Monday, May 31, 2010

Taichung - Street Eats

Lu shui from Da Lu Tong, Fengjia night market

Before I left on this trip to Taiwan, it had been around 4 months since I'd left Hong Kong. Now, Hong Kong is a fabulous place, but for an incorrigible plane hopper, it'd been too long. When friends asked if I wanted to go to Taichung to go cycling, I immediately said yes. (Cycling? Me? Yes. I was that desperate to get away, I would have said yes to a marathon... well, maybe not, but you get the point).

For me, Taiwan's all about the street food. I know there's Taiwanese cuisine, and nouveau kaiseki-style eateries popping up all over, but eating streetside - that's what it's about to me.

First off - lu shui. This stuff is so ubiquitous in Taiwan, you'd have to be totally obnoxious, drunk and had a few hits to the head to miss it. Even 7 Eleven sells it. It's basically a soy sauce and five spice broth that can be used to poach anything from dried beancurd (dougan) to turnips, or pigs ears.

Another thing people look for in night markets is hujiao bing - literally pepper cake, but it's really a crispy bun with lots of juicy black pepper pork inside. It's baked in a deep round oven, not unlike an oil barrel, with the buns stuck to the interior walls of the oven. The most famous stall is 帝鈞胡椒餅, but the line was so long we had to give up. I'd definitely come back on a weekday to try them out.

Lu shui at Da Lu Tong, Fengjia

A note about Fengjia - we didn't stay long, nor did we eat much, as it was just so impossibly crowded (it was Friday night), but I think it most beats Taipei night markets I've been to, for the variety of food, plus I like that there's shopping along the way too (even if it's just cheap sandals, t-shirts and hats).

The rain made it even more drab...

On our last day we went to check out a gallery area behind the old train station, which was a bit drab in my opinion; we then proceeded to look for food.

Ironically we ended up at a place called Taibei Mifen Tang (Taipei rice noodle soup). We saw mifen and thought it would be the Tsinchu mifen we had at Chun Shui Tang...

Rice noodles

This was also called mifen, but turns out it wasn't the Tsinchu vermicelli we had at Chun Shui Tang and loved so much. In Hong Kong we call this laifun, but it was fine nonetheless.

Pork balls in soup

Ok so the soup is full of msg, but I love how the parsley stood out. The pork balls themselves had that juicy, fresh, porcine taste, with a touch of pepper, and had a bit of crisp bounce with a 'bite' - what the Taiwanese call 'QQ'.

Taiwanese beef noodles
Zhajiang mian

I remember I read somewhere that zhajiang mian is to Asians like spag bol is to the west. In terms of ubiquity, indeed - everyone - the Koreans, Yunnanese, Taiwanese all have their own versions, and it's comfort food - both characteristics make it just like spag bol. I liked the noodle they used here as it was like a plump fettucine and was a little elastic. The sauce had more lu shui (see above) dried tofu in medium dice, with coarsely ground pork, and lots of spring onion. I could eat this every day.

Oh, and did I mention how much it cost? All this, plus a couple more dishes came to $300 Taiwanese dollars, which is about HK$75 or US$10, and it (over)fed the four of us.

Fengjia night market 逢甲夜市
Fengjia Rd (around Xitun Rd, just tell the cab driver "Fengjia ye shi")

Taibei Mifen Tang 台北米粉湯
95 Fuxing Rd, Section 4 (near rear entrance of Taichung Station)
復興路四段95號 (近台中後站)
+886 4 22211895

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