Saturday, 29 January 2011

Shilin Night Market 士林夜市

We went to Shilin Night Market (士林夜市) for dinner. FYI, the metro station you should get off is Jiantan Stn (劍潭站) on the Red Line, not Shilin Stn (士林站).

This structure isn't a suspension bridge, but a pylon structure to suspend the roof of Jiantan Station. It's supposed to be in the shape of a dragon boat. This design bagged the 19th Annual Taiwan Architecture Award in 1997. I loik it. I loik it a loit.

Jiantan mrt station, Taipei, Taiwan
Jiantan MRT Station

The mention of Shilin Night Market lit up Ada's eyes - sampling small street eats, various nibbles from a large number of food stalls. The moment the train arrived the station, the pulse is palpable. Across the station is the food square where all the food stalls gather under one roof. The next block is the night market where tourists come here to soak up the 3 S's - sights, sounds and smells.

Sign, Shilin Night Market, Taipei, Taiwan

We started with the night market in search of the 3 S's, and worked up an appetite. It's a bit like Ladies Market in HK, except somewhat bigger, or I should say longer. Despite what should be a scene of melee as you would expect in HK (or worse in China) with the throng of people, here in Taiwan, people move in one direction even in a busy market. Crowded, yet some semblance of order is kept up, thanks to the Japanese legacy.

Night markets are popular in Tapei, according to the tourist map, there're 8 night markets if I counted correctly. Shilin Night Market, I'm told, is the biggest.

While it was one of the coldest night of the year, and yet there was a packed crowd. Perhaps, it was because it was only a week before Chinese New Year. Maybe it was busy 365 days a year. I had no idea.

Street scene, Shilin Night Market, Taipei, Taiwan Street scene, Shilin Night Market, Taipei, Taiwan
Street scene, Shilin Night Market, Taipei, Taiwan Street scene, Shilin Night Market, Taipei, Taiwan

I also found this sold on the street. This is Sugar haw(thorn) on a stick (冰糖葫蘆). It's essentially candied hawthorns dipped in syrup. I do like dried hawthorns, but not fresh like this. It's a common snack that the Beijingers love, especially children. For me they're eye candies that offend my palette. Yuck! But try it if you haven't !

candied haw/hawthorns on sticks, Shilin Night Market, Taipei, Taiwan
Candied haws on sticks

Ada's dad went on about the lightest umbrella he bought from Japan. If you can get it from Japan, surely you can get them here in Taiwan. When we came across one of these brolly shops, we bought a couple.

Umbrella shop, Shilin Night Market, Taipei, Taiwan

Sales girl with angel wings, Shilin Night Market, Taipei, Taiwan
With that pair of wings, would this angel be warmer than
the rest of us on this cold night?

Street scene, Shilin Night Market, Taipei, Taiwan
Dog in shop, Shilin Night Market, Taipei, Taiwanwindow
Left photo: Mafia Hair Salon, you want only bring exact money to cut your hair there.
Left and above: "How much is that doggie in the window?"

Street scene, Shilin Night Market, Taipei, Taiwan
Neon sign: What type of family? Naughty family?

After the walkabout in the cold, I worked myself up an appetite. And then I heard the calling of flame-grilled corncobs with its sizzling crackles. I couldn't resist those calls any more than horny-men resist the calls of call-girls (that's why they call them call-girls). It brought back innocent memories of childhood on Vietnam streets (the corncobs, not call-girls) during the Teochew (or is it Hokkien?) Opera Performance that was staged in my school basketball court opposite my place. What's more enjoyable than eating flame-grilled corncobs while watching Chinese opera as a pre-pubescent kids?!

flame-grilled corncob, Shilin Night Market, Taipei, Taiwan

flame-grilled corncob, Shilin Night Market, Taipei, Taiwan

We bought a grilled corncob that was smeared with secret family recipe sauce of 3 herbs and 2 spices (eat your corncobs out, Colonel Sanders). I also had a weakness for secret recipe. Ada didn't like it. I find it passable. Aussies grow up on eating Vegemite (not us) might probably get a kick out of this. It looked like Vegemite too with its black slimy texture. Not too dissimilar to WTI (aka light sweet crude, or what the Texan called Texas Tea. I know it wasn't Chinese tea. So Texan might find them deliciously homey).

In any case, the corn ears were easy to chew, but the remain of the corncob stem was a bit of a mouthful to finish it.

While I didn't enjoy my corncob while watching Hokkien opera, there was some live stage performance. Perhaps, part of the reason for the crowd, or the crowd during this time of the year was the reason for the live performance. I don't know which was the cause and which was effect. But they were probably go  hand in hand (and the only thing in my hand was the sticky secret sauce not made by Colonel Sanders).

Stage, Shilin Night Market, Taipei, Taiwan
All dressed up in Chinese festive red.

All girls band, live performance, Shilin Night Market, Taipei, Taiwan
One is singing "Wake me up Before You Go Go" in her sleep

Audience, Shilin Night Market, Taipei, Taiwan
Audience watching the stage performance just outside the Shilin Market Food Courts

After  the disappointing secret family recipe, we headed for the food square (or hawker centre if you prefer Singlish and would be a more accurate description). Once you got into the door, you immediately hit by the maze of the sight of food stalls and eaters. Food stalls galore, of all the years of travel, I have never seen such large number of gathering of food stands in one place.
The problem now was what to pick from these bewildering number of choices.

And then Chow Yun-Fat came to lend a hand by having a photo of him with his hand wrapping around the shoulder of the stall owner. Immediately, I jumped onto the lets-follow-the-star bandwagon, and ordered something from them. Judging from the crowd, the bandwagon was about to tip over.

This stall is selling one of the specialty in this night market, "Small Pie Wraps in Big Pie" (大餅包小餅. Although it would even be better to call it 大包包小包). Interesting taste, but not quite my cup of (Chinese or Texas) tea. Can't say I shared his taste in food. Should try if you haven't. The ingredients are listed in the photo.

Food stall, Shilin Night Market, Taipei, Taiwan

After shuffled and meandered through the packed crowd, you'll be hit by the pungent smell of stinky (or smelly) tofu. This is Taiwanese or Hokkien's contribution too the world of culinary delights. Like those French cheeses that the more pungent they smell, the better they taste. Judging from their disgusting reek, they must be delicious.

Regardless, this is what Taiwan is renown for, therefore, less exotic and safer. What's the point of coming here without trying out these alluring stinking tofu.

Because this tofu is Taiwan local specialty, many stalls sell them. But this one seemed quite busy. We also ordered a fried rice for the carbo. The stinky tofu wasn't smelly enough for me, but Ada said ok.

Stinky tofu, Shilin Night Market, Taipei, Taiwan
These heavenly stinky tofu stinks to high heaven!
Just eat with your nose pinched. If your fingers aren't free, use a hair-clip.

Skewers and meat rolls, Shilin Night Market, Taipei, Taiwan
All these look quite yummy. I wish I have a few extra stomachs, like cows.
But then cows' stomachs are only good for digesting veggies.

The food stands that located at the rear end are much quieter. Don't know if this is due to their locations or their qualities (or both). If you want to avoid crowd, sneak from the rear entrance. This is Saturday, so weeknights might have been less busy.

Lemon aiyu jelly (愛玉冰), one of the specialty here.

We had a jello for desserts. Tired and quite full, we called it a day.

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