You cannot even dream of getting these fruits (and of these quality) in the United States, unless you forgot about that passion fruit in your backpack when it comes time to go through customs =O
There are so many fruits that you should definitely try in Taiwan: papaya, dragon fruit, yellow watermelon, banana, longan and lychee, mango, starfruit, green skinned oranges, and pomelo, to name a few. I highly encourage you to pick as many different fruits as you can, and try them all! Depending on what season you visit Taiwan, there will be different availability of fruit. I’ll list my personal favorites here 🙂
For the best price, go to a market that sells only fruit, or only fruit and fruit juices, or a traditional wet market. For convenience, buy these pre-cut at night markets or wet markets, or wherever you may see them on the street.
Look for the word 水果 (shui guo / fruit) or 水果汁 (shui guo ji/ fruit juice).
You could ask the vendor,
Can you pick one for me that is ready to eat today? ”可不可以幫我挑一個 今天可以吃的？” “ke bu ke yi bang wo tiao yi ge jin tian ke yi chi de?” Or just Can you pick one for me “可不可以幫我挑一個?” “”ke bu ke yi bang wo tiao yi ge?” (Of course, Google Translate can you give you the exact pronunciation.
Custard apple, sugar apple / 釋迦 / shi jia
Appearances can be deceiving. These are not very pretty on the outside. HOWEVER..They are probably the sweetest fruit that exists, and the inside is a creamy white filling. The texture towards the green knobby clusters are more similar to that of a, say, soft but grainier pear, while the texture inside is soft and velvety. My mom used to say certain fruits were ‘sour’ if they were not obviously sweet-tasting. She obviously held shi jia as the gold standard for fruit sweetness 😀 Oh yea, did I mention my mom LOVES shi jia?
I find shi jia very filling, probably due to the high sugar content. If you want to save room for other goodies, better to find some friends to share with!
How to Pick
They are ripe when they are very soft to the touch. You can buy some that are more firm to have for later, and buy some that are super soft, to eat now. However, once they are ripe…better eat up! They do not travel well.
How to Eat
it is so soft when ripe, that you can use your hands to crack the fruit down the middle to split it open. Then, use a spoon to scoop everything out. Without a spoon, you can also just pick out one green knob at a time, and devour the white filling.
Guava / 芭樂 / ba le(la)
Yummy. Pale green on the outside, white on the inside, these are just really good. Some like these soft, some like them crunchy (sprinkled with some sour plum powder- YUM!)
How to Pick
Again, others have bought these, so I’m not too sure. This can be another one for the vendor.
How to Eat
Some people cut out the middle section that contains the seeds, but I eat everything, especially because the flesh around the seeds is generally even more soft than the surrounding flesh. To me, ba la taste best when they are sliced into wedges.
Passion fruit / 百香果 / bai xiang guo
“白香“ translates to 100-fragrances, so that would mean that passion fruit is 100-fragrance fruit, and I cannot agree more. Hands down, this is my favorite fruit! It is slightly tart, sweet (if you eat a ripe one), and has nutty seeds that can be eaten, too. If you are unable to find the fruit, look for the Chinese words on drink menus- there will definitely be tea shops that sell drinks with real passion fruit pulp in them.
How to Pick
Don’t pay attention to what vendors may try to say to trick you (I fell prey to a sneaky vendor once)- These are ripe when they are wrinkly. However, if it is toooo wrinkly like a raisin, it may be not as juicy / somewhat dried out. Look for wrinkly ones, or ones that are heavy for their size, and only eat when wrinkly. There are the dark purple ones, as well as the lighter colored ones. The dark purple are more common, and I think I prefer the dark purple slightly more. The lighter color skinned ones have a more floral/ mild taste, if I remember correctly. I think of Madagascar versus Tahitian beans =o Both are good, though- try one of each to do a taste test!
How to Eat
If possible, hold the fruit steady from the top, and slice it in half with the knife parallel to the table. This way, the juices don’t just leak all over the plate, but they stay in the bottom half.
If you don’t have a knife, you can also use strong fingernails to make an incision in the top of the fruit, and tear the top open. Make sure you scoop everything out with a spoon!
