taiwan: kaohsiung nightmarket

nightmarkets (yeshi in mandarin) here are truly eye-popping. you can get your sugar-, protein-, fat- and food-on-a-stick-fix at these open-air street markets, which are in most major towns and cities (more than one in bigger cities) and are usually up and going from 5pm to 5am. they’re a combination food hall, chuckie cheese (complete with games that involve throwing projectiles into various holes and crevices to win ginormous stuffed animals or remarkably tiny (live) puppies), bazaar and hang-out for the under-30 set. mostly, you come here to eat.

the most popular and most numerous stands are those that sell

meat-(and various other unidentifiable bits)-on-a-stick (the guy will grill whichever skewers you choose, whether it’s chicken parts, chicken hearts, chinese sausage, blood pudding cakes, squid, prawns, baby octopus, pressed tofu, etc. they cost about $1 a stick.) and

DI(almost)Y noodles. probably 75% of the stands (there are probably 50 all together) at the kaohsiung nightmarket offer variations on this theme. usually people would get soup noodles (maybe because the parkas they were wearing in the 20C evenings weren’t keeping them warm enough) but i’m sure you can get them fried as well. you got your veg, your seafood and any ol’ animal part you fancy. you can even pick your fish from the live fish tanks! the noodles range from your standard wide and skinny wheat and egg noodles to taiwan’s deservedly famous rice noodles (to the left of those hearts in the bottom photo). i didn’t actually try any of these because connie and i got held up at the

dumpling stall (there was only one! we thought that was weird), where they had the whole family rolling, stuffing and wrapping these guys. they taste exactly like my mom’s (which is the highest praise imaginable) but they manage to make them 10 times faster than her. i really need to bring a videocamera next time. all you people in new york can shut up about the 5-for-$1 dumplings — these were 15 for $1 and a thousand times better than those greaseballs. my favorite part (besides the actual dumplings) is that they don’t premix your dumpling dipping sauce. they have containers out of all the different components (soy sauce, rice vinegar, green onions, chile pepper) and you concoct your own.

kaohsiung is well known for its seafood, so many stands also sold crab legs, whole crabs, deep-fried squid and octopus and whole fish. and if that ain’t enough, you can get

pickles (like my mom’s! except on an industrial scale.),

breakfast — these are those youtiao crullers. and i lie, they’re not really just a breakfast food. and in fact, i don’t think taiwanese people relegate anything to -just- the breakfast table. they wouldn’t think twice about eating anything any time of the day.

and then there’s dessert: these are little doughnuts with chestnuts inside. the guy skewers a chestnut and then enrobes the nut with the batter in a crazy sort of wrapping motion. and then deep fries it all, naturally. these are really really really good.

but not so stomach-stuffing that we couldn’t get down a little grass jelly (the black stuff towards the right). i’m not so into the sweet red bean you get all over asia (i can do green (mung?) bean desserts), but grass jelly i love. almond jelly is excellent too, but they didn’t have any of that at anywhere we went. this is nothing like that crap that comes in the cans — it’s got this addicting, really singular flavor and all the fun wobbliness of tapioca and jello. it might be shredded into strands, cut into cubes or made into these tiny little balls (my favorite shape, by far). way better than pearl milk tea.


5 Responses to “113681928583483932”

  1. 1 Michael Turton January 9, 2006 at 8:13 pm

    Hi! Nice photos! But they destroy your blog format because they are too big. It might look better if you cut them all down to 400 pixels in width. That’s what I usually do with my photos of Taiwan on my blog.


  2. 2 winnie January 10, 2006 at 3:39 am

    thanks for the input, michael.
    i’d given some thought to this when i swapped templates, and yeah, it’s not as streamlined as i would like. the thing is, i personally find 400 pixels too small. and i hate it when you can only see larger versions by clicking through. so i thought this was the lesser of the evils.

    can we take a poll though? who else finds my photos too big?

  3. 3 carl January 10, 2006 at 8:23 am

    Lets not mince pictures. They are fantastic as is– thanks so much for posting them. I’m inspired.

  4. 4 daisy January 23, 2006 at 5:38 pm

    being the not-so-chinese person that i am, i never realized that chestnuts were something that asian folks ate. in any case, i made fresh chestnut ice cream last week. it was pretty good, but i think i slightly overcooked my custard, and i would have wished for a finer puree of chestnut. the flavor was awesome, though. wish you could have had some, winnie.

  5. 5 winnie January 24, 2006 at 4:01 am

    me too, daisy. don’t worry, when i blow into town (someday), i’ll be sure to remind you to make some. hopefully they’ll be in season.

    chinese people also eat these other crazy looking horned chestnuts. i forget what they’re called.

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