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The Heyday

Taiwan

A-kuan at the Wanderer’s Table

Written/Photo by Ching-Wei LIN / Translation by Li-Yi Chen

A-kuan is a young man who was savvy and quick. It was easy to find him in front of the church in the night market. When I arrived, he was holding two buckets. After saying hello, he wanted me to go to the warehouse where he stored his food carts and helped him push the cart out.

 

The preparation work behind getting the food carts ready was very hectic. Four people pulled the two food carts out and got the ingredients and equipment needed for the day, just like frequent travelers needing to unpack everything that they packed the night before daily—it was an enormous effort. The entire night market and the alley behind are filled with busy actions like this. One by one, the carts were pulled out, the umbrellas were put up, and the lights were lit up.

 

A-kuan skillfully worked with his partners to set everything up, and he was the one responsible for cooking. I was glad to have such delicious fried curry chicken as snacks in the night market. He said someone taught him the recipe years ago, and the most crucial factor was time control. He also gave me a sample of black tea that he brewed on site, which tasted refreshing and had no hint of bitterness.

 

It wasn’t easy to operate this kind of food stand in the night market. The skills for the operation and equipment needed were all slowly accumulated over a long period of time. However, homeless persons usually don’t own vehicles or scooters, so they could only operate according to the opening hours of public transportation and couldn’t run until midnight like the other stands. Having no prior experience, they had endured a strenuous learning process since they opened nearly a year ago.

 

After taking the pictures and left, rain started to pour under the dimmed night sky. I couldn’t help but wonder how chaotic it would be for them to pack up and leave late at night.