I had left home for 10 years until this summer, when I was greeted briefly by my mother before she returned to the kitchen. It was only 9 AM, but the smell of slow braised pork and cabbage revealed her eagerness of welcoming me home.
One of the 3rd flat unit out of a block-long apartment building was where I had lived for many years. It faces an identical building across a narrow street. From a bird view, the layout of long buildings and narrow streets extends kilometers and kilometers, crookedly. And like those pigeons my neighbor raised, I looked at surroundings feeling funny after all the places I’ve flied by.
Mom cooks only 8 dishes in her life, Hakka style. She doesn’t care about culinary exploration but she never fail to fill those mysterious voids in me every time I eat any one of them. It’s a therapy after all. That first day was spent at the table of her full menu, but it didn’t stop me from sneaking to the main street where the night market was, to get a better sense of how my neighborhood’s doing.
My night market rises at sunset. It is here everyday, and has been here since my first grade. It tucks in scooter-riders and feeds them on the way home. Kids from stinky tofu stall do homework on the portable tables; gang members hang at the oyster noodle cart, drinking Taiwan Beer and curse at passengers. It’s part of our evening. As kids we used to walk out of the door in pajama and waddled into the sea of yellow bulbs hung on the endless stalls.
Everyone has a thing he/she perfects overtime, whether it’s cold goose, pig-blood cake, BBQ chicken hearts, oyster omelet or many more. It includes all materials considered edible, involves with broad fire techniques and geographic origins from mainland provinces and grand Asia.
Chewing in smallest order of Lu Wei, I contemplated strategy to fill as many little eats as possible tonight.