisfied, though.

Another stall I really love here is Liuren crispy pancake (六壬立體雞蛋糕). I enjoy watching the elderly uncle pour batter into the metal molds, tilt them so that the batter coats the different shapes evenly, then even up the molds after a few minutes to remove tha cakes. There are 6 different shapes in all, and while there is no filling like a taiyaki (鯛焼き) or an obanyaki (大判焼き), they are still tasty. More than anything, though, it's just really nostalgic.

Speaking of nostalgia, I walked past a cart selling white sugar sponge cake (白糖糕), otherwise known as 倫教糕. One doesn't see this often these days, so I decided to take a piece made with brown sugar.

This was, of course, a lot of food for me for one night. But I was very, very happy to have gone on a night market crawl. It made me feel that the world is almost back to normal... ALMOST.

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