I’m a sucker for food with meaning. I associate food with all sorts of things — a means of gathering together, a mode for celebration, a medium of remembrance, a conduit for family traditions, all those grand words. I love it all. This means I probably end up ascribing too much significance to my food sometimes — wait no we have to get peanut M&Ms before we board because we always have peanut M&Ms on the plane! — but somehow, I just love how much food can mean to us, and how much power it carries beyond just sustenance.
This Taiwanese popcorn chicken is a case in point — I was so, so excited to recreate it for Food52 a few weeks ago, because it comes from such a special place and time. Bowl #2 and I first discovered its glory on a short weekend trip to Taipei a few years ago (a mini trip inside a big, big one I’ve mentioned a few times before) and after we first tried it, I dragged B2 all over Taipei to try every other Taiwanese fried chicken joint I could Google in the rest of our short days there. (Resulting in us getting lost on more than one occasion. And ending up in a deserted garage trying to describe our difficulties to a baffled Taiwanese man on a moped.)
So in some ways it seems emblematic of our trip, and of the excitement that came with exploring a new country (and, really, a new relationship) on my first ever trip with a not-yet-Bowl-#2. I think it’s a pretty worthy symbol, because it’s really delicious. The chicken has an irresistible kind of sweet-savory umami depth, with a coating that’s crisp yet just the slightest bit chewy. I really wasn’t sure I’d be able to make it at home, but it’s surprisingly and delightfully easy. Making it in our own kitchen was like being transported right back to the midst of that giddy feeling of adventure and the hustle-bustle of that night market where we first tried it — meaningful food at its best. You can find my take on the recipe over at Food52! Hope you’re all having wonderful weeks! (And friends in the more Juno-pummeled locales — hope you’re staying safe and warm!)
P.S. B2 put together another video for this post, and I especially love it because he dug up some of his old video footage from our trip to splice in. (I may or may not have cried when I saw it, because I’m a sap.) Also, in case anyone’s headed to Taipei soon, our favorite Taiwanese popcorn chicken locales were at Ningxia Night Market and Taiwan’s First Popcorn Chicken Store!
Music: The Flashbulb, Winter Map.
Video shot and edited by the multi-talented B2.