Try this drink at Ju Zi Gong Fang- Orange House. It’s a franchise, but I really enjoy their passion fruit QQ green tea!
Papaya / 木瓜 / mu gua
Are they named mu gua (mu is a radical for the word tree) because they are melons that grow on trees? Anyway, do not dismiss papaya as something you can also eat in the US. Papayas in Taiwan > > > Papayas you eat in the US. I believe all the papayas we get are either from Mexico, other Latin American countries, or Hawaii?
Papayas in Taiwan are sweet, creamy, and do not have any weird stink to them. Mr. ABC Chef used to almost recoil at the sound of papaya, and could now also wax poetic about Taiwan papayas, like I do. If you can’t find papayas in the markets, papaya milk from a shop that uses lots of papayas instead of mostly milk (watch the workers before you buy) is next best.
How to Pick
Again, not really good at picking these, because most of the ones we ate were picked by friends. I think it’s safe to say that as long as the papaya is very soft (like a ripe avocado), it is ready for eating.
How to Eat
Because of the large size of a papaya and the need for a real knife, it’s probably easiest to eat it when you have a knife ready, or just buy it already cut. I think it’s best eaten when sliced up and eaten like a watermelon slice.
Wax Apple / 蓮霧 / lian wu
These do not have a texture like an apple at all! They are definitely more juicy than apples, and are very crispy and refreshing. Unlike with shi jia, I feel you could eat a bunch of lian wu and still have some room for other food.
How to Pick
I’m not too sure, actually..Pick ones that look rosy red, not pale, and maybe ones that do not look cracked on the bottom where the bell flares out. They also sell bigger ones that are more expensive and a shade of deep red (different variety, perhaps)? but I prefer the more normal sized ones, as I think they have better taste.
How to Eat
Wash and eat! Some people avoid the hairy part on the flared-out part (kind of similar to the hairy part on the bottom of an apple), but on the go (or on the train), I just eat it, too.
“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”- Benjamin Franklin
The first part of any crazy undertaking like DIY wedding desserts for 160 people is the plan. So, this entry will be about, well, the planning that transpired before I even stepped into the kitchen.
So, as I mentioned, a few weeks ago, almost all my nights after work were spent baking for a wedding (160 people). The bride and groom planned their wedding from China, so we had about 30 email exchanges (including one phone call) brainstorming ideas and planning details.
These were some conditions that had to be met:
-Cake and etc had to be transported via car (ours..) to a location 2 hours away, for a Sunday wedding. Because Tim and I had already made plans to go to Long Island for Pau Pau’s birthday dinner, we had to drop the sweets off on Saturday morning.
-Transportable cookies with prep aheadability, as well as day-old storeability
-Ingredients cost of $100-200
-Make desserts for 160 guests, with some guests under 18 years
Normally, the ingredients cost restriction wouldn’t have been a huge problem, though because of how late the menu was finalized (6 days before the wedding), and because of the distance between the stores, I was not willing to waste precious time and gas making trips to Costco (butter, eggs, sugar), Trader Joe’s (good, affordable chocolate), a liquor store (Frangelico) and Shoprite (everything else). Good thing Shoprite was actually more or less affordable, and I used some of my own ingredients from home, like my homemade vanilla. Continue reading
How to get thereWelcome to Part II of the Taiwan Eats series, where I documented good eats during our 2014 trip to Taiwan! Click for Part I, Part IIIa, Part IIIb, Part IV, and Part V.
Between 南京路 and 民生西路 (on Ningxia Road, between Nanjing Rd and Minsheng Rd West)
How to get there: Bus or subway with a good deal of walking, or taxi. For where we stayed in Taipei, taxi was the most convenient, and it wasn’t too expensive from where we were.
General comments: This rates as one of my top 3 favorite night markets out of the 7 we visited during our time in Taiwan. I’m sad and sorry I didn’t get any pictures here…maybe it was too exciting and I was too busy stuffing my face that I forgot?! Everything we got was tasty, but here are the two 2 most memorable ones:
–Mochi shaved ice at 林記燒麻糬 – Big mochi (un-filled; just the chewy part) on a mountain of shaved ice, covered with ground peanuts and sugar on one side, and black sesame powder and sugar on the other. Have someone save a table while someone else orders. It is crowded but so worth the wait! (The line moves rather quickly).
