Friday, January 30, 2015

squid soup

One of the most iconic Taiwanese dish that is often overlooked by visitors and even locals is the squid soup (魷魚羹).  I am guilty of this negligence as well, since I have not seek out this dish during my last three trips back home, and it was one of my favorite thing to eat growing up.  During my latest trip there last week, I needed to rectified that error in judgement.  At a family dinner, one of my aunts happened to brought up that this squid soup place down the lane from my childhood home is still around and being run by the same family (for ~30 years !), but moved around the corner from its original location (it used to be on lane 210, section 3 of Roosevelt Rd. in Taipei, now it is on section 3, Tingzhou St., the shop is called 耕莘魷魚羹).  Clearly I had to go.

The Taiwanese squid soup is a soup made from a light seafood based stock (like a dashi) and thickened with corn or sweet potato starch.  The squid is typically this big, thick and brownish kind often sold dried and soaked in water before cooking.  You sometimes find julienne bamboo shoots, napa cabbage and daiko radish in the soup.  The soup is topped with fresh basil leafs and sha cha sauce (or satay sauce, 沙茶醬).  At this place, they also give you a small dish of a very unique dipping sauce that is kinda like satay sauce, but slightly tart and also a little bit sweet and fruity.

This bowl is not only a thing of beauty, it also tasted just like I remembered (it is fantastic, nostalgia or not).  This is a cliche, but many childhood memories rushed back to my head as I ate this.  At NTD 65 a bowl (it was NTD35 30 years ago ...  yes, I am getting old), it is a bargain not only by the standard of north American food, but also quite a deal locally.  Prices of squid, I was told, has gone up quite a bit recently here, and many shops have become stingy with it, you would be lucky to find 5 pieces in a bowl of soup.  While I was too busy eating to count, the serving here is definitely generous, as it has always been.

The same smiling and very polite lady still runs the shop, with the help of her son.  One other thing worth mentioning is that not only the soup is excellent, the shop is also very very clean, which is not always the case for these type of casual eateries or stalls.  While she didn't recognize me, she knows of my family and the building that we use to live in when I mentioned it to her.  I am really happy that I got a chance to visit and eat at this place, I will definitely be back here whenever I can.  

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