Thursday, 14 August 2008

The sights and smells of a night market...

Last night, I went to one of the many night markets that are in Taipei. These narrow streets are crowded with people, and yet men on scooters shimmy their way through as if their mound of metal was water trickling through grains of sand called pedestrians. They beep their little horns mili-seconds before impact, trying to make sure they get through without having to stop to file a police report about why or how the hit a person walking down an alley. That would simply take too much time.
Abeautiful exterior of stores with high quality items are the base of this market's success, but the lining on the inside, just outside their doors, is a multitude of individual vendors with cheapened knock-offs and souveniers that I couldn't help but think fell off of a delivery truck. Their products look worn, used, and cheap, just like the lining of a pair of old leather shoes that you've had for ten years. If you stop for more than a moment, this (usually smoking) vendor will jump at you, screaming something in Chinese. Thoughts of crazy info-mercial hosts come to mind. "Beautiful items at must-go prices. $100 usually, but today only $10...and for you, and only you, only $9.99!!!" I can only speculate what they are saying. The language barrier has made my imagination run wild.
The range of food in this market spans the scale to the extremes. The only thing that they seem to have in common, is that most are on a stick; sausages filled with fish eggs, fried shrimp rolls, fish and cheese balls, types of tofu. Call me an uncultured fool, but I personally have issues with a squid speared with a wooden stick. Granted, I have issues with squid in general, so I may be a little biased. But outside the little carts that offer a multitude of hand-held seafood or whole birds (with their heads in tact) hanging from their banner, there is an occasional good find. There is a tiny shop called Arnold's French Cookie. Four people stand in front of giant circular burners, pouring a sweet smelling, pancake like batter onto it and spreading it incredibley thin and round. After they flip them, they immediately begin to fill this crepe-like concoction with a variety of things. You can order anything to be put in it. Many order it filled with ham, cheese, pork, or any other meal-like items. But Anna and I prefer to pick something from the other side of the menu. This sweet, thin bread can be filled with anything from bananas, chocolate, peanut butter, honey, or jam. The fast-handed chef fills this saccharine, thin bread and folds it into what looks like a giant ice-cream cone. While I was still full from dinner, I watched Anna savor the peanut butter and chocoate cookie/cone as I made a conscious plan to return to get one of my own.

No comments: