Time to go shopping!
The basement is crammed with vegetables and open-air meat—raw stuff. The second floor is prepared food and has one of my favorite stores in Taipei. My Chinese doesn’t run to figuring out its name, but it’s pictured below: the place with the hams and sausages hanging from the ceiling. It’s next to the shot of the pork hocks, a food which comes in second to sausage in the Briggs Taste Hierarchy.
The pork jerky rolling out of the machine is chewy, peppery, delicious. It’s best right out of the oven; it’s okay into the second day, but doesn’t hold up longer. I took only one picture, but the jerky comes in a variety of thicknesses, from rib-like to paper-thin. You can even buy pork shredded and coated with various substances: see the happy pigs on the jar.
The somnolent chicken heads are indeed detached from the remainder of the birds, birds which come from nearby metal cages and are cut into pieces to customer specification. One butcher’s sole job was as a manicurist for chicken feet. He pinched a leg in one hand and as he spun his wrist he chop-chop-chopped the nails with such force that they sprayed around him like sparks from welding.
When I approached the cages, the heads all turned as one, cocked to one side and looked at me quizzically. Seeing I was only taking a picture, the chickens ignored me and resumed pecking the bottoms of their cages.
The bubbly white eggplant-looking vegetable is called bitter melon. They are indeed bitter, but can be made into a delicious drink mixed with fruit to cut the sharpness of the melon. Highly recommended.
The strange light atop the iced-water container of intestines is an artifact, the result of my poor photographic skills. There were other buckets containing intestines of different sizes and colors. I believe they were all pig, but some might be lamb?
Most of the meat is also pig—see especially the pile of chops. One booth had leg of lamb, still woolly and with feet attached. Beef is not a big seller and the merchants are still careful to display the flag of Australia, say, or other country of origin. American cow is on the outs because of an earlier trade dispute and health scare.
Most of the fish lie flat, iced, except for one species which looks like fresh water bass. For no reason I could discover, they all come trussed with red string from gill to tail. It was the same regardless of vendor. Perhaps the fish are only playing possum and the string is a safety feature.
One booth had pictures of some chef celebrity I’ve seen before but cannot name. Blond moussed hair, thirty-something, not yet chef fat; British, I think. Anyway, he’s been on TV and the owners of the shop were so pleased that had several snapshots plastered over their booth.
You can’t find any Western-style bread at Nan-men, but there are buns aplenty, of every texture and flavor. Some might try to make the argument that other species besides red bean are worthy in some way, but these assertions are well known to be fallacious.
Incidentally, Nan-men is not a night market (famous in Taiwan) where you can sit and eat, but more of a grocery store or indoor farmer’s market.