The food cart scene in Portland is huge, and weirdly enough it took me until my fourth visit to the city to truly experience this uniquely Portland thing. You see, until food trucks or the carts you might see in other cities, the carts in Portland are actually semi-permanent structures and clusters of them take up whole city blocks. At the Alder Street “Pod” I found Steak Your Claim among the carts and knew it was made for me.
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.
Sometimes you find yourself walking around the streets of Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) late at night trying to find a restaurant that tourists wouldn’t go to. What we found was Le La Quan, a place so local that the people who worked in the restaurant barely spoke a word of English and the menu was only available in Vietnamese.
Sometimes the world feels dominated by American chain restaurants. It seems that anywhere you go you can find McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway and KFC. Yet, we are not the only ones pushing our fast food abroad, as evidenced by MOS Burger. MOS Burger is a Japanese fast food burger spot that I was a pretty big fan of when I was living in Japan, and I was so happy to find that it is also available in Taiwan (as well as a number of other Asian countries, and even Australia) that I had to have some.
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.
Sometimes life gives you a difficult decision. And sometimes there is no “right” choice. Case in point: On what felt like basically the hottest day ever in Hue, Vietnam, we were given the choice of eating in a somewhat touristy restaurant with air conditioning or an “off the beaten path” restaurant without. We chose the former and found ourselves at Y Thao Garden Restaurant. And of course, within minutes of setting food, having not eaten a bite, we all felt like we had made the right decision.
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.
Hoi An might be one of the coolest little towns in the world. It reminded me of the water towns not far from Shanghai, except with a modern touch that seems to blend seamlessly with the old. And like any cool little town worth its salt, Hoi An has a couple of dishes that claim to be indigenous to the town. As such, we made our way to Green Heaven in Hoi An to try out the goods.