Saturday, November 18, 2023

Gone Crazy on Street Food

Street food culture is pretty much a mainstay in Tainan's daily life, especially at one of the dozen night markets around town which operates from dusk til late. Locals even had a widely circulated mnemonic to remember which markets are open on any given day of the week. 

We had plenty of opportunities trying out some of the famous street food during our short stay in Tainan. Ask any locals from Tainan about the most famous shop for drinks, they will all point to this place called Shuansen Beverages (双生綠豆沙牛奶) in city center. Bubble tea might have been the unofficial national drink of Taiwan, Shuansen is famous for green bean with milk. Their official hours might have been Wednesday to Sunday 11am to 6pm, but we were told that most often than not they sold out by 3pm. Their menu is simply with five different types of drinks plus the options for the tapioca pearls (a.k.a. bubble). And yes if you are into sweet drinks you are going to love this with rich green bean flavor. 

The group of us headed off to the night market after dinner and drinks. Da Dong Night Market 大東夜市 (and the neighboring Da Dong Dong Market 大東東夜市which is a spin-off) is one of the iconic ones in Tainan, and opened 3 days a week. With the two markets combined, there are more than a few dozen food stalls scattered across along with other game stalls or shops in a carnival like atmosphere, serving everything from old school lo sui marinated snacks to oyster pancakes to grilled oysters and all the famous Taiwanese desserts. 

I felt I hardly slept for a couple of hours after our last meal at the night market before we woke up and went for another meal at Yong Le Market, famous for local food stalls which opened from the mornings til late. Our first stop was Xiu’an Douhua (修安扁擔豆花), a dessert specialist famous for tofu and shaved ice sweets. The stall started off as a mobile one with the owner holding the basket on his shoulder until he settled in a permanent venue along the alley next to the market. There’s a good selection of different fillings and can have it served cold or warm. 

Beef Broth is the popular street food dish for locals and everyone has their own favorite stalls. We walked into A-Cun Beef Shop (阿村牛肉湯) just down the street and tried their version. Flavor was on the lighter side but with good meaty flavor, and the beef slices were simply served with a side of soy sauce and julienned ginger. I probably would have preferred their stir-fried dishes with leeks because their meat was definitely more impressive than their broth base. 

We finished our morning food crawl at A Song Gwa Bao (阿松割包), shop famous for the steamed white bun sandwich known as “Gwa Bao”. Normally everything goes as far as gwa bao fillings are concerned, A Song only have 3 choices – “Normal”, Lean and Tongue – with “Normal” mainly meat from pig’s head (so with a bit of crunchiness), Lean the regular pork meat and Tongue, well, as the name suggests. Pig Tongue’s the most popular (and the priciest among the three) and I love it, with the thick slices of pig tongue providing quite a bite and the mild marinate providing an extra dimension of flavor. I also loved the pickled vegetables and the sesame sauce that went into the buns served lukewarm rather than steamy hot. 

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