-Fan tuan （Taiwanese rice roll) from 阿婆飯糰- Sticky rice filled with a crunchy Chinese donut stick, plus other goodies. Click for someone else’s pictures. The Chinese donut/cruller/you tiao was amazingly crunchy, the rice was piping hot, and the fillings were made with care.
Hu Jiao Bing , Cong Hua Shao Bing
(Peppery Pork Bread/Bun & Flaky Scallion Bread )
Tonghua St, Alley 171, #4, Taipei
How to get there: MRT Brown Line- get off at the Liuzhangli stop, and it is only a few minutes’ walk. On the way, you’ll pass a park, which would be a great spot to enjoy your food. There is also a traditional wet market a few blocks away (anyone on the street should be able to point you in the right direction), so you can explore that, too.
My aunt Cynthia first told me about her favorite Taiwan snack of hu jiao bing, and after I had my first one on my first trip to Taiwan in 2005, I could easily see why !
What is hu jiao bing? Hu jiao means pepper, so it is translated as pepper bread. Think of seasoned peppery pork and bunches of fresh scallion, wrapped in a thin sesame-encrusted dough that is crusty outside and has a thin layer of soft dough inside. This stuff is bursting with juice, so to make sure the juices don’t all leak out, make sure you eat it with the flat side on top and round side on the bottom (a tip from the owners).
Good things come in simple packaging.
Welcome to Part IV of the Taiwan Eats series, where I documented good eats during our 2014 trip to Taiwan! Click for Part I, Part II, Part IIIa, Part IIIb, and Part V.
After Hualien, we took the TRA (台鐵) to Yilan, then transferred to get to Jiaoxi. This was a mistake..we should have just taken it all the way to Jiaoxi where we were staying at Ataya Xiang Bed and Breakfast (which is more of a guest house, or 名宿), but I didn’t research well enough for that part. Oh well! It wasn’t too bad to get off one train, then get back on another one 😉
We got to Ataya Xiang in the afternoon, and after dropping our luggage off and having some iced tea and fruit (provided by Ah Tu @ Ataya), we went to Luodong Night Market to find some grub.
A note on Yilan before we start: Yilan is known for their amazingly scallions, better known as san xing cong, or 三星葱, and these things are spicy! Have you ever teared up while eating scallions? You may very well experience that for the first time when you go to Yilan, like I did! Anyway, due to the freshness and availability of these san xing cong, be on the lookout for scallions in all the food here. Our strategy was to get as many scallion-filled foods as possible.
Luodong Night Market
Intersection of 公園路 and 民生路 (Gongyuan Rd and Minsheng Rd)- 5 minutes from the Luodong train station
General comments: This rates as one of my top 3 favorite night markets out of the 7 we visited during our time in Taiwan.
We liked everything we got, and loved most things!
Mini 肉圓- 6 types of protein, wrapped with a rice flour dough. These are steamed and served with a brown sauce. The fillings we got were shrimp, pork, and squid (I think). We couldn’t distinguish too clearly between the different fillings..
Aborigine mountain pork sausages and skewers of scallions in bacon- The sausages were really hearty, not too sweet, and had the lovely grilled taste. As at all sausage vendors, these were accompanied with pungent garlic cloves (have a friend hold the sausages, while you peel the garlic). There were also grilled skewers of san xing cong wrapped in mountain pork bacon, then lightly brushed with a sauce. AMAZING. The scallions were so spicy and delicious, and made my eyes water! These skewers were far superior to these same types of skewers that we had elsewhere. Good produce makes a huge difference.
Welcome to Part IIIb of the Taiwan Eats series, where I documented good eats during our 2014 trip to Taiwan! Click for Part I, Part II, Part IIIa, Part IV, and Part V.
