Friday, September 24, 2010
There's a chubby bald dude who hosts a program on The Travel Channel, infamous for eating all sorts of bugs, nasty bizzare parts, and the ilk (no it is not Anthony Bourdain). He has no problems eating bee larvae or maggots, or the most vile thing known to mankind.
But the moment he tried a piece of fermented tofu in Taiwan's capital of Stinky Tofu at Shen Kang 深坑, he spits it out (even though the tofu is covered in what looks like green moss and other funky things).
Immediately I lost all respect. It's a piece of fermented bean curd.
On our way to Keelung Night Market, we stopped by the township of Shen Kang 深坑 and marveled at the old streets as well as the numerous vendors.
There's quite a lot of variety, but the most common item we saw was tofu themed things, and of course stinky tofu grilled skewers. Then there were Hakka Taiwanese grass mochi buns with assorted flavors and delicacies.
So we did the tourist/visitor thing. You want some good food? Find the main temple. Historically them hungry monks and pilgrims traveled miles and miles to worship. When they were done, they needed something to eat, and the savvy street food vendors would set up shop in the evenings, and late into the night, to service the traveling religious folk. It is no secret that where-ever there is a big temple, there is usually some good food nearby. Hence the term "by the temple" or "temple's mouth" (miao kao - 廟口).
Thus it is fitting that in the capital of stinky tofu, that the temple mouth's flagship restaurant is none other than a place that specializes in tofu.
Ordered two items which sufficed for a transisent bite before heading northward to Keelung. The tofu soup was like a hot and sour soup (plus the Hong Kong style westlake beef soup) in texture, a little white pepper and it is quite satisfying.
The star of the show is their fried tofu. This is not the stinky version but does have a mild smell to it, yet interestingly fragrant. The dip sauce is similar to soy sauce paste 醬油膏 but seems to be seasoned with a little sesame oil and vinegar. This mixture is pretty much the defacto street food outdoor dining dip sauce, that goes well with boiled meats too (e.g. pork cheeks or the meat connecting the liver).
Probably not a place where you would go out of your way to eat, unless you are a hardcore tofu fan. But if you are in the area, sticking with historically tried and true (with receipes unchanged for 50 years) can be sometimes quite rewarding.
深坑廟口豆腐王水成老店 (Shen Kang Tofu, flagship store, by the temple)
台北縣深坑鄉深坑街135號/123號 (Taipei County, Shen Kang suburb, Shen Kang Street #135/#123, adjacent to the temple)