Not being big on fried food, I would generally have walked right past Gugi Gugi, a permanent stall specialising in all things deep-fried. However we are at the Taiwan Night Markets, and from what I’ve seen, deep fried chicken is big in Taiwan hawker circles. This stall offers up deep fried chick cutlets, calamari, sweet potato and king trumpet mushrooms, all dusted in one of three special seasoning mixes. We opt for the King Trumpet Mushrooms ($5).
Gugi Gugi seasoning mixes climb in intensity, starting, as the counter hand explains with one suitable for white people. The next level is suitable for a child, he says gesturing to a super-cute Asian kid. He explains the third mix is “how we eat it.” Let’s just say, Asian kids are tough little eaters! Surprisingly the mushrooms are crumbed rather than battered, and drained so thoroughly; they’re not in the slightest bit oily. The seasoning mix adds to the compelling flavour of this tasty, textural mushroom snack – I’m so impressed I’d order another paper bag of them next time I visit.
Interestingly though our best two eats of this whole Taiwan Night Markets experience come from a weekend pop-up cart dubbed Homemade Tofu Pudding.
Suckers for numbing spices we find it hard to resist a Sichuan Spicy Tofu Pudding ($6). Served warm, this compelling container of silky handmade tofu quickly turns from setting your mouth on fire with chilli, to numbing it with Sichuan pepper. With crunchy fried noodles and fresh herbs for texture, it's really hard to stop eating it.
A clever display model of the Rain Cake with Chrysanthemum ($6.50) sitting at the front of the cart intrigued my dining companion into ordering one of these beautiful desserts while he waited for our aforementioned savoury tofu pudding. It’s a version of a Japanese dessert called Mizu Shingen Mochi, made from spring water and agar agar. You can watch it being made in the spherical ice ball molds right in front of you.
The rain cake is served with a drizzle of brown sugar syrup (kuromitsu) and a little mound of roasted soybean flour (kinako) mixed with sesame powder, and is delicate and delicious, all the way down to the beautiful trapped chrysanthemum flower blooming within.
We alternate between these two very different dishes, soothing our mouth with rain cake before dipping back into the firey tofu pudding. The duelling palate sensations make for one of the most exciting dining experiences I’ve had in ages, and yours for less than thirteen bucks.
GET THE FULL TAIWAN NIGHT MARKETS STORY: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6
Taiwan Night Market,
Shop 9, 178-182 Rowe Street, Eastwood
Ph: (02) 9267 7612