I had just finished walking through Shilin Night Market. Being completely honest, I have a sort of love-hate relationship with night markets. I enjoy the sensory overload – the nonstop array of sights, smells, and sounds. Within a matter of feet the smells alone can vary between grilled meat, waffles, or stinky tofu. What I don’t like are the crowds that accompany the market. It’s almost impossible to walk at a reasonable pace, and once you’re in the market, it can be difficult to leave just because of the slow nature of the traffic.
By the time I made it through the night market, I was starving. While there were countless stalls and restaurants inside the market, the raw number of people and frenetic energy influenced me to eat elsewhere.
Daily Pictures: Taiwan Soul Food
“Taiwan Soul Food”; the English name of this fast food restaurant caught my eye. When I think of soul food, I think of southern food. Paula Deen, and typically unhealthy/delicious southern classics such as chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes loaded with butter. What could Taiwanese soul food possible be?
The answer is gravy. That’s the direct translation – in reality its more of a thick, delicious broth. Stock made from cooking virtually every kind of animal meat and bones together. Hungry patrons each get a pasta strainer and a set of tongs. You pick your starch, vegetables, and meat as you like.
Udon noodles, ramen noodles, rice noodles, thick rice noodles, mung bean noodles, spaghetti, and rice are all available. Little sausages, krab meat, quail eggs, caramelized tofu, cheese rangoons, and tens of raw meats are all available. Bags of fresh tatsoi, corn on the cob, and mushrooms are available, It’s a free-for-all.
After paying accordingly, the food is dropped into the ‘gravy’ broth and cooked to perfection.
How was it you may ask? To be completely honest, I was my own enemy. I ordered 小辣, or a little spicy. My first taste of the soup was a spoonful of broth, and I nearly choked from the heat. Back home, it would probably be a solid four out of five on the spice-o-meter. All of the individual ingredients were delicious however. I ate what I could before running to a nearby boba tea shop for some ‘sweet’ relief.
What struck me from the experience mostly was the very identification of the food as ‘Soul Food’. Back home, soup often isn’t considered a meal. However, being able to pick noodles, vegetables, and meats to be poached in broth is considered comfort food here. I think that’s great.