One thing that the Shilin Night Market is especially known for is giant flattened fried chicken. And there is not just one place that offers such chicken, but many. Having already had the chicken from Hot Star in Pasadena, I decided to try something else. One spot had an insane line that I simply could not handle, so I headed to Monga, a place that my friend had recommended.
As you may have already realized based on a lot of the Street Food Spotlights I’ve been posting about, the Shilin Night Market in Taipei is one of the coolest places in the world to eat food. And yet, like some sort of off-balance iceberg, there’s a little more to share below the surface. There, you can find tanks of seafood and additional food options, plus get out of the heat for a little while. Down there is a place called Zhong Cheng Hao, which is all about the seafood.
One of the coolest things about older cities is that they aren’t perfectly planned. Roads aren’t necessarily straight lines and newer buildings stand next to buildings that have stood for more than 100 years. These features add character to a place. Yet, when it’s 90 degrees with 90 percent humidity and you’re looking for breakfast first thing in the morning, it can be a bit frustrating when you find yourself walking down a residential street to find breakfast at a place with a name that is only written in Chinese. Yet, that only made finding 丰盛号 in that alley over on the left all the better.
The scallion pancake may be one of the greatest culinary creations of the Far East. It comes in different forms, but is delicious on its own and also makes up the base of the beef rolls that are super popular in authentic Chinese restaurants around LA. But perhaps the greatest take on the scallion pancake can be found at the Shilin Night Market in Taipei, Taiwan.
Here, the scallion pancake is the more flaky variety, but starts like all others on a griddle with some oil. After that, it takes a turn towards greatness by adding a fried egg. In itself this is not so revolutionary because scallion pancakes with eggs have existed for about as long as scallion pancakes. What’s big here is the addition of a slice of cheese. Yes, cheese!
As with nearly every dish, cheese can always make it better, but what is more significant is that cheese is simply not an ingredient in really any traditional Asian dishes. Therefore, embracing cheese as a complement to something traditional as opposed to relegating it to Western-style food is pretty fantastic. With a touch of spicy sauce, this was truly a transcendent bit of street food.
Oysters are weirdly popular in Taipei. Or so I think. All I know is that in two nights there I ate more oysters than I ever intended to in my whole life. One of those was in the form of some oyster noodle soup (also known as oyster vermicelli) at the Shilin Night Market, which happens every night and presumably the soup is always there being served by the same lady out of a cart as well.
I often find it amazing how universal sausage is. It seems like every culture has its own version of tube meat, like all humans have some sort of collective conscience that led us to grind up meat and stuff it inside of an intestine. And while you might think that Taiwanese sausage would basically be the same as Chinese Sausage, you would be wrong.
You may recall that a few years back I paid a visit to Shanghai and had some of their stinky tofu (aka chou doufu in Mandarin). At that time it was pretty much the only variety of stinky tofu I really knew of because I had spent a year living in that city. Stinky tofu, however, seems to come in as many flavors as bread or pasta, with Taiwan claiming one of its own.