Day 020: Stink Tofu at Shilin Night Market
I'm going out of chronological order! I'm not even in Taiwan! I just want to share all the cultural specialties I plowed through for your benefit. I was thinking of all of you, my dear food craving readers while I ate such dishes as stinky tofu. Stinky tofu is quintessential Taiwanese comfort food. Fermented tofu served sauteed or fried. It reeks to high heaven with a sharp scent. You know it before you try it from all the carts stinking up the street. They will tell you that it does not taste like it smells, but it does it does. It smells and tastes like a wet dog that's been rolling in overly ripe cheese. The distinct flavor strikes a special cord with anyone who has grown up on it. I was proud that I didn't have any problems putting it in my mouth, chewing it, or swallowing it. Its not offensive, just boldly different.
The stinky tofu I tried came with Taiwanese style kimchi, which is just a lightly pickled sweet cabbage and cold sesame noodles. It was all very delicious together. In the picture above you can see a good example of the bucket of hot chili sauce you get on most tables. Note Taiwan beer was also part of the meal. Taiwan beer goes pretty darn well with all Taiwanese foods.
A tub of fermenting tofu stacked up 4 high, and just hanging out on the street. I'm not sure how the tofu is fermented. Maybe it's just old?
The stinky tofu stand where I tried it at the Shilin Night Market is hoping. We waited in line to get a seat and be served.
After the stinky tofu meal came course/meal number two. Seafood. Whole fried crabs were delicious. They were cleaned, so there was less work to do. The crab meat was huge, and fluffy. A lot more generous than you're average Maryland crab. Sadly these crabs had their claws removed, but you could still pick a little out of the legs. Next up was an oyster omelet. Another Taiwan classic, which tastes just as you could imagine. Finally there were, for lack of a better term, hermit crabs steamed and served in a star anise sauce. They had a pleasant chewiness. Not at all unlike snails.
We really kept going. Somehow we got into a discussion about the glutinous rice doughs you find in many asian dishes. Its straight up chewy-gooey and a work out for your jaw. But I find it pleasant. This was a giant steamed rice dumpling stuffed with chopped meat.
And then shaved ice! I loved shaved ice! A delightful delicate and sophisticated way to make ice cream. They freeze a cylinder of flavored condensed milk. The frozen tube is then set on to a giant drill press with a razor on the bottom. The milk is pressed on to the razor while spinning to make light frilly shavings of ice cream that dance as they melt in your mouth. Most of the flavors are fruity: strawberry, mango, kiwi, pineapple, passion and come with more fruit on the side. My favorite Taiwanese dessert.
By this point i'm not hungry, but I've never let that stop me before. These are glutinous rice balls covered in nut powder. They're fun to eat. Eating is fun. I'm good at having fun.