Tuesday, 16 May 2017

luodong night market: fun regional cuisine

Luodong Night Market in Yilan County (羅東夜市, 宜蘭縣).

Our Taiwan itinerary was basically a loop around the country - the idea was to start from Taipei and make our way down the east coast to the south, then head back up again through the west and center before finally returning to where we began.

I'm going to leave the Taipei posts for later, so let's get to the (literally) loopy part of the journey!

For some reason, I decided to kick things off with Luodong. I can't remember exactly how this came about, but I suspect that I read some glowing reviews about the local night market there, my stomach said "yes!" and that was that.

And the Luodong night market really is the main attraction, as far as I'm concerned. We wandered around town during the day, and honestly, we didn't get up to much. It is when night falls that it gets truly exciting.

The first thing I ate at the market was something simple and straightforward, a piece of grilled mackerel. A sprinkling of salt and a squeeze of lemon is all it needs - the excellent quality of the fish rings through bright and clear.

Grilled mackerel from the Yifang Seafood Stall (宜芳海物燒烤店鯖魚).

Simon, on the other hand, got this thing, whatever it is, I can't remember... but it looks like a pizza cone.

I think this is some kind of pizza cone (義式捲筒披薩)?

Then he made an astute choice with this Shanghai-style cold-tossed hand-torn chicken salad. I was a bit skeptical because the stall wasn't one of the more crowded ones, but it actually turned out to be delicious. With mixed vegetables, pulled chicken, crunchy peanuts, and a tangy dressing to pull it all together, this salad is big on texture and flavour. It's probably also one of the healthier options you can get at the market, if that matters.

Shanghainese cold shredded chicken salad (涼拌手撕雞). 60 NTD for a small portion, 100 NTD for large.

By the way, there is a park just next to the market! It's called the Luodong Zhongshan Park, and the lights and fountain features are quite pretty at night.

Luodong Zhongshan Park (羅東中山公園).

But let's get back to the food, because we're getting to the more interesting stuff...

I think we got these pork-wrapped spring onion rolls after seeing an impressive queue at the stall. Usually, a long line turns me off and I can't be bothered... but hey, we're on holiday, we're in Luodong precisely for the food, and they look freakin' awesome. Like many other stalls selling spring onion snacks, this one also proudly proclaims the use of the famously voluptuous and fragrant spring onions from the nearby Sanshing, a small rural town that has its own spring onion festival and spring onion museum.

Pork-wrapped green onion rolls on a stick (三星蔥肉串), 35 NTD.

The thinly-sliced grilled pork that's brushed with a sweet, savoury sauce and topped with sesame seeds, the aromatic spring onions bursting with juices encased within... yeah, these babies were worth the wait.

Another shot of the pork and spring onion skewer.

Then I had a brief dessert interruption... though frankly I wasn't so much tempted by something sweet than amused by the name of this stall: "Flat-Chested Maiden's Crispy Egg Cakes". That's one way to make a sale! Anyway, these are best eaten warm - they're soft and tender inside, with a slight crunch to the exterior. But like most of the egg cakes I tried in Taiwan, they weren't as eggy as I prefer; I think I'm just spoilt by the homemade ones my family makes, where we don't hold back on the eggs!

Crispy egg cakes from the Flat-Chested Maiden stall (平胸妹脆皮雞蛋糕), 30 NTD for a small portion, 50 NTD for large.

I was keen to try the specialty foods known to this region, and the mysteriously named dragon phoenix roll certainly fits the bill. It's basically a sausage with ingredients such as pork, fish paste, cabbage and carrot neatly wrapped up in pig's caul fat.

Dragon phoenix leg (龍鳳腿), 20 NTD per stick.

Pork fritters are also well-known here. Strips of pork are seasoned, dipped in batter, and deep fried. The stall I got these from also offered another specialty called gaozha, I wish I tried that too, I don't know why I didn't - apparently they're deep-fried creamy meat cubes that melt in your mouth, so intriguing! They sell some kind of century egg salad as well.

Pork fritters (卜肉) from the Xiaochun (小春) stall, which also sells little deep-fried meat cakes (糕渣). 60/100 NTD small/large.

Last but not least, one of the local specialties that I really wanted to experience at the Luodong night market is the angelica mutton soup.

Yangpuzi, a popular angelica mutton soup stall at Luodong night market (羊舖子當歸羊肉湯).

Cooked with angelica root, which is said to have restorative medicinal qualities, this Chinese herbal soup features tender mutton in an aromatic broth. With a taste that feels nourishing yet light, this soup is like a lovely warm hug on a cool autumn evening. It made me happy.

Angelica mutton soup (當歸羊肉湯), 65 NTD per bowl. Delicious!

Eventually, our night market wanderings also led us to the Luodong Fude Temple, a random find for us.

Luodong Fude Temple (羅東福德廟).

The lanterns looked bright and festive - a fittingly vibrant end to our time in Luodong, which was short but sweet - or should I say, short but savoury, with little surprises here and there, plus lots of satisfaction!

Lanterns at the Luodong Fude Temple.

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