I hate people who are not serious about their meals. -- Oscar Wilde

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Street Market by the SYS Memorial Hall

Om Nomz Hero Note to Self: You know when you are in a true street market when you have to watch out for incoming traffic, makes shopping for fruit interesting

Most people when they go to a country, want to look at museums, buildings and go shopping, me personally the first thing I look up is the markets in the area. One of my favorite markets in Taipei is by the Sun Yat San Memorial Hall. Markets in Taiwan are called “Tai Chi Ya” which is a street market, where people sell produce, food and other odd bits and ends. These markets differ from the more popularly known Night Markets in which Night Markets such as Shilin are just all about food and Xiao Chi, but it does not mean that you cannot get some food at the Tai Chi Ya. 

Walking by The SYS Memorial in the early morning is that you will notice it is basically old people time. They will be out and about in the streets and doing tai chi, weird calisthenics or just chilling rocking nothing but a low cut undershirt. If they were any younger, they could be mistaken for hipsters. On a side street and if you listen closely enough, you can hear the shouts and smells of a market. This Tai Chi Ya in particular is also an active street which if you are not already disoriented by the vast array of food, pushy grandmas and vendors egging you to buy their stuff, you also have to watch out for small cars and mopeds honking and buzzing through the market. The street markets are filled with people selling from either a cart they set up, an established looking awning or just a piece of newspaper laid out on the street. More after the Jump!

Second your eye even flickers to anything, you are demanded to, “main main khan” meaning looking slowly and although it may seem like aggressive marketing it is said with sincerity if that is possible. Fishmongers and butchers line the street and produce is all about. The scene of an old Grandmother, squatting in the street and breaking down fish with a cleaver is an interesting sight. Fruits in Taiwan such as persimmons, rose apples and guava are plentiful and cheap and the sizes of these fruits think that they were harvested at the Willy Wonka Factory. Besides the fresh produce and butchers and fishmongers lining the streets there are also prepared food because not everyone is in the mood to cook. There are stalls that sell all things braised in soy from meaty bits to tofu. Roasted chickens and ducks are strung up on hooks on proud display and their proprietors beckoning at you and repeatedly telling you “how chi, how chi” meaning good eats, good eats.

At the cross roads of this particular market is a shop that has a constant line of people, waiting for a morning eat of a you tau shao bing. It is the ultimate carbo load, of a fried cruller that is shoved into a shao bing, that is a flaky flat bread. A mother and daughter run the show here as the mother takes and gathers the orders while simultaneously, dealing out change and bagging up cups of soy milk and you tau shao bing. The daughter slams down trays of shao bing and while still hot works at a furious pace, grabbing a shao bing splitting it with scissors all the while folding a freshly fried you tau and shoving it into the shao bing. 

This carbo load morning treat is a perfect hangover cure and the crispy goodness is just filled with grease making it a filling and making you almost feel guilty eating this much fat in the early AM. A few feet away is something that would mind blowing in the US but here, it’s all good. Fresh bao zi are being made and steamed right there on the street when I mean being made, I mean that they are making dough, filling and shaping bao zi all right there, rain or shine. There is a line for these bao zi and I was more than happy to wait in because I was able to watch them methodically portioning, stuffing and forming them. 

They were not skimping on the portions here and the folding and shaping reminds me of the chefs at Din Tai Fung making soup dumplings. The crazy part of this to me is that all the bao zi they make are vegetarian and they are simply delicious. The fillings range from bamboo to bean sprouts to red bean but the best is the cabbage filled bao zi that is crisp and garlicky and instantly forget an carnivorous cravings you may have had prior to visiting them. Though this Tai Chi Ya is comparably smaller to others, it has its charms and does not lack in tasty eats.  Instead of focusing on the night markets, more people should focus on the morning and day markets because the amount of produce and food there is overwhelming and you can get a better picture of what people are like and eat. 

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