Saturday, July 24, 2010

胡椒餅 pepper buns (饒河夜市)

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I honestly have no recollection if I've written about these before. Nor does it really matter, since they deserve repeated mention. Anyhoo, the basic premise is this... if you take dough, stuff it full of peppered pork and scallions, then stuff it into a giant metal trashcan of fire you end up with Fuzhou style pepper buns, known in Chinese as 胡椒餅 (hu jiao bing). Okay, maybe it's not that simple, but whatever. When it comes to these fist sized buns of meat, there's no place more famous than the stall at the end of 饒河夜市. See? There's Chinese people in a line... so it's sure to be good.

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And oh the line is epically long. No, not as long as the Shake Shack line, but I'm pretty sure that's because they've implemented the dumbest, least effective ordering system in the world. Still, in an area as cramped as a night market, it's kind of impressive when a line stretches for 30 people, and meanders around a bunch of barriers. What's nice though is you get to see them making the buns. With the fury of underpaid factory workers, they stuff large balls of dough with heaps of marinated pork and scallions. Then some guy shoves his arm into a pit of fire and puts them on shelves inside the pit. No joke, that guy is masculine as hell. I bet he fights bears or shits nails or something awesome like that.

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PIKCHUR! I had to wait home before I took it, so it's soggier from the steam than it should be (I have the dexterity of an elephant, so taking pictures, eating, and walking simultaneously wasn't going to happen). It looks plain on the outside. Kind of just like a sesame studded piece of dough... that's slightly oily, and what appears to be burnt on the bottom. Don't be deceived by the exterior though, because in actuality, the outer bun isn't bad either... it's slightly sweet (as almost all doughs used in Chinese cuisine are), dense, and chewy.

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Inside hides the greatest treasure this side of the Pacific. Not really. There's peppered pork and scallions though. Lots of it. In a perfect union of carbs and protein, you find cheap fatty pork marinated in peppered soy sauce baked to a medium texture inside a subtle sweet layer of thin, but dense, bread. The kiln like baking pit yields a temperature suitable for exactly this. The bun cooks rapidly, forming a thin crust like bottom, while the meat releases it's juices without overcooking. End result is this... one of my favorite things in the world. Think about it this way, you're paying 45 NT (~$1.25) for culinary crack. In bun form. If you ever have the opportunity, definitely try it.

PS - if you buy 10, you get 1 free.

8 comments:

crackingtheegg said...

gods i love that stuff. i first stumbled upon them in that small area between gongguan and shida night market. there is a woman who has a few of those large bins filled with them--and with different flavors too. alone at the time and having no clue what they were, i ordered two curry flavored. one was more than enough to fill me up and it was delicious. i have since tried the actual pepper pork and it's equally as delicious.
i like to think of them as a cross between a 包子 and a bagel.

Nicholas said...

I never thought about it like that (the bagel 包子 comparison), but yeah, it's definitely true. At least it's more accurate than me calling it bread stuffed with meat haha.

The one near 公館 is like 30 NT! AND THEY STILL HAVE THE BUY 10 GET 1 FREE DEAL! Sooo sick. I actually don't like the curry one, since it makes me think of curry pan... the original is definitely worth trying though!

Robyn said...

I WOULD LOVE TO BUY 10...

.....arrghhwamrhrhehddffsob I want that buuuun. I love buns. With crust. Stuffed with pork.

bionicgrrrl said...

Wow, so much meat! I want, I want! OMG, I want!

Nicholas said...

@Robyn by 10... you mean 11 right? :)

@bionicgrrrl there's other places that stuff more crap inside, but they don't taste the same (not peppery enough, or not porky enough). I don't know why theirs are so good.

Anonymous said...

Best one is on the "tutor street" in Taipei, near Taipei Main Station. Since my dad was a lad! And that was eons ago.

Nicholas said...

Anonymous - ;) they're one and the same if you're talking about the same one I'm thinking of. The original location is from 饒河, they have branches there and in 永康街 now.

Anonymous said...

I found the best deal (quality, price, and wait times all taken into account together) to be a small shack at 信義復興路口 about three blocks from Taipei 101. If you go around 7pm they are usually closing soon and there generally isn't much of a line. I think it's located just for people who work in the area to toto for lunch. $35 for one, $100 for three.

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