I was already out around Taipei with a friend for a late-night snack before the great earthquake struck the southern city of Tainan. We ended up discovering some amazing local imagery as we watched vendors get ready for the market day ahead. Lunar New Year festivities is around the corner and no doubt the haze of over-indulging on epicurean delights will bring plenty of cooks vying for fresh ingredients.
Large vats of broth were simmering in makeshift portable kitchens; plump, whole chickens hung precariously on thin steel hooks, and even freshly cut pigs’ heads lay on the sterile tables. But what caught our utmost attention was the large bamboo steamers billowing with fresh shao mai. Tempted by the sights and smells, we couldn’t help but be their first customers of the day.
Quiet and dark, the market at 3 in the morning was a stark contrast to what it would later become. Being the only visitors there, we quietly strolled the alleys, talking to the local butchers as we went, and admiring the way they skillfully strip meat off entire leg bones. One man, who despite the early start was in a particular good mood, and we listened to his melodious voice as he sang along to classic Chinese tunes.
While the otherside of the country was waking up to sobering imagery, blissful ignorance continued to blanket us for a while longer. As we moved along enjoying our steaming hot buns, we wished the locals happy new year before stepping back into the dark streets.