Wednesday, September 22, 2010

天婦羅 tian fu luo (基隆廟口)

基隆廟口 (Keelung Temple Street)

I might've already written about the 'Nutritious Sandwich,' but there's so much more to 基隆廟口 than just that (I just got really excited to share the doughnut mayonnaise sandwich with the world, so I posted that individually). Anyway, Keelung's Temple Street is basically a commercialized night market that operates during the day. Each shop has a numbered stall for easy navigation, and you're basically confronted by a 200 meter street that's just stall after stall after stall of some of the most mind blowing Taiwanese food you'll ever find. It's like a food festival... that exists permanently.

If there's one thing that this place is renowned for though, it's their 天婦羅 (tian fu luo), which is basically an over-sized chunk of tempura, that gets sliced into strips, and drizzled with sweet miso soy sauce (see here for another example).

Unfried fish paste?

Giant ball of dough! No, in actuality, that's a giant hunk of fish paste. It has the consistency of a super wet dough, sans the stickiness. I know this because I poked my finger in it. I was immediately yelled at for doing this, at which point I pretended to not speak Chinese. Situation diffused. Anyway, the next step in delivering heavenly tempura to my mouth is to take chunks of fish paste and...

Frying stuff

Deep fry it. Of course that's the natural progression of things. Everything tastes better fried, so why would fish paste be any different. I have to give serious props to the guy cooking the 天婦羅, since there were a fair number of customers, and more chunks of fish paste frying simultaneously than I'd care to deal with. Anyway, somehow he manages to keep track of frying order (and time!), removing them all with the same characteristic golden hue of perfection.

天婦羅 (tian fu luo)

That's some serious shit right there. So good it should be illegal. Fried to just the right consistency, the outer shell is, at the same time, crisp, yet soft. As if there were miniature pockets of texture interlaced on top of a smooth macro structure. Like a fractal (oh noes... math!). The center carries with it a resilient bounciness, a stretch factor that's firm enough to provide a distinct feel, but not a rubbery sensation. In terms of taste? Absolutely phenomenal. The light flavoring, similar to any whitefish, is complemented by the indescribable taste of tempura oil. Add to that equation a thin sweet soy, which had a slight citrus accent, and you have a dish that's absolutely marvelous, and something you honestly can't find anywhere else... even in Taiwan. Oh yeah... the best part? That dish is 30 NT... that's less than $1. Damn.


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