Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Taiwan Day 11: Undeniably Taiwanese Snacks / 一眼看出就是台灣小吃 (Taipei: Wanhua District / 台北市: 萬華區)

One of the best things about Taiwanese cuisine is that there is a vast variety of little snacks or small eats (小吃 / Mandarin: xiǎo chi).  The Taiwanese thrive on these small eats primarily because they are convenient and affordable.  Not only do they get served up quickly, they come in individual servings most of the time.  It is easy to grab and eat in a hurry.  Even if you are in a large group, each person can still eat what they want without having to collectively decide on what to order.  Oh, and these xiaochi can be found on just about every street corner and alleyway.  Art and I were at Ximending (西門町) when a pang of hunger overcame us, so we stopped to have some of our favorite Taiwanese snacks.

The first thing that comes to mind when I need to satisfy my hunger quickly is braised pork rice (滷肉飯 / Mandarin: lǔ ròu fàn / Taiwanese: loh bah bng), also known as stewed pork rice or minced pork rice depending on how it is prepared.  Ground pork, usually stewed with shiitake mushroom and crispy fried shallots, covers a bowl of steamed white rice and gets garnished with a florescent pickled radish.  It is simple bowl of savory satisfaction that cannot be beat.

Arguably the most famous of Taiwanese street foods is the oyster omelette (蚵仔煎 / Taiwanese: ô-ah jian), more commonly known as oyster pancake in English.  It really is an omelette since it is made predominantly of scrambled eggs and because there is no bread like portion to make it a pancake.  Fresh oysters and green veggies are scattered throughout the crisp egg round, and sweet potato starch holds it all together while providing a very glutinous and chewy 'Q' texture.  Sweet chili sauce, a typical condiment used in Taiwanese cooking, is spread across the top.  There is no name for this in Mandarin because this is a truly local item that has been made since the days of Formosa.  The chef can whip this petite and protein packed pancake for you in no time.  I love it.

Neither fried chicken nor food on a stick is Taiwanese in nature, but it is something that is crazy popular on the streets of Taipei.  Whether it is little bite sized pieces of salt and pepper seasoned popcorn chicken or the giant, pounded, deep fried chicken filet from Shilin Night Market, fried chicken must be eaten.  It is just so crispy.  No matter what time of day your hunger pangs develop, the deep fried chicken makes it seem like happy hour.  All that is missing is beer.

These traditional Taiwanese snacks were delicious and held us over until dinner.  Until then, let's all get S.O.F.A.T.

Ximending Pedestrian Area (西門町)
Hanzhong Street, Wanhua District, Taipei City
MRT: Ximen Station, exit no. 6 / 捷運西門站, 6號出口

ML - 20130710

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