Taiwan Street Food
We were chatting happily when my nose sensed something funny. A pungent, acrid smell wafted through the air, piercing my nostrils. It was the smell of something rotten. As we got nearer to the source, it was unmistakably the strong odour of smelly tofu.
I once heard someone said this about smelly tofu, “The smellier it is, the better the taste.”
Welcome to the world of Taiwan night markets; haven of Taiwan street food. Night markets play an integral role in Taiwanese people’s lives where the favourite pastimes besides soaking in hot springs, are shopping and eating.
Shilin Night Market is one of the largest and most famous night markets in Taipei city and it should come as no surprise that it’s usually jam-packed with people of all ages; from teenagers to grannies seeking superb food, amusing entertainment, and needless to say, great bargains. So come on and join me as I foraged through the night markets to hunt for the best-loved Taiwan street food.
Taiwan Street Food – Smelly Tofu
The number one notorious Taiwan street food goes to the smelly tofu. You do not need to actively search for the stall as your nose will act as radar – when you can smell odour like rotten garbage nearby, you know you’re near. Smelly tofu is actually fermented tofu and is most commonly deep-fried and served with chilli sauce and pickled vegetables. It’s just like blue cheese; you either love it or hate it.
Taiwan Street Food – Deep-fried Chicken
This is a super large, king-size fried chicken with its own unique blend of seasoning that can rival KFC anytime. The portion is usually huge, and it’s best if you’re able to find someone to share it with, so that there’s more space in your stomach for the other Taiwan street food delights.
Taiwan Street Food – Braised Meat and Organs on Sticks
Quite similar to those in Hong Kong, these braised meat and organs are a local favourite. You can find innards of every shapes and sizes, duck’s head, and even pig’s blood cake… all served on a stick for easy handling.
Taiwan Street Food – Taiwan Sausage
Taiwanese pork sausage is a crowd favourite and is literally translated as fragrant sausage in Chinese. These sausages are pink in colour with both sweet and savoury taste, and the best moment to enjoy is when it’s just hot off the grill when it is at its juiciest.
Taiwan Street Food – Bubble Tea
Ever waited for ages queuing for bubble tea in Singapore? Taiwan is where the bubble tea craze began. The original bubble tea is actually milk tea containing small little chewy “pearls” made of tapioca starch. This drink has now evolved to offer a wide range of beverages besides tea; from juices, exotic-flavoured tea to chocolate smoothies and with choices of different jellies besides pearls. A great drink to quench your thirst while hunting down the best of Taiwan street food.
Taiwan Street Food – Xiao Long Bao
You can find this favorite Taiwan street food in almost any night markets in Taiwan. Made famous worldwide by the Din Tai Fung group of restaurants, the dumplings are most commonly served with black vinegar and thinly sliced ginger. Take a bite into the pork dumpling and it explodes in your mouth with juices. The process is simple but ingenious; meat filling and solid meat gelatine are wrapped inside the dough, and when the dumplings are steamed, the gelatine melt into a soup to give that juicy explosion.
Taiwan Street Food – Oyster Mee Sua
And saving the best for the last… my all time favourite is the oyster mee sua. I absolutely love it and it can be counted as one of my top comfort food. Luckily for me, my wife’s Taiwanese friend brought me to this well-known but slightly run-down shop serving the most awesome oyster mee sua.
I had this dish everyday while I was in Taiwan and you can say it’s as addictive as drugs.
Today must be a lucky day for you as I’m gonna share my very own oyster mee sua recipe here. However, you might need to make a little adjustment here and there as I cooked it by taste and am recalling the recipe through memory.
Taiwan Street Food – My Oyster Mee Sua Recipe
3 slices ginger
1 stalk spring onion
2 stalks coriander root
1 litre chicken stock
10 grams katsuobushi (bonito flakes)
250 grams Mee sua (rice vermicelli)
50 grams Oyster sauce
30 grams light soy sauce
10 grams Chinese shaoxing wine
To taste Chinese black vinegar
To taste chilli oil / sesame oil
To taste Salt/pepper
As needed dark soy sauce
*Optional cornstarch slurry
Chopped coriander herb
Crispy fried shallots
1. Cook ginger slices, coriander roots and spring onion in a little oil over low heat until you can smell the fragrance.
2. Add in chicken stock and simmer for 10 minutes. Take off the heat and infuse the bonito flakes for one minute. Strain the stock.
3. Bring the soup base to the boil and add in the seasoning ingredients. The dark soy sauce is there to provide colour, so a light touch of that will do nicely. Adjust seasoning to taste.
4. If you like your soup to be thick and gooey now is the time to lightly thicken it with cornstarch. However do not thicken it too much as the starch from the mee sua will be released when cooked, further thickening the soup.
5. Add in the mee sua and cook until soft or to your liking.
6. Garnish with blanched oysters, chopped coriander and crispy fried shallots.
7. Enjoy it hot!!
Be sure to try these Taiwan Street Food delights the next time you drop by Taipei