Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Some say that Keelung (基隆) Night Market was born out of the main temple in the area (hence the term 基隆廟口) when people in the old days would travel like pilgrims to worship.
Eventually worshippers got hungry and needed some food at whatever hours of the day or night, even if they were praying into the wee hours of the morning. Savvy entrepreneurs would set up stalls and stake out a location adjacent to the temple's entrance exterior, and thus the rest they say is history.
One of these entrepreneurs set up a stall called 100 year Wu's Ding Bien Dzuo 百年吳家鼎邊趖. The truth is, they started in 1919, which means in nine more years, and this joint will officially be 100 years old!
You will find this stall in Keelung Night Market, literally adjacent to the temple (I believe it is on the left side). Of course there are one or two competitors nearby, but you really can't go wrong here for a first visit.
They say the original and founder Mr. Wu Tien Fu 吳添福 was one of the greats, not only in being a pioneer in this night market movement, but he had a heart of gold, and was very active in his community. For a man who had no schooling whatsoever, he built success with his bare hands, and even his offspring and family ended up opening different kinds of food stalls nearby, such as the famous 天一香肉羹順 (famous for minced pork rice), opened by Mr Wu's daughter.
And now ownership is into the third generation, who have taken a step further and enabled the franchising of the business. Unfortunately the quality at the Taipei 101 branch food court is not close (let alone no ambience whatsoever).
This 鼎邊趖 is some serious hardcore Chinese indeed, and let me see if I can explain it. "趖" seems to be referring to the slow paced movement (against the side of the pot (金鼎) from boiling. But not just any pot, a 金鼎 looks like this
(although I'm sure Mr Wu didn't really use a gold one )
The cooking process of involves taking some grounded rice in liquid form (sometimes known as rice milk, or mi jiang 米漿) and cooking it to a boil, stirring it so it revolves around the circumference/edges of the pot, while adding water in the process (resulting in a steaming and cooking action).
The result is actually somewhat similar to Cantonese or Chiu Chow ho fun or the "cheong fun" you get at dim sum, but the taste and texture are different.
鼎邊趖 has Fuzhou origins, and doesn't need to be served in soup (although Wu's is) and can be done brothless, or dry stir fried.
What makes Wu's version shine is indeed the broth, that contains
肉羹 - pork potage
蝦仁羹 - shrimp potage
金針 - Lily bulb
香菇 - mushrooms
魷魚 - squid
小魚干 - dried fish
竹筍 - bamboo shoot
金勾蝦 - a kind of local shrimp
高麗菜 - cabbage
蒜頭酥 - shallots
芹菜 - celery
The result is a true wonderland of mixtures, flavors, and textures. The rice noodle roll is but a condiment, but a delicious one at that.
It doesn't look like much, but it is one of true Keelung delicacies (another one strangely, is a hearty sandwich with deep fried bread.... but that's for next time). Just stick with the flagship location and you won't be disappointed.
百年吳家鼎邊趖 (Wu's Ding Bien Dzuo)
基隆廟口攤位編號27-2號 (Keelung Night Market, Stall # 27-2)