I'm so thankful for having been able to try beef noodles so often early on in my Taipei visit. I had lunch at a local joint and selected the stewed ox tripe, the pork & leek dumplings, and the spicy beef noodles. I've learned there's usually no real point in ordering an appetizer and a main at these local restaurants as dishes usually get served as soon as they're ready. I guess what you can do is order the appetizer, finish it, then ask for the menu and put in for your main. But that's kind of awkward since they often print out your bill soon after your order is placed. Onto the dishes...
Jio-Wu Beef Noodle
Spicy beef noodle soup:
This bowl of spicy beef noodles was really delicious. Sure, it was spicy, but it was more "spiced" than anything else. The broth was light and seasoned nicely. The noodles were more evenly cut than the soup dish I had last night; those noodles were almost torn by hand. I'm sure dishes like this are seen by locals more as a staple than a delicacy, and that's fine by me!
Stewed ox tripe:
Here was the star of the meal for me. Whenever we eat pork, beef, lamb or chicken, what we're consuming 95% of the time is animal muscle. It's those rare times when we eat the non-muscle that we get to experience truly unique flavors and textures. If you've never had tripe, it's very chewy and resembles a car's air filter or a ruff, the fancy collar worn by English women during the Tudor monarchy. By itself, tripe is bland, but I think that's a strength in that it takes on whatever seasoning you add to it. It's usually boiled; I wonder how it would do fried or pan seared. When I've had this in the past, it's always served pretty flavorless and comes out a pale yellow; it might not sound very appetizing, but I enjoyed the novelty of it. This time around, wow, the flavor of the soy and scallions brought a vibrancy that was most welcome; I wouldn't be surprised if the tripe were marinated in the soy. Really excellent!
Next up was a variety of dumplings. I think some were shrimp, some were pork and maybe some were beef. As dumplings go, they were very good but nothing out of the ordinary.
After taking the commuter rail back to Taipei, I decided to stop by the place I tried for lunch. Hey, it'd been at least 90 minutes since that pork sandwich!
When I was there for the first time at lunch, I saw stewed intestines and stewed tendons listed along with the tripe. I decided to give the tendons a try, and I ordered a spicy beef & tendon soup for good measure. If I return, I'll give the intestines a try. Why can't they be deep-fried instead of boiled? Anyhow, the tendon appetizer was good; it was flavorful and extremely tender, but that might be because it tasted almost like fat. The spicy soup was excellent and it was nice having tendon bits in there to give a little more variety.
Jio-Wu Beef Noodle
Spicy beef & tendon noodle soup:
I had just enough room for my...fifth...dish. After walking around for several minutes as the rain let up just a bit, I came across the wonderful aroma of roast-pork sandwiches. I was hesitating trying anything with bread, naive me thinking Chinese cuisine isn't known for such things. I'm glad I was wrong! The delicious pork was served with scallions, the meat tangy and sweet. The bread was soft and sweet, toasted on the underside having been in contact with the flat top. It lasted me almost long enough for the walk back to the train station.
My third dish might've been my favorite. It was an oyster omelette with these gelatinous "stuff" poured around the outer edge. I posted a video of it being made; I thought originally that the milky liquid he poured around the omelette was just that, milk. Instead, it was the gelatin. It was also cooked with shredded lettuce and finished with a tangy, red sauce. The soft eggs, the oysters, the gelatin...it all made for a dish lacking any crunch, crunch which the lettuce certainly didn't provide. Luckily, I had a few baby crabs left over to eat with it. But even without a contrasting element, the flavors were absolutely delicious, and I'm left wondering if I can get such a dish Stateside. Four human tongues, all the way!
Keelung Night Market
A big highlight for me in Taiwan was to get to the Keelung Night Market about a 45-minute ride northeast of Taipei via commuter rail. Unfortunately, there was a steady rain last night and that kinda made wandering around difficult, though a positive was the place wasn't teeming with locals and tourists. I'd head there, again, if there weren't another couple night markets to try within Taipei.
It must be by design to enable people to avoid the rain that so many city streets have walkways underneath the bulding fronts, meaning most of the facades are not flush. It's these walkways that prevented me from getting totally drenched as I negotiated the six-block walk from Keelung Station to the night market. I know I grabbed pretty popular items, but since I didn't know if I'd be back, I wanted to make sure I tasted what I knew would be good. Here's what I had, yo:
I first picked up whole shrimp with the head and shell intact, as well as baby crabs cut in half also served in their shells. They were already cooked, deep fried, but after I made the request, the vendor flash fried them in a pot of oil to reheat them. They were seasoned with what tasted very much like Old Bay, as well as diced scallion. Simple, crispy, aromatic, perfect. Boy, were they good!
Crispy whole shrimp & baby crabs:
Pork & leek dumplings:
I also ordered these pork & leek dumplings as an appetizer along with the tripe, though I guess I should be thankful they arrived last. The flavor was fine, though they should've been advertised as veggie dumplings; when I split one open, it was a lot more leek than pork. The noodle wrapping was also a little thicker than I would've liked. Oh, what saved the dish for me was that I tried some local hot chili oil which was hotter than the American version.
December 29, 2017