Making Asian Night Market Food at Home

On the menu: Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken. Not on the menu: Silkworm larvae, sheep penis or sea horse.

I have this week off work. But T’s daycare closed between Christmas and New Year’s, so the quiet break I was looking forward to didn’t pan out.

I had a meltdown when the daycare notified us about this a few weeks ago.

I love my child, I really do. I just love him more when he’s in daycare. But alas, one must carry on in life.

Cooking is one of my go-to therapy and brings me joy and comfort.

This week, I planned out a week’s worth of Asian dishes I’ve been wanting to make for a while but never had time to.

Last night, I made Taiwanese popcorn chicken with fried basil, a popular dish that originated in night markets in the streets of Taiwan.

I used boneless skinless thighs – juicier chicken! – and marinated them in oyster sauce, white pepper, five spice powder, and minced garlic for two hours. Then coated them with potato starch.

Yes, my stovetop is nasty and needs to be cleaned.

I fried the chicken for 4 minutes. For extra crisp, I fried them a second time for 30 seconds, throwing in basil leaves for the final 5 seconds.

I prepared a salt mixture that consisted of salt, cayenne pepper, white pepper and Sichuan peppercorn I toasted on a pan then grounded.

I mixed then sprinkled these spices on top of the freshly fried chicken and basil.

I served the chicken with Miss Vickie’s Sweet Southern BBQ chips and enjoyed the greasy goodness with a cold can of ginger ale.

The hubby and I were happy with how it turned out! The spices gave the chicken an authentic Asian night market taste and the potato starch coating gave it that Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken look. The fried basil was a nice touch.

This meal brought back warm memories of the hubby and my trip to China in November 2008.

It was shortly after Beijing hosted the Summer Olympics and two months after Pa passed away.

We had never travelled internationally together before and it was a great experience.

I’ll share a lengthier travel post one day, but for now, I’ll share our visit to the very unique Donghuamen Night Market in Beijing.

Located near the Forbidden City, it looks simple and innocent enough at a first glance.

But look a little closer and you’ll notice some interesting items on the menu.

Like seahorse!

Look behind the starfish and you’ll see intestines, beetles and centipedes!

That long white swirly thing on the stick is sheep penis. Yes, you read that right. Look, just because I’m gay doesn’t mean I’m putting any kind of penis in my mouth – deep fried or not!

And here’s the hubby hamming it up with fried silkworm larvae. He bought it just for the photo, he didn’t actually have the guts to bite into it.

I couldn’t even pretend to put it in my mouth.

Bugs and penises aside, it really was quite the experience walking through that market.

The following year, we were delighted to see this market featured in the penultimate episode of Season 14 of The Amazing Race.

Those poor racers had to eat some of those critters. No bluffing like the hubby and I did!

To be clear, we enjoyed many wonderful meals in China – like this very first breakfast at a restaurant we randomly walked into.

No penises in these bowls as far I could tell!

Fast forward to 13 years later last night, T kept himself busy while I prepared the meal, with enthusiastic support from the hubby.

As we enjoyed the meal, T sat at the table with us. He had eaten his dinner earlier.

He played with his kinetic sand set and formed small pieces of imaginary coated chicken that he placed into his imaginary fryer.

As I bit into a juicy piece of chicken, I looked at T’s playful joyful face. He smiled at me and I smiled back at him.

14 thoughts on “Making Asian Night Market Food at Home

  1. Sorry to hear that this week didn’t go as planned with T’s daycare, but glad you were still able to get some cooking in. It looks like your Taiwanese popcorn chicken turned out well. Oh my, that’s quite the assortment of “interesting” items on the menu at the Donghuamen Night Market. I don’t think I have the stomach to sample anything offered either! Hard pass.

    1. Thanks Linda. It definitely has not been a quiet and relaxing week at home but there were pockets of rest for me, like the cooking. 🙂

      When international travel resumes, you’ll have to try some of these things! 😆 Did you and K encounter any interesting street food in Japan?

      1. K is much more adventurous than I am when it comes to trying new food. When we were in Japan I would jokingly refer to him as my taste tester since he would sample things first and then let me know whether it was something he would think that I would like.

  2. I could smell your food from here, what a flavorful meal! I always tell my husband I wish I could visit one of those markets, now I’m not so sure! 😂 I’m so sorry you didn’t get this week to yourself, I remember what it was like to have the house without the kids.

    1. Thanks Diane. It definitely made the kitchen smell like vegetable oil. But it was worth it!

      To help clear, most Asian night markets don’t serve these gross things. 😆 As I told the hubby, bugs below on the bottom of my shoe not the bottom of my belly! I think it’s just unique to this location. The ones at least we have in my city sell normal stuff… like stinky tofu. Have you heard of that? It really earns its name! But it’s supposed to taste great. I’ve never had it as the smell is quite… distinct. But I do encourage you to visit one if you ever get the chance to!

  3. Oh my goodness – this looks delicious!! The texture and seasonings look great.

    But mostly, I’m cracking up!! You are hilarious! The meltdown when daycare closed – yep, I understand that one (daycare this week was closed unexpectedly this week on Monday and Tuesday because of snow)!

    And I can’t believe you let T have kinetic sand – you are brave! I threw away some that my daughter got as a gift and have been pretending I don’t know where it is for like 6 months now…

    Hope you enjoy the rest of the week!

    1. Thanks Wynne! Potato starch is a great discovery for me. Everything is gonna be coated in it now.

      I’m glad you can relate. I know daycare staff need a break but still. 😆

      T is playing with kinetic sand next to me as I read my morning blogs. All four colours have now been mixed together. No more unique colors. 😆 This stuff gets everywhere!!!

      1. I’d never heard of potato starch until your post. Glad to know it works so well!

        I have no idea how kinetic sand got to be a thing given the parent opposition to it… 🙂

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