Saturday, March 29, 2008

Street food in Tamsui Taipei - Part Two


"Must-eat" street food and snacks in Tamsui, are no more secret. There is even a travel snippet on that. It is therefore not my great discovery but instead a pursuit of what is evident. I try to accomplish most of them. Why not all ? Because there are some snacks I simply do not like (iron eggs, is one example)

Iron eggs (鐵蛋 pronounced TieDan) - these are eggs which have been repeatedly stewed in a mix of spices and air dried. The resulting eggs are dark brown, chewy to the point of almost as hard as iron, thus the name.

Signboard writes..."hot and spicy flavor, garlic flavor, black pepper flavor..."...gosh...

Now for the curious minds - why are they repeatedly stewed ? Act of purpose or matter of coincidence ? This should be a discovery or invention by act of business astute, in my opinion. The story starts from the tea eggs that are common street (convenience) food in Taiwan - do you think heaps of eggs can be sold out every day ? What do you think happen to those which are un-sold ? Those un-sold are continuously being cooked, re-cooked; stewed, re-stewed (together with fresh batch of eggs) till the point of being sooooo.....hard. Since those eggs could be repeatedly stewed till hard yet still edible(note: edible does not equal "nice-to-eat"), why not turn them into snacks that can be packaged (stored) after being air-dried. This way, the "older" eggs are not wasted, while you still can cook and stew fresh ones to entice different customers. Brrrrr...

Danshui or Tamsui fish balls (淡水魚丸) are very famous. They are made of fish paste and the fishballs are stuffed with meat and garlic, served in a soup.

Served in a light broth/soup flavored by pepper and sprinkles of celery bits


Meat filling in the fishball

Sounds and looks like Fuchow fishballs 福州鱼丸? Well, it's kinda different. These Tamsui fish balls are more chewy (sotong or cuttlefish ball texture, if you ask me) compared to Fuchow fishballs that are usually more springy. I read somewhere that the Tamsui fish paste has got shark's meat paste mixed into it !!! Is it why the texture is so much different from those fishballs I've had back in Singapore? Frankly, I prefer those in SE Asia. But since we are already here in Tamsui, we should just do ourselves justice of having more fishballs. This was taken at another store (picture of stall, below).

You can order some rice vermicelli or bee hoon and enjoy with those fishballs

Then, there is the word "A-Gei (阿給)" that keeps popping up along signboards on the street.

Ok, initially I thought it's a name of some famous food stall (oh, I so stupid!) but only when I returned from my trip, then I realized it actually meant deep fried tofu in Japanese!!!! OH IS IT??! Alright, we missed on that A-Gei (阿給) - they are deep fried tofu that are stuffed with flavored crystal noodles and sealed with fish paste (surimi). Hmmm...kinda like Yong Tau Foo, isn't it ? And only today, when I kept rolling that name in my tongue A-Gei...A-Gei, I thought of Japanese Agedashi Tofu...(OK, how do you pronounce "Agedashi"....does the first two syllabus sound like A-Gei?

Fish crisps (魚酥) - fish snacks that are light crispy with a texture comparible to shrimp crackers. Available in original and spicy flavours.

Again, reminded me of those round crispy fish snacks in SE Asia. They taste almost the same!



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