Ethnic Eating 101: Chinese, Part 6
|fish_at_taipei @ flickr.com CC BY-NC-ND 2.0|
|rayyu @ flickr.com CC BY-NC-ND 2.0|
Beef noodle soup (牛肉麵, niu rou mian), which we've discussed, is the single biggest selling noodle dish on the island. Made with chewy noodles, thick chunks of lean beef, and a small hit of pickled vegetables, this is a hearty meal for a cold day.
Three cups chicken (三杯雞, san bei ji) is so-called because it traditionally contains a cup of soy sauce, a cup of rice wine and a cup of sesame oil; while this isn't originally a Taiwanese dish, every single Taiwanese restaurant sells it; you might say it's been expropriated from Jiangxi province.
The Taiwanese street food scene is one of the most vibrant in the world. Hawkers all over the island sell small portions of snacks. Sadly, we do not have any Taiwanese night markets in either Orange County or Los Angeles. Taiwanese snacks are sold from snack shops littered hither and yon, and the more popular ones can be found on the menus of other regional Chinese restaurants. If you see the characters 台湾小吃 (tai wan xiao chi, literally "Taiwanese small eats"), you know you are in a snack shop.
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|Stink lines are optional; it tastes good, though.|
Bite-size pieces of fried chicken, particularly dusted with curry powder and salt, are very common, as are thick sliced of toast with various spreads (usually called "brick toast"). You may also find rice with sweet, cured Taiwanese sausage (la chang, 臘腸).
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My favorite snack, however, is tea eggs (cha ye dan, 茶葉蛋). These are hard-boiled chicken eggs which have been cracked (but not peeled), re-boiled and steeped in a mixture made of black tea, various spices (five spice or star anise are especially common) and salt. The egg, when peeled, is a beautiful mottled brown and the flavor is deep, spicy and goes perfectly with a cold beer.
|sifu_renka @ flickr.com CC BY-NC-ND 2.0|
What started with tapioca balls has grown to include other Taiwanese sweets; you can get coconut in your milk tea, or grass (really herbal) jelly. If you get your drink as half tea, half coffee, you are drinking a very popular Hong Kong drink called 鸳鸯 (yuan yang, which means "lovebirds").
|cblee @ flickr.com CC BY-NC-SA 2.0|
Where to get it
If you're looking for small eats, try Hsin Hsin Shau May Deli (5394 Walnut, Irvine). For more dishes, try A&J (14805 Jeffrey, Irvine) or Chef Chen (5408 Walnut, Irvine), particularly for the three cups chicken. For a road trip, drive to Phoenix Food Boutique (18166 Colima, Rowland Heights) and order the mixed fruit shaved ice and iced coffee milk tea.