Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Lin Jiang Night Market (臨江夜市)

While it would be impossible for me to cover everything in 臨江's night market (or any night market for that matter), I was hungry, and I did my best to try a couple things I haven't in the past. On the same day that I decided to visit the Beard Papas stand in the Shin Kong department store, I also decided I should probably walk back to burn off those calories (I do have these wild aspirations of running the NYC marathon... which I imagine would be difficult if I were to return to my former glory). It just so happens on the way back from the area around Taipei 101 to my house... there stands about 1000 beef noodle shops, 100 bakeries, and one very very very famous night market (OTL fml?).

First up was just supposed to be an appetizer, I made my mom stop in a shop called 登豐 (Deng Feng). Literally the name translates to something loosely like 'the best' (notice a trend here). Anyway, it's a restaurant that was supposed to adhere to a Hong Kong style hot pot, but for some reason, included dishes more traditionally found in Taiwanese cuisine. I realize who the target audience is... but shouldn't you still stick to your niche? Whatever, it looked interesting so we went in. This type of cuisine is commonly known in Taiwan as 臭臭鍋 or 'stinky stinky pot.' Basically they give you platters of meat, tofu (stinky in variety), and duck blood cakes, kinda like blood pudding. Then you cook it yourself in the hot pot they provide. If you're looking for a US equivalent, there is none really, but those shabu shabu places in Chinatown are a pretty good approximation in terms of what the procedure is. Anyway, the place is fairly nice, but a bit too commercial for my tastes. The shop actually looks immaculate (and trust me this is a negative in Taiwan).

As for the food... the reason why we went in is because we smelled ridiculously pungent 臭豆腐 (stinky tofu) halfway down the block and we wanted a quick snack. For those of you who are unaware, stinky tofu is actually tofu that you let grow mold. It looks exactly the same as the fried bean curd puffs you can buy in markets, up until the point the processing begins. There are various methods of preparation, from stewing in soups, to frying, to grilling on open charcoal, each with its own unique character, but for my poison of choice, there is absolutely nothing that can top a good plate of fried stinky tofu, a side of Taiwanese style pickled cabbage (think kimchi), and a spattering of hot sauce that would make Sriracha seem tame. The prices here, I guess they're reasonable, nothing topping 200 NT ($6) even for the fanciest of hot pot combos, and with most appetizers falling around 75 NT ($2.50). The thing is, once you're used to eating 30-50 NT servings which come in plastic bags, that is expensive. Another annoying thing was that they forced us to order 2 dishes to sit inside, when really, we just wanted to try it first. Whatever, I suppose that bit isn't too outrageous. We got 2 servings of their version of stinky tofu at 60 NT a piece ($2). It came quick, and it came hot. It offered up the same familiarity of a crispy skin, but it was different. Unlike the ones you might find in a 市場 (street market), these had noticeable crunch. As if you were comparing double fried fries to baked. I actually really liked the texture of this shop's. The taste gave a smokiness (strange description I guess) that you'd normally associate with bbq, and not something that was fried... certainly another plus. The kimchi offering and the hot sauce on the side were both 'just okay' and nothing to write home about, but the tofu... the tofu was a variation of a tried and true classic. As far as recommending it... eh, I wouldn't go that far. It was good, like I said, but pricier than almost anywhere I've been, outside of legitimate restaurants, and while it was different, there are much better things to eat along the length of any night market. If you get lost and stumble in (har har) feel free to order, but I feel like it's not really putting your money to good use.

When I was leaving, I wanted to get a snack for the night. What better than one of the most traditional of Taiwanese street foods... 割包 (Gua Bao)! No, the Chinese is correct... I realize it actually should read 'ge,' but per Chinese superstition, it would sound terrible if another more similar sounding word is used... thus the substitution (man... my blog is like the cultural equivalent of reading rainbow!). I also picked up some 福州魚丸 (Pork filled fish balls), becaues I saw Roboppy's post on Seriouseats, and I wanted to see what all the hoopla was about. Price was ridiculously good... 40 NT ($1.25) for the bao, and 35 NT ($1+) for the soup, which came with 1 pork ball, and 2 fish balls. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention where I got these from... 石家
包 (Shi's family gua bao). Apparently it's really famous for it's bao, which I was entirely unaware of when I bought it, I just remembered having the lamb version in Flushing, which I knew wasn't the original style, and wanted to try it. Anyway, the shop is really small, really dingy, I don't know if there is much sitting room inside, as most people were doing takeout and the back lights were turned off, but if you know me... that's perfectly acceptable. I'd rather not know where my food comes from until after I've decided it's delicious (or not). The bao was terrific. Absolutely worth 40 NT. I chose the half lean, half fatty meat, which is really a pork that is essentially slow cooked in Chinese style spices and soy sauce (I guess a Chinese pulled pork if you will) for hours until all of it's tendons have converted to gelatin. They add this splendid meat to a puffy white pillow of a bread, then layer on a generous helping of peanut flour (the same semi sweet stuff they coat mochi with), then a layer of pickled vegetables is layered on, then it's finished off with fresh cilantro. I won't even try to describe how amazing it tastes, because I know I'll inevitably fail... making everyone turned off from trying it. As for the fish ball soup... meh... it was so so. I'll post a review of a place that makes a much better version soon though. I would recommend this place, since I could see myself going back. If you do however go (it's on the main road off 信義 Xin Yi), do yourself a favor, skip the fish balls... just get the bao (or 2)... it's worth it.

I felt pretty bad on today's run. I got up about 30 minutes late... so 5:30 haha, and my legs felt a weird soreness that didn't really go away at any point. In any case, I did a steady state 3.99 miles around 大安, then ran home at my mile speed which added about .57 miles to that. The good news is that I found a playground with stuff for me to climb a la 'ninja warrior.' The bad news is that it's infested with old people (and we all know how I feel about old people... joking!).

distance for the day: 4.56 miles
distance biked for the day: 0.00 miles

distance on the year: 325.82 miles
distance biked on the year: 142.68 miles


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oh snap. I can control the text here?