I ate a lot of fruit in Taiwan. Oftentimes, I would buy it at the morning market but I would also visit various fruit markets. Here's what a typical fruit shop looks like:
Much of the fruit is local but there are also imports such as apples from Washington state. Generally though, the fruit available will be what's currently being picked at local farms. My favorite thing about buying fruit in Taiwan is how convenient they make it to eat. For instance:
Irwin" or some of the tart, white-fleshed pineapple.
Here's a fun fact: Did you know that all mangoes imported into the U.S. are required to be treated in a hot water bath in order to kill fruit fly larvae? I think this might be why grocery store mangoes are, generally, so piss poor.
FRIED FOOD STANDS
Fried food is VERY popular in Taiwan and, frankly, what culture DOESN'T love fried chicken? Go to any night market in Taiwan and you'll find multiple vendors specializing in fried food. Ordering food at these places is simple. All you have to do is tell the person behind the counter what you want and the dollar amount. They'll measure it out on a little scale and fry it up. They might, or might not have a choice of flavoring but they'll almost definitely ask you if you want it spicy. The default seasoning is a little salt, white pepper and Thai basil. If you are lucky, you'll find a vendor specializing in fried seafood. Those places are harder to find but well worth seeking out.
Grilled food is very popular in Taiwan and you'll find grilled food stands most everywhere you look. Again, the ordering process is simple. First, pick which food you want and place it into a plastic bin. The vendor will take your bin and ask about seasoning and spice. He or she will cook your food and you will be on your merry way.
GREEN ONION PANCAKE
It's hard to beat a green onion pancake (cong you bing 蔥油餅) for the title of ubiquitous streetside favorite. It's just a savory, multi-layered piece of dough studded with pieces of green onion. It can be served with sauce or without and could also be served with an egg. The dough is prepped ahead of time but is cooked to order on a griddle. I like mine with a little hot sauce.
These (hu jiao bing 胡椒餅) are one of my favorite street eats in Taiwan because they both taste great and are cooked in a really neat way. First, a hu jiao bing is a baked bun loaded with pork and green onion and is seasoned with tons of hu jiao aka pepper. Here's what one looks like:
Fun fact: Did you know that the hu in hu jiao traditionally meant "barbarian" and, thus, hu jiao means foreign or barbarian pepper?
Okay, okay, these are a rip off of Japanese takoyaki but whatevers. The Japanese occupied Taiwan from 1895 until 1945, so it shouldn't be a surprise that Japanese food is common in present-day Taiwan. In Mandarin, these are known as zhuang yu xiao wan zi (章魚小丸子). They are bite-sized balls of batter and cabbage with a piece of cooked octopus at the core. Here's a picture of the highly spcialized contraption they are cooked on:
You'll notice the little divots and, underneath, is the heat source. The vendor squirts some batter into the oiled divots and then proceeds to cook and allow them to set. Then he or she will roll the ball over and add more batter. Soon, you have a sphere. In this next picture, you'll see the balls pretty far along into their cooking stage.bonito flakes. Sounds crazy but they are one of the things I miss most! And, to top it all off, this VERY labor intensive product is about $1.00 per six balls.
ROASTED SWEET POTATOES
There's been a lot of meaty, fried food featured above so I'll end with something a little healthier. I'd always wondered why my Taiwanese Mom was so obsessed with sweet potatoes (di gua 地瓜) and it's because sweet potatoes in Taiwan are really, really good. They're delicious and are used in many ways. Some of my favorites:
- Sweet potato milk: roasted sweet potato flesh and milk...it sounds crazy but it's really good. In fact, the Taiwanese do the same thing with bananas and papaya.
- Glazed with Taiwanese brown sugar and served with crushed peanut powder.
- Fried with a candy like shell.
- Simply slow roasted so the natural sugars caramelize
As always, this is not meant to be comprehensive in any way, shape or form. Happy eating!! :)