Restaurants & Bars 8

Taiwanese food update from Mr. Taster's 2006 Asiapalooza tour

Mr. Taster | Mar 5, 200612:32 AM

I have seen fruit I'd never dreamed possible.

One thing I'm slowly adjusting to is the fact that things Westerners would consider wildly exotic are really quite mundane and ordinary here. I know it's a trite statement, but you really must be here to experience the full force of this observation. Case in point, DRAGON FRUIT (see photo in my linked travel blog). It is a wildly bright, fluorescent pink color with weak green spikes and a tapered shape. Inside, it is white or red, spotted with black seeds and has a very mild, sweet flavor. In America, this fruit would draw stares. In central Taiwan where I am right now, it is on every corner fruit stand.

There's another unusual pyramidal shaped fruit indigenous to Taiwan. There is no English name but the Taiwanese name is some approximation of lieng ou (see photo), and its appearance seems to be a cross between a tomato, an apple and an asshole. The texture and flavor of this fruit is sweet, crisp and juicy, like an asian pear.

Roadside markets abound, springing up out of the ether, in a manner unlike I've ever seen. You're riding on your scooter on a wide city street with apartments and shops on either side. You make a left turn, and suddenly you're in an impossibly narrow street in what you would consider to be a pedestrian style farmer's market. But in Taiwan, scooters reign as they weave through the pedestrians, between the tents, the old people sitting on the ground husking corn, the fresh pancake carts and dumpling steam carts which extend for what feels like miles in each direction. Drivers pull up to one of the 1,000 vendor stands, order their ro yuan, and zip off into the smoggy yonder with little bags of food hanging off their handlebars. This is drive-thru dining on a scale I've never experienced nor dreamed of before.

This market culture is amplified in the outrageous NIGHT MARKETS which spring up all over Taiwan. They open at dusk and run until late-- midnight or 2:00am in some cases. The smallest night markets can be equated to small farmers markets, with fruit, food and clothing vendors under tents that open up when the sun sets. By contrast, the largest night markets are the equivalent of entire urban downtown areas which only open at sundown. You are surrounded at all times by thousands of people, flashing neon lights and Chinese signs (with the occasional hilarious misspelled Engrish sign and club mix Taiwanese and American pop music and vendors blaring their sales pitches into wireless microphones. Imagine Times Square on a smaller scale (but with what appears to be just as many people) and you can get a sense of what it feels like to be in the center of this totally surrealistic, alien experience.

I've linked to my page with lots and lots of photos of the food from the markets in Taya and Taichung.

Mr. Taster

Link: http://travelpod.com/cgi-bin/guest.pl...

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