street food

The Taiwanese street food spirit: Shallot oil

Sit down in a Taiwanese noodle shop, and in less than three minutes the shop owner can bring you a great bowl of noodles. The flavor is well balanced: salty, sweet, and spicy, with aromatic herbs.
 
Shallot oil is the essential spirit of this delicious Taiwanese noodle soup, which is fast and easy to make. Shallot oil is an influential flavor in Taiwanese food.
 
Shallot oil is used on sticky rice, noodle soup, taro rice noodle soup, fish ball soup, warm green vegetables, and so on. Shallot oil is the secret that lets street noodle shops and stands serve a tasty and aromatic dish within three minutes.
 
Shallot oil isn’t difficult to make, but it takes time and it’s very easy to overcook. We need to use low heat to cook away the shallots’ moisture, and bring out their aroma. We need to be patient, because the finely chopped shallots can easily burn.
 
Shallot oil is not only used in the restaurant business, it’s a very common ingredient for Taiwanese family cooking, too.

Soy paste: Key to Taiwanese cuisine

What is soy paste?

Soy taste is one of the essential tastes of Taiwanese cuisine. It is salty and sweet, and the texture is thick. The consistency is similar to oyster sauce. This strong flavor strongly influences Taiwanese cooking, and it is one of most widely used ingredients.

When a Taiwanese person has no idea how to flavor a dish, the most common solution is to flavor the dish with soy paste. For example: When Taiwanese cook tofu and green vegetables, chicken, pork, seafood, very often they serve it with soy paste, garlic and some cilantro.

For stir fried dishes, soy paste is added during cooking, at the same time as adding soy sauce. For other dishes, soy paste is usually added after cooking is complete.

Soy paste is commonly used on stir-fried dishes, sauces, noodles, and street food.

In the morning market

I sometimes hear the mushroom sellers telling their customers: “It's simple – just stir-fry the mushrooms and flavor them with soy paste, garlic and chili.”

12 ways to explore old Taipei's Dadaocheng area

 

1. Morning markets

Tàipíng market: This is the oldest open market in Taipei, built more than 100 years ago. The market offers all kind of fresh fruits, vegetables, meat and seafood. The food stores around the market have been offering the most delicious food for more than half of a century. Originally, it was a wholesale market.

Yǒnglè market: It was originally established around 1910, during the Japanese colonial period, when it was the first indoor market in Taiwan. It was the first time Japanese administrators organized an outdoor Chinese style market, and brought the stallholders into a cleaner and more hygienic indoor market. Upstairs on the 2nd floor is a fabric market.

2. Night markets

Níngxià night market:
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