Tag Archives: street food

Five on Friday: Taiwan Street Food part 2

Taipei street food vendor

Taipei street food vendor | Canon 5D, 24mm, 1/100, f8, ISO 400

There are a number of events this weekend celebrating the 100th anniversary of Taiwan (or the Republic of China, depending on what side of the fence you fall on). The Taiwanese American Cultural Festival takes place from 10am to 6pm tomorrow in San Francisco’s Union Square and it claims that visitors can “enjoy a sampling of the culinary culture of Taiwan and taste Taiwanese dishes such as bah-tzang (Taiwanese tamale), Taiwanese sausage and stir fried noodles. Food will be served ‘tapas’ style to parallel the common ‘nightmarket’ experience in Taiwan where people try different food items from street food carts. Arrive early and order quickly before the food runs out!” The festival layout diagram shows that only a small corner is earmarked for the food section, but it might be worth checking out. If I’m disappointed (which is highly possible), I may have to turn to 168 Restaurant in Pacific East Mall. It’s not the same, but close. Just stay away from their stinky tofu!

Even more intriguing is the Taiwanese Night Market Event at University of Washington in Seattle, also happening tomorrow. If the Bay Area can have food truck rallies (in fact, there’s one tonight at Fort Mason), is a Taiwanese night market event too far afield? Or how about a Taiwanese food truck? Anyone?

Oh, and San Diego is hosting a Taiwanese Food Fair tomorrow, too. Happy eating! By the way, if you’re interested or missed it the first time around, you can read my first post on Taiwan street food here.

taipei street food vendor

Taipei street food vendor | Canon 5D, 24mm, 1/40, f4, ISO 200

Taipei street market vendor | Canon 5D, 24mm, 1/50, f6.3, ISO 100

Taipei street market vendor | Canon 5D, 24mm, 1/50, f6.3, ISO 100

Taipei braised food vendor

Taipei braised food vendor | Canon 5D, 24mm, 1/60, f8, ISO 200

Taiwanese takeaway

Taiwanese takeaway | Canon 5D, 24mm, 1/125, f8, ISO 200

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Five on Friday: Taiwan Street Food

Candied tomatoes and plums | Canon 5D, 84mm, 1/60 f4.5, ISO 100

When traveling to Taiwan, it’s a good idea to pack a bottomless stomach—the volume of cheap, tempting street food you’ll encounter will require it. Essentially, any comestible that can be purchased and consumed without setting foot into a brick-and-mortar building can be called “street food.” Hot dogs, pretzels, tacos, and ice cream, for instance, reign in large parts of the U.S.; the selection of portable foodstuffs increases dramatically when you go to a county fair or carnival, although at this point said foodstuffs are now termed “fair food.”

Carts and open-air food stalls are everywhere in Taiwan, hawking steamed buns, pillowy filled cakes, shaved ice, bowls of slippery noodles, and grilled or deep-fried goodies that you eat from a stick or out of a waxed paper bag. No need to decipher a menu or exchange words with the vendor—you can see and smell exactly what’s being offered. Just point at what you want and indicate how many.

Japanese food stall, Taipei | Canon 5D, 24mm, 1/50 f5.6, ISO 250

Of course, just because you can see the food doesn’t mean you’ll know what it is. The vast array of Taiwanese street food can be overwhelming, especially if you didn’t grow up eating the stuff, don’t know the language, or haven’t dissected a fetal pig in years (internal organs are everywhere). This is when an adventurous palate comes in handy.

Fresh kidneys and liver (for soup) | Canon 5D, 73mm, 1/80 f5.6, ISO 400

Night-market kebabs: cuttlefish, pigeon, tofu, gizzards, hearts, livers | Canon 5D, 24mm, 1/25 f4, ISO 400

Night markets offer the most street foods in one place. Stinky tofu is perennially popular, and lines snake around particularly pungent stalls. Other staples include runny oyster pancakes, pig’s blood cake (known in Western cultures as blood sausage) dusted with peanut powder, crispy scallion pancakes, fried duck tongues, sweet tofu pudding, grass jelly, and—my favorite—taro dough balls. The latter are squishy and chewy like tapioca balls, but denser. The Taiwanese have a word for this specific texture that I don’t believe exists in Mandarin: “cue cue.” These “cue cue” dough balls also come in yam, sweet potato, and black sesame varieties—they’re a real party in your mouth.

Now, if only some place in the Bay Area could fulfill my Taiwanese street food cravings….

Taro, yam, and sesame balls over shaved ice | Canon 5D, 60mm, 1/25 f4, ISO 800

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