Fried Squid Balls on a Saturday Afternoon
If you ever find yourself in any Asian city, preferably near a body of water, and somebody offers you fried squid balls on a stick, do yourself a favor: Say YES!
I can’t believe I have adamantly avoided these little treasures for so long. I think of all the wasted opportunities when I have spotted these in street markets, and have intentionally turned the other way in disgust. For some reason the idea of “squid balls on a stick” has never sounded appealing to me. Until yesterday.
For the entire month I’ve been in Taipei, I’ve battled sore throats. So far I’ve been winning! Then, on Saturday morning I woke up and had completely lost my voice. I blame it on the children. They are really nothing but precious little walking bundles of germs. I tried to make the best of my situation by spending the morning lesson planning and drinking honey tea. But the sun was shining, and my good friend Restlessness hit me like a caffeine jolt by mid-afternoon. So, I jumped on the subway and headed as far north as I could go, to the northernmost district in Taipei called Tamsui.
Tamsui is a beautiful riverside spot, with a gorgeous view of an emerald volcanic peak. On the subway ride over I envisioned myself lounging by the river in silence, watching the sunset, slowly licking a delicious chocolate icecream cone while I listened to the gentle sounds of a classical band somewhere in the distance.
Psh… fantasies, right?
Instead, I found myself surrounded by screaming families and kids on leashes, sharing a bench with two teenage selfie-snapping couples, chowing down on squid balls. But hey, welcome to real life.
I strolled along the pathway by the river, soaking in the scenery and screaming children, daydreaming about how nice it would be if we all lost our voices. The street was swarming with fish vendors, iced tea stalls, musicians, monks, retro-looking cafes, and squid balls. Squid balls everywhere. Most groups contained at least one person snacking on these things, and I found myself wondering how they tasted.
Then I stumbled across a cheeky shirtless Turkish man selling ice cream cones. He was surrounded by tourists, so I joined the party to see what all the fuss was about. It turns out this guy is quite a hot commodity; He is able to do all sorts of tricks with the cones, twirling them this way and that way. It was pretty impressive, but all the while the poor customer stands there waiting for the order. Not only does he do tricks, but he doesn’t actually give you your ice cream cone until you allow him to flirt with you and make “sexy” faces for a couple minutes.
Maybe that’s why I settled for squid balls.
When the vendor asked me if I wanted them spicy, I enthusiastically nodded my head, hoping the enthusiasm would get me extra spice.
I took my place on the bench, and enjoyed my delicious crispy squid balls as I watched the sunset, embracing the fact that sure, this wasn’t exactly the peaceful serene oasis I envisioned. But, I was starting to think that maybe it was still just as good…