There are many things to love about Taipei (the train system, extensive and easy to use; the taxis, plentiful and driven by mostly personable gentleman who not only know where they're going but use the meter as a matter of course; the people, generally friendly and surprisingly laid back - or at least it seems so to this waiguo ren), but the city's most divine attribute is its street food scene.
Taipei's night markets get all the press, but the truth is that you can go just about anywhere in this city and find a stretch of road, a small lane, or an alley hosting at least a few stalls dishing up delectables sweet and savory. Many of these vendors have been in the business for years, making and serving their specialties from the same spot as the city grew outward and upward around them.
Our first encounter with Taipei street food came in the form of these hujiao bing - black pepper 'pancakes' or 'biscuits' - sold by a husband-and-wife team from the corner of a market on Daan Jie in the shopping/business district of East Taipei. In this case 'meat pie' is a more accurate descriptive than 'biscuit',
for once sliced in half these chewy wheat-flour pucks spill chunks of tender pork and silky caramelized scallion, all seasoned with enough black pepper to briefly numb the tip of your tongue.
The pies are baked in a charcoal-fired, tandoor-style oven, where they're slapped onto the stone walls and left to roast for about 15 minutes. Exposure to the fire gives the pies a fantastic smoky flavor and the high, dry heat really crisps up their bottoms. The wrappers boast the texture of a fine yeasty pizza dough.
Mr. Huang and his wife have been peddling their peppery meat pies from this location for over 28 years; he inherited the business from his father, who left Fuzhou, in the Chinese southeastern province of Fujian, for Taiwan in 1949. Their son helps out after school and on weekends and may one day carry on the trade.
Our maiden pie from this stall was dessert to a tasty (camera-free) dinner at Shin Yeh Table; they're so tasty we returned the next day for a few more. And they're just a teeny sliver of this city's street food paradise. Stay tuned for more.
Fuzhou pepper pork pies, Daan Road (east side), a couple blocks north of Zhongxiao East Road (kitty corner to 85 Degrees coffee shop). Afternoon through the evening.