Saturday, September 26, 2009

Mystery buffet

I have watched the crowds around this food stall for weeks and decided tonight that I was ready.
The Taiwanese love street food, especially lu-wei, ingredients stewed in a distinctive brown soya-sauce like broth.
After careful study, I jostle for a plastic basket and position myself in front of the cart with my metal tongs. I don't recognize much.
Most things are flesh-coloured: flesh-coloured tubes, flesh-coloured half-moon morsels, flesh-coloured balls on a stick.
I feel the mob pressing against my back so I panic and grab at things that I can identify, a mushroom, brocolli, green beans, noodles, lest I end up with duck tongue and other innards among the assortment. I take chances on a grey-coloured glutinous sachet and a yellow, crispy square with white filling. And a row of flesh-coloured balls.
I hand my treats to a woman who chops and sorts. Then a slim older man with salt and pepper hair who I have never seen not cooking at this stall, dumps it all into a boiling vat. After a few minutes, he pours the ingredients into a metal pan, squirts it with various sauces and globs a dollop of wet green herbs on top.
He speaks to me. I hope he is asking whether I want it to go, so I gesture with my thumb over my shoulder. He wraps a plastic bag around the end of the pan which is shaped like a funnel and my food slips heavily inside.
He yells at me in Taiwanese in front of the crowd. This is the part where I smile and shake my head and say: "Wo bu dong zhongwen."
The stew is delicious. But I can't figure out what the gooey pocket or the grainy stuff inside is. Also, I still don't know what animal they pressed into a square or four flesh-coloured balls. In any case, maybe it's better this way.

1 comment:

  1. And this, here, is exactly why I would lose a bajillion pounds where you are. You are a brave, brave woman!