Fish noodles. That's noodles made of fish.
I (and you, hopefully) are already reaping rewards, of a sort, from EatingAsia's recently created Facebook page.
A comment, which I now seem unable to locate (there have been quite a few; we love that folks are joining the conversation -- thank you so much), included mention of Taiwanese fish noodles. Not noodles served with fish and fishballs in a piscene broth, but noodles that are actually made from fish.
It reminded me of one our tastiest finds last May-June on Taiwan, a dish we never got around to posting. We have soooo many of those --- stories from past trips that for some reason or other have never made it onto this blog. But it's never too late to publicize a find, don't you think?
We took a real liking to the southern Taiwanese city of Kaohsiung, not least for its many holes-in-the-wall and proper restaurants serving impeccably fresh and simply prepared seafood. Every meal we ate in and around Kaohsiung revolved around something fishy. There were a few excellent porky items thrown in for good measure, but for the better part of five days we ate seafood for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
I'm not complaining.
One morning we took a boat out to tiny Cijin Island, a popular seafood-loving daytripper destination just 5-10 minutes by boat from the city. After feasting on grilled squid and raw tomatoes with powdered sugar (both specialties of the island -- a perhaps odd-sounding combination that works) we followed a coastal path to the island's northwestern tip and ascended a small hill, where we explored an old lighthouse and battery remains that date back to the Qing dynasty.
All that activity stoked our appetite, of course, so once back down at sea level we nosed around for a snack or three to carry us through the 10-minute boat ride back to the mainland. We noticed, on an otherwise sleepy side street, that every table at a stall advertising hujiao shougong yu mian tang (literally: pepper handmade fish noodle soup) was filled and further, signage advising that the place had been in business for thirty years.
Making the decision to stop and sample was a no-brainer.
We ordered the zonghe yu mian tang ('composite', ie 'mixed' fish noodle soup) and ended up with bowls of light scallion, Chinese celery, and white pepper-enhanced broth packed with a variety of fish balls (and one pork ball) and noodles, dumplings, ribbons of seaweed, and a few leaves of lettuce.
Imagine our surprise when the noodles turned out to be made of fish. They were absolutely exquisite (have a look at the opening photo, above), almost translucent, nubby, lightly fish flavored and boasting a fantastic chewy-snappy texture. The fish dumplings or yu jiao consisted of more piscene pasta filled with chopped pork generously seasoned with toasted sesame oil. The oil was so fresh and fragrant that when I bit a dumpling in half it released a plume of sesame-scented steam.
The fish balls were excellent as well, springy but not bouncing-rubber-ballish, and as intensely flavored as the noodles.
(Interestingly, we also found noodles made from fish in Kota Kinabalu, the capital of the eastern Malaysian state of Sabah. When we returned to Kuala Lumpur after that trip more than four years ago I spied the same sort of round, thick fish noodles in a grocery store/ They were disappointing -- more binder than fish, with little piscene flavor.)
The proprietor off this stall on Cijin Island told us that fish noodles and fish pasta-wrapped dumplings were fairly common there -- and perhaps elsewhere? -- until about ten years ago. "It's a lot of work to make these kind of noodles," she said. "So we're one of the last stalls around."
Long may she and her lovely fish noodle stall thrive!
Hand-made fish noodles and fish dumplings stall, 44 Tongshan Lu (near corner of Miaocan Lu), Cijin Island, Kaohsiung, Taiwan. (07) 571-1711