I knew it!
When I found out that a new place called Tri-Pot recently opened and that they serves Taiwanese street snacks, I was quite keen to check that out. I knew that this could be something that will get a few people excited. To see if my hunch is right, I tweeted about this place. Lo and behold, there were a number of responses:
That’s right. Every time someone mentions the word street food, people sit up.
Street food has to be the hottest conversation on food these days … especially with the street food pilot program that the city of Vancouver launched a few weeks ago. It did not get off to a great start as everyone know. Anyway, many people seems to have their own opinions about what street food is and what their expectations are.
To some, street food is just about anything that is sold on the street. I hope I did not read it wrong but I think I read somewhere that there is one food cart selling ice cream on croissants. That bizarre idea aside, the prices charged for street food is so expensive that it costs the same as if you are eating in a restaurant.
My expectation … is that the whole premise of street food is that it has to be cheap. That is the model of street food in Asia. In our city, it is anything but cheap.
I don’t know what you call this. Tri-Pot call this the Low-Carb Snack On The Go. So I am making a wild guess here — is this called Tianbula – (甜不辣)?
The words sounded like Tempura and so I could be wrong. :-)
The way you order this is simple. There are over 50 types of ingredients. Each of them costs $2 (items 1 through 43) and the remaining ones are $3.
Looking at the prices, I reckon people will normally order 3-4 items which will work out to be $6-$10. Not particularly cheap. I am sure it is way cheaper getting this from the streets in Taiwan.
The receipt on the left is mine. Actually mine also included Egg Noodle but it landed on Suanne’s receipt.
It took them a while to prepare this. It wasn’t very long but considering that they had to cut every piece up into small pieces and then cook it, it is perhaps a 5 minute wait. Remember now that this is meant to be a take-away meal.
What happened next … we did not see except that they put your order and boil it on one of those purpose made receptacles.
If you think that this “street food” is served in a cart, it is not. Tri-Pot is a counter located inside of the Zephyr in the Sky restaurant.
While waiting for the food being prepared, a young man wearing one of the Tri-Pot T-shirts approached us. He seems to be the only one who is conversant in English and so we took the opportunity to ask him some questions.
Although I had been to Taiwan before, I had never had street food (it was a business trip). So this is not something I am familiar with.
The food was served in a plastic container with lid. It was quite a sturdy one. I noticed because I was wondering if it will leak knowing how wet it is inside.
We did not want to take it home and asked if it is OK if we eat it inside Zephyr. The guy in the Tri-Pot T-shirt told me that yes, we can but that we should order a drink or something. I can’t remember now but it was like a $3 minimum charge. We are OK anyway since it was quite hot and we wanted to get some drinks too.
Shaved ice. That is what I had been looking for these days. It’s hard to get really good ones (I prefer ones that are not too sweet). So far, the ones I enjoyed most is from Well Tea. The rest of them just doesn’t measure up.
This is $5 and with that I get to choose four toppings. I went with:
- coconut jelly,
- chocolate sauce and
- smoked plum
The smoked plum was an awful choice! I wanted a balance of sweet and sour. However, it was so unbelievably sour that it pretty much spoils it for me. The rest of the toppings were fine. The one thing I like about their shaved ice is how fine they shaved the ice. Well Tea’s ice are way bigger and hence more watery.
Suanne ordered something hot instead. She doesn’t like cold drinks. Too traditional. As a matter of fact, she doesn’t drink soft fizzy drinks, you know that?
The Hot Tofu Pudding is $3.75. You can actually order a cold version if you want. It has two toppings — red bean and taro.
The tofu pudding is strangely in cube form. We were wondering how they make it that way because the Cantonese style ones are scooped out in layers using a shallow ladle. This is a different way of serving tau foo fa … with toppings too.
BTW, Suanne makes wonderful Tau Foo Faa (tofu pudding) at home. Here is her recipe.
The food … whatever you call this.
It is dry’ish, no soup. On top of the ingredients chosen, they added cilantro, green onion, and pickled cabbage. The sauce which has a sesame flavour is what give this the taste. You can choose spicy or non-spicy sauce as a choice.
We were picking up each ingredient at a time until a waitress came over and told us that we should mix it up first before we eat.
Me, I prefer not to mix it up but eat and taste each by itself. I like it better that way.
I like the chicken heart and the pig intestines a lot.
I also got the Tempura Cake and another rice cake that is black in color. I got the black rice because it was unique. It was later that I found out it was BLOOD rice cake. It was not very good
On hindsight, I should have ordered three meat ingredients and one noodle (starch).
When we were about done, the same young man came over and asked how it was. It turned out that he is the owner of Tri-Pot AND Zephyr AND Delicious Cuisine. I could not believe it because he looked so young. I actually thought he was just an overly eager staff walking around trying to encourage people to try Tri-Pot.
He he he … it turned out that he reads chowtimes and he knows who “Ben and Suanne” is. Roger, that’s his name, said that he started working in the kitchen when he was 16 years old and had only recently started to venture out of the kitchen. He said that he bought the recipe for Tri-Pot from Taiwan and had to spend 3 weeks intensive training on making this street food.
When I asked why he did not do this in a food cart because it would be appealing to people (not to mention cheaper to setup), he said the same thing that we all already know … that there are a lot of conditions imposed that it is just not worth the effort. So, he ended up installing a $5000 cooler (the second image at the top of this post) so that he can keep the food at the right temperature all the time.
So, did we enjoy the food. Yeah, the food was good except that we chose the ingredients quite randomly. We should have stuck with the meat ones. The prices are not street food prices. As a matter of fact, it costs almost as much as a normal restaurant meal, depending what you order.
Tri-Pot is located INSIDE the Zephyr in the Sky. You won’t miss it the moment you walk through the door.
So, thoughts? … particularly from those of you who grew up in Taiwan … tell us more about this street food.