Wednesday, December 13, 2006

F-odd: Snip and poke

I had an extremely short trip to my favorite snacking city in the world, Taiwan, recently.

Although I was only there for an evening, I did manage to sneak in a bag o' treats between meetings (or rather pre-dinner).

I had an hour between appointments to kill and decided to go to the infamous Shilin market. Besides picking up three pairs of shoes for a song, I was stopped in my tracks by a queue of people. Being the nosy busy body I am, I had to have a look at what they were queuing for. Once I found out it was edible, I naturally joined the queue.

It was a large plastic box, mounted above a moped which had all manners of ... brown bits.

I know it seems like brown bits isn't a very good description but it was exactly what it is. Bits which had been simmered in brown, flavored soy sauce for a long time, taking on the flavors of the sauce.

What kind of bits? Well, among the ones I saw, there were chicken necks, hearts, kidneys, livers, wing tips, pig skin, ears, and snout, duck gizzards, tongues, wings, dried tofu in a variety of shapes and some vegetables too.

These bits were cut into bite size pieces, tossed in the bag with a splash of chili oil, salt and white pepper and loads of tangy, sour-sweet preserved vegetables. You are given two skewers and a pat on the bottom and off you go. Actually you don't get a pat on the bottom. You pay extra for that. Two blocks down.

So what bits did I end up getting?

The pig skin, which you see as the bright brown red curls just above my skewers. These were lovely, all chewy, with no fat stuck onto the skin and the errant hairs plucked out (I've seen this being prepared before, they really do use tweezers on the stubborn hairs!).

Hey, before you go all "eww, grosss" on me, in the West you have crackling and pork rinds... leave me alone.

Nestled straight in the middle was a mushroom, next to a young bamboo shoot. Right at the bottom, the black speckled bit is congealed pig's blood with glutinous rice, above which is a delicious chicken heart. On the right, a bow type dark thing? That's wakame, thick, chewy seaweed. All the greenery you see there is the tangy preserved vegetables.

It was a highly satisfactory snack and reasonably priced at NT$80 for the lot (HK$20).

Long live brown bits!

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