This is the second post in my People of the Night Photo Project that I'll be working on over the next few months. In this post, I am continuing to introduce some of the vendors at the Zhongli Night Market (中壢夜市), a large open-air night market near where I live. Each post will contain five shots and will introduce a little bit about what these people do for a living.
If you haven't seen the first post in the series, please click here to be brought back to check it out. Thanks for coming and I hope you like the shots!
1. BBQ Corn (烤玉米)
When I first arrived in Taiwan, my friend and I went to the night market and she ordered some BBQ corn. I looked at it and wondered why she would want to eat a burnt piece of corn. To the naked eye it just looks like a burnt cob of corn. Fast forward eight years and these are one of my favourite things to eat at the night market. The corn is cooked at high heat and the cook constantly spreads a Taiwanese satay sauce on it - which gives off the burnt look and makes the corn incredibly delicious. I'm also a big fan of this particular stall which is the most popular at the night market and often requires a bit of a wait.
2. Braised Snacks (滷味)
Braising food is a popular style of cooking in Taiwan and one of the most popular kinds of braised food is "Lu-Wei" (滷味) which more or less translates literally as "Braised Flavour."
You can find vendors selling Lu-Wei on almost every street around the country. Each of them will have their own flavour of soup to braise the food in as well as a different set of ingredients that can be added. This particular vendor is the most popular in the night market - They have a pretty big stall with a wide variety of vegetables, tofu, meat to boil in the hot soy-sauce based soup. This kind of food is great, especially in winter and the best thing about it is that you get to choose all your own ingredients!
3. Quail Eggs (鳥蛋串)
Quail Eggs are small eggs that taste more or less the same as a chicken egg. They look much cooler when they're in the shell though. The eggs at this kind of stand are fried in a special pan and which makes them form into a ball. When they're ready, they are put on a stick and topped with pepper, chili sauce, ketchup or soy bean paste and eaten like a kebab. This vendor is also selling Tea-Eggs (茶葉蛋) which are hard-boiled eggs braised in a soy-sauce and tea leaf based soup that turns the eggs brown. Tea-Eggs seem to be pretty popular among the foreign crowds and my friends are constantly buying them as they're sold at every 7-11 location around the country.
4. The Versatility of the Night Market
Taiwan is a country of fads - Something that is popular this week may likely be pushed to the sidelines in favour of the newest big thing next week. The night markets around Taiwan have their staple vendors that will be there every day of the year no matter what is popular - but night markets are predominately a fad-driven industry - which means that if your stall is not "in fashion" anymore, your business will suffer. When this happens, vendors basically have to adapt their business strategy. In this shot we see a woman with a stall that was originally selling roasted candy chestnuts (糖炒栗子) but if you look closely at the stall she covered her sign's logo with some handwriting. Business likely wasn't very good, so she started selling quail eggs as a way to stay in business.
5. Dessert Stand (甜點)
One thing I miss the most from home is all the great desserts my mom makes. Taiwan has improved quite a lot in recent years when it comes to the availability of western-styled desserts and snacks but I think the basic concept of what constitutes a great dessert can be a bit different for Taiwanese and westerners. I do miss certain sweet foods from home, but Taiwan has some amazing desserts of its own and I've come to love them just as much as what we have in Canada.
In this shot we have a stall set up selling hot cereal-like desserts made from natural ingredients (almonds, soy beans, taro, red beans etc.) This vendor has won several awards for their ability to provide great tasting food at the night market while being the healthiest of all the vendors. This type of dessert is obviously not what I'm used to bug on a cold winter night, it hits the spot!