I think most of my readers will know by now that I have a bit of a love affair with Tainan. Perhaps it is because I remember Tainan from my student days. Or perhaps it is because my homestay family were so warm and welcoming. Or maybe it is because when I lived in Tainan I had just met and fallen in love with Mr Taiwanxifu, and my spare time (when not temple gazing) was filled with tender communications during our long-distance romance. But thankfully I had the unique Tainan cuisine to comfort me.
Seafood features prominently in Tainan’s snack-based cuisine, of which crispy fried shrimp rolls (蝦捲) are one of the most famous. Shrimp rolls were introduced to Tainan by the soldiers serving with General Koxinga (aka Cheng Chenggong), a ming dynasty loyalist who defeated the Dutch who occupied southern Taiwan. Originally, the fried rolls were made from pork and vegetables. But in Japanese colonial times (when seafood became more prevalent) the recipe was adapted to use shrimps (or should I say prawns)
During a recent trip to Tainan, Mr Taiwanxifu suddenly had cravings for Tainan’s iconic shrimp rolls. Most tourists head out to Anping to eat Chou’s shrimp rolls, but our hosts confidently led us to one of their favourite haunts — Huang Family Shrimp Rolls (府城黃家蝦捲(鴨母寮蝦捲).
I should say at the outset that deep fried shrimp rolls are not exactly healthy. And although most Tainan snack foods are served in small portion sizes, the food is addictively moreish. Despite a stubborn insistence on cycling everywhere (I probably would have been much safer on a scooter), I still managed to put on over 10kg in weight during my student year. So maybe I relied on Tainan’s snack food for comfort more than I thought … or maybe shrimp rolls and other goodies were just too good to resist. Mr Taiwanxifu certainly thought these fried nuggests from Huang Family Shrimp Rolls hit the right note.
As we were only snacking before our main meal at another restaurant, we opted for a ‘modest’ order of three serves of shrimp rolls. Each serve was NT$45 and consisted of two long shrimp rolls (almost a side-plate size in width), each cut into four portions. So there were eight mouthful sized pieces of shrimp rolls per serving.
I am not usually a fan of fried foods, but I found myself wanting to steal another mouthful. And then another mouthful. The prawns were fresh and delicate pink, topped with a layer of mint-green flecked shallots. And the golden batter was crispy without being too oily … yet satisfyingly indulgent.
Mr ‘Gold’ (黃金先生) has sold his trademark shrimp rolls for the past fifty years, starting business when he was 26 years old. Originally, he set up a stall in the Fucheng area but moved when then nearby night market closed down. Then he moved again to his current location at 268 Xihe Road, just around the corner from Chenggong Road (台南市西和路268號, phone (06)350-6209). Huang Family Shrimp Rolls opens daily from 2.30pm until 8.30pm. Wanting to save room for our main meal of goose, we did not sample their other items — although my friend Amy often comes here just to eat their glass noodle soup (東粉湯), which she also recommends.