Overall Comments: This is a cute place with a great view of the Pacific Ocean! We had biked along the bike path at Seven Star Lake (七星潭)before coming here, and it was a nice way to wind our afternoon down. We passed the time while drinking, eating, and enjoying the scenery. Make sure to stop by the fence and feed the goats with anything you find on the property! Rest assured, as they don’t spray any of the shrubs, trees, and bushes that grow nearby. These same goats produce the milk that you drink in the beverages at the cafe. The only downside of the cafe is that there is a minimum order of about $180 NT/person (if my memory serves me right), but upside is that with the goat milk tea and goat milk coffee we ordered, we also got goat milk cheesecake.
What we got:
-Goat Milk Coffee: This place is obviously known for their goat milk coffee. If you imagine the essence of goat cheese and the taste of coffee, this is it! However, T, a coffee purist, takes his coffee black, and felt that the goat milk watered the coffee down. He is also not as much of a goat cheese fan, so it all made sense. He did, however, LOVE the coffee, and asked for 3 refills on just the coffee. We asked the server about the origins of the coffee, and it turns out that the owner takes great pride and care in making her own blend of 3-4 types of beans.
-Goat Milk Cheesecake: The house-made cheesecake definitely came from the freezer, and was not fully defrosted when we ate it, but was tasty and creamy, once it thawed. Thumbs down to not having fresh cheesecake, though..
-Goat Milk Iced Tea: I ordered the goat milk iced tea, which tasted much more like milk than tea. At least they weren’t stingy with their milk!
I’m so excited to share with you guys about Hualien, because this was one of the major highlights of our Taiwan trip! If you are looking for the other posts in the series, click for Part I, II, IIIb, IV, and V.
You will notice that I don’t have the Our Favorites” section in every food place I mention, because either the place specialized in a few items, or because there were too many things I enjoyed that it was impossible to pick favorites. “Always save some room” was the advice imparted on us by Uncle E, and after regretful too-full situations from our GaoHsiung trip, we changed our ways in Hualien. Our new strategy for lunch and dinner was to order only 1 or 2 small items to share, then move on to find the next good food place 🙂 With that said…..
After some belly stuffing in Gaohsiung and an amazing breakfast of tang bao, shao bing, and dou jiang, we took a 5 hour ride via the Taiwan Railways Train to Hualien. It was gorgeous the whole way there- mountains, farmland, beaches and ocean, wherever you looked. I especially loved looking at the fields and trying to decipher if the trees I saw were coconut, papaya, betel nut, or banana trees! (Our awesome tour guide, Maggie, told me how to tell the difference, but I forget now..)
Disclaimer: Please double check that these places are still open for business before you visit! English names are provided if/when there are no English translations already provided by the business (or Google) itself.
The view from the train en route to Hualien
Welcome to Part II of the Taiwan Eats series, where I documented good eats during our 2014 trip to Taiwan! Click for Part I, Part IIIa, Part IIIb, Part IV and Part V.
So then we left Taipei and took the high speed rail to Gaohsiung. If you make it through this post, you may be wondering..where are all the night markets at? Where’s Liuhe (六合） and Ruifeng （瑞豐)? There were two main reasons we didn’t go…1) We only spent two nights in Gaohsiung, and 2）One of my mom’s friends, who keeps a strict healthy diet, told us we shouldn’t go =(. We also didn’t have much room or time for it, because our time was mostly guided by my mom’s friends.
Fear not! With T (Mr. ABC Chef) in my company, there’s no way we would have left future nightmarkets undiscovered. We went to practically all the night markets possible, in the other cities we visited. Stay tuned..
Xing Long Ju
Gaohsiung City, Liuhe Er Road, #184-186C
I’ll be sharing about some of my food experiences in Taiwan in this 5 part series. It will mostly reflect our most recent trip (Oct 25- Nov 8), but will also talk about some places I went to on my second trip by myself, back in 2011. I didn’t capture all of the places we went to, but I did my best! We spent time in Taipei, Gaohsiung, Hualien, Yilan, then back to Taipei. I’ll post in order of where we went.
Don’t worry- recipes will still be posted!
