Shilin Night Market is by far the most famous night market in Taiwan. This crazy, bustling market in Taipei is HUGE, spanning block after block after block. There is a large food area where street vendors, most of whom specialize in just one type of food, sell their delicacies. Another section is full of stuff: ceramics, kitchen wares, clothing, plush toys, fake hand bags, you name it.
I had the privilege of visiting Taiwan this past spring and we spent an evening at Shilin Night Market. The food at the night market alone was fascinating. We saw exotic things being sold such as duck tongues, "frog eggs" (not sure what it really is), things that looked like insects, and stinky tofu. We also saw a lot of delicious classic street snacks.
When Foodbuzz asked for proposals for 24, 24, 24, I thought it would be fun to try my hand at Taiwanese street foods. It would be like hosting a little night market in my dining room, halfway around the globe.
Of course, the first thing I did was called my mom. My parents are Taiwanese and moved to Ohio over thirty years ago. In the Midwest at that time, they did not have access to much Chinese (much less Taiwanese!) food. As a result, she had to learn how to cook Taiwanese specialties herself. Because of her (and other Taiwanese moms') hard work, I (and now you!) can enjoy making these very authentic Taiwanese dishes at home. Thank you Moms for translating the recipes into English!
My meal is merely inspired by the night markets, and is no way representative of even a fraction of the foods you can find in a Taiwanese night market. However, I tried to keep with the spirit of the night market by making simple, casual dishes you would normally not see in fancy sit-down restaurants.
Enjoy these super classic Taiwanese street dishes!
Here is the spread of dishes that I made for this dinner (which served 7 people):
I love tea eggs. They are hard boiled eggs slowly cooked over low heat in black tea and spices for hours. The resulting egg has a wonderful salty and tea-infused flavor that's addictive. Furthermore, the eggs take on a beautifully intricate marbled design from the tea.
You will often see tea eggs at the cashier's counter at convenience stores. For example, most 7-11 stores in Taiwan have a rice cooker full of tea eggs at the counter.
Meat Sauce over Rice (Lo Ba Bng)
Lo Ba Bng ("Lu Ro Fan" in Mandarin) is a very classic Taiwanese dish. It's a dish comprised of ground pork, shallots, and spices stewed in soy sauce. The sauce is intensely fragrant and tastes delicious with rice. This dish can be enjoy alone, or, more often than not, it is served with other side dishes as well. One very classic Taiwanese dish includes a deep fried pork chop, meat sauce with rice, and a side of pickled vegetables. For the full recipe on how to make this dish, click here.
Pork and Bamboo Shoot Soup (Ba Genh/Ro Gen Tang)
This soup ("Ro Gen Tang" in Mandarin) is one of my husband's favorites. The thick, starchy soup contains "meat balls" which are made out of fish paste and pork. These nuggets are dropped into boiling water and cooked with bamboo, mushrooms, and a host of soup flavoring agents. The resultant soup has a deep, umami flavor and is the perfect, hearty dish to enjoy when it's cold out.
For a tutorial and recipe, please click here.
Bawan (Taiwanese "Meat Ball")
Bawan is the quintessential Taiwanese street snack. Steamed or fried, it literally means "meat ball" and is a dumpling of sorts filled with meat, bamboo shoots, and mushrooms. The semi-translucent chewy outside is made with rice flour and sweet potato flour, giving it this unique texture that's super fun to eat.
This dish is usually topped with a bit of soy sauce, sweet rice paste, a sweet chile sauce, and chopped cilantro. I will post a tutorial on how to make these (plus recipe!) later on this week. Please check back soon!
Update! Click here for the recipe!
Asian Cucumber Salad
This dish is not strictly a Taiwanese "street food." In fact, it is more often served as an appetizer at a restaurant. However, it is still popular in Taiwan, and I wanted to balance out the meal with some veggies, so I also served this light and healthy salad. For the recipe, please click here.
Unlike Westerners, Asians really like to eat various sort of sweet bean or nut soups for dessert. A favorite is mung bean soup, which consists of mung beans boiled in water and then sweetened with sugar. Mung beans are considered "cool" foods (in the yin and yang of Chinese foods) and, accordingly to Chinese medicine, restores balance if you are "hot" (e.g., canker sores, warm body temperature, ruddy complexion).
This soup can be enjoyed either hot or cold, and is refreshing and healthy. Click here for the recipe.
In Conclusion . . .
This meal was really fun to make. It was fun recreating some dishes I had made before and also fun experimenting with some new recipes. Thanks so much to Foodbuzz for sponsoring this event. Thanks also to my mom, who gave me lots of tips on how to make these dishes. Finally, thanks to my husband (who endured a crazy messy kitchen for the entire afternoon), and to my guests, who generously showered me with praises about how delicious the food was.
Please enjoy these recipes and stay tuned for the Taiwanese Meat Ball (Bawan) one. It will come soon!
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