Thursday, April 14, 2011

Taiwan: Beef Noodles & Night Markets

Taiwan is known for good, cheap food. It's Chinese culture: at mealtimes, you tend to find yourself holed up in a dingy-looking place like this--
. . . eating food that looks like this--
. . . that somehow, nine times out of ten, manages to be totally awesome.

Night markets are the best place to go for cheap street food. Like the hawker stalls in Singapore, night markets can be found all over Taiwan.

Even with Nana's Chinese, we spent a lot of time playing menu roulette, though generally we were able to pick out a couple different kinds of meat, and I made darn sure I learned the characters for "beef noodles" by the end of the trip.

Here are a few of the culinary highlights of our trip (excepting an excellent dinner on our last night with Edinburgh pal Mei--none of the photos of that meal came out).

These are two variations on the ultimate local dish: Taiwanese beef noodles. Somewhere between a soup and a stew, with marinated beef. I'm pretty sure I could eat this every day for a month and not get tired of it.

We also had the Taiwanese take on teppanyaki--a Japanese dish of fried meat and veggies, similar to what you'd get at a Benihana in the US. (Remember, Taiwan was under Japanese rule for half a century--the Japanese influence pops up in all kinds of unexpected places.)
In Taiwan, though, you can get lamb teppanyaki, which I don't think is as common in Japan.

Lamb seems to have been lost in the Americanization of Chinese cooking, but seems to be pretty popular among Chinese people throughout Asia. Too bad--Chinese lamb dishes are pretty great.

The one below, an oyster omelette, was a little disappointing. It's supposed to be a Taipei specialty, but ours was kind of bland and gooey. Maybe we just didn't get a good one!
On the whole, though, we spent most of our time snacking, rather than eating proper meals. Luckily, Taiwan is a great place to snack.

This place sold some incredible green-onion pancakes.
They were somewhere between latke and Indian paratha bread--kind of flaky, with a lot of onion.

This fellow sold us fried rice dough wrapped in . . . rice dough.
And these guys had blood sausage--one of my favorites!
It's the black one in the middle.
Finally, my undoing--the Moriarty to my arterial Holmes, if you will--fruit ice.
That's a mound of shaved ice, topped with fresh fruit and drizzled with fruit sauce and condensed milk. They have this in Japan and Korea, but I'd never tried it before Taiwan. I guess I always thought the ice would be the texture of a snow cone, but it's not--it's like frozen air. Creamy, delicious air.

The only problem? Some places seem a little overzealous about the whole "tomatoes are fruit" thing.
Tomatoes for dessert? Seriously!


  1. Menu roulette: safer for non-vegetarians than vegetarians.

    In Nicaraguan comedors (lunch counters), where there are no signs and I didn't know the names of things, I did a lot of pointing and asking "just vegetables? no animals?" Now when I go I can confidently point to the guiso de pipian like a champ :)

  2. Then again, even when you're an omnivore playing menu roulette . . . sometimes you end up with chicken feet.

  3. You owe me a new keyboard, since I just drooled all over mine! And still an hour and a half before dinner!

  4. seriously I want to eat everything now :)

    and my mom makes the best beef noodle soup. just saying.