If you are traveling to Taiwan with USD, you will feel rich. Note that T and I prefer mom and pop, no frills places, with some exceptions for fancier places. Taiwan is like a culinary mecca, so I know there are thousands of restaurants and food stands we missed. It would probably take a lifetime to explore them all, and have enough stomach to try everything! Do you have a favorite place to eat in Taiwan?
阜杭豆漿 fu hang dou jiang
Hua Shan Market, 2F
1. Freeze your cheese (and rinds)
I freeze my hard cheeses like Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano-Reggiano in blocks, because I usually only grate a little bit at a time.
For melting cheeses like mozzarella or cheddar cheese, I grate them and store them in the freezer. This is really convenient for when you want to make quesadillas, grilled cheese sandwiches, or pizza!
2. Keep leftovers and faster-spoiling produce at eye level in the fridge
Out of sight, out of mind 🙁 Don’t be that person who leaves half a head of romaine lettuce in the drawers to wilt, rot, and turn mushy.
3. Use scraps creatively
Ever need to buy a whole can or bag of xyz to follow a recipe? Look in your pantry for lonely beans or grains or nuts that need to be eaten, and incorporate them into your cooking when you are making salad, soup, or maybe even stir-fries! I had some leftover bulghur from making tabbouleh that I was able to use up by adding to my salad.
Toss a cheese rind into your next Western soup; it will add lots of flavor!
4. Plan your purchases
Does that bag of Romanesco cauliflower at the farmer’s market look tempting? How about those cute little eggplants? Make sure you plan. Fail to plan, plan to fail!
5. Invite friends over for dinner
If you are anything like me, you might be zealous in your cooking escapades and find that you have too much food and the freezer is already stuffed. Invite some friends over; I’m sure they will appreciate your home cooking and hospitality!
6. Freeze ginger slices
Asian food fans, are you out there? You know that most recipes only call for a few slices of ginger. You can’t buy just a few slices of ginger and you cannot and should not use powdered ginger. So, what’s a ginger cook to do? Slice those suckers and put them in a bag in the freezer. Just remember to take it out first and give it some time to defrost, if you need to dice or mince it. Frozen ginger does well on the microplane, BTW.
7. Save water from blanching vegetables
I have always been sad to see blanching water go down the drain. I was lamenting the thought of pouring the spinach-blanching water down the drain when Tim suggested I save it for my lentil soup. I packed it away in a quart container and used the next day for the soup. Use blanching water for soups, stews, stocks, and green smoothies (cooled first, obviously). Of course, maybe this is not so practical when you are not planning to make any of the above items soon after the blanching of vegetables. However, BRILLIANT idea, Tim!
*all pictures in this post were sourced from wikipedia
1. Make nut butter or spread. Toast (or don’t toast) hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts, cashews, skinned peanuts, or any other type of nut. Process well and scrape the sides down occasionally, until you see the nuts start to flow into a thick oozing “liquid”. Process until all of the nuts are incorporated into that liquid known as nut butter. Add a few pinches of salt, process, then adjust for taste.
2. Shred a big block of cheese for easier use later! If it is a softer cheese like mozzarella, pop it into the freezer for about 15 minutes to let it harden a bit first. Store the shredded cheese in a ziptop bag in the freezer.
3. Make some hummus, baba ghanoush, falafel, or all three!
4. Make a gratin
5. Make a pesto without a set recipe:
Wash and dry parsley/basil well. Peel some garlic. How much? How much herbs do you have? The amount of garlic you use should only be a small percentage, volume wise, of the herbs you use, otherwise it will just taste like garlic.
Put the garlic in the food processor and mince with the processor. Add the herbs. Taste and add more herbs or garlic for your tastebuds.
Add some nuts if you have them or want to- I really like pistachios with parsley and walnuts or pine nuts with basil. While the nuts are getting blended in, dribble olive oil in until the paste comes together. Add more oil to your liking. I like less oil, so my “pestos” are often quite chunky.
Add some cheese if you want- I usually have Romano or Parmesan.
Taste for saltiness first, then add salt if needed.
Use the pesto right after you make it, or freeze in ice cubes and top off with a little oil.