TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Taiwan is a second heaven for foodies, with its bustling night markets, street vendors and hole-in-the-wall eateries serving up deliciously affordable snacks.
First-time visitors will no doubt be introduced to iconic delicacies such as stinky tofu, beef noodles or bubble milk tea. Real connoisseurs, however, should delve deeper and will be rewarded for doing so by experiencing an absolutely phenomenal food experience.
- Seasoned wheat flour (miancha, 麵茶)
Miancha was used as a substitute for milk and meat by some impoverished families in the 1960s and is easily made at home.
All you need is some flour, seasoning (sesame or peanuts), sugar, oil, and hot water. First, add oil and flour to a saucepan, then add the flavorings and blend for up to two hours into a yellow paste.
Alternatively, buy pre-seasoned wheat flour at a store, pour miancha powder into a cup of hot water and stir for a couple of minutes, until it becomes creamy.
Or you can simply buy a pack of seasoned wheat flour at a store, pour desired portion of the Mi-Te powder into a cup of hot water, and stir it for a couple of minutes until it becomes a creamy texture of the Mi-Te soup.
- Grass Cake (caozaiguo, 草仔粿)
Caozaiguo is a sweet pastry shaped like a turtle and made of glutinous rice flour, sugar and mugwort paste that has been ground up and cooked. The fillings are usually red bean or radish.
Mugwort is an aromatic herb that gives the treat a brownish-green color and free grass type of flavor.
Turtles symbolize luck and longevity, which is why caozaiguo are traditionally eaten on Tomb-Sweeping Day.
Caozaiguo can be found in traditional markets, particularly in Taipei's Maokong and in New Taipei City's Jiufen. They are chewy and it's best not to eat too many because the glutinous rice flour can be difficult to digest.
- Candied fruit on a stick (tanghulu, 糖葫蘆)
(Wikimedia Commons image)
Tanghulu is a traditional snack that features fruit neatly arranged on a stick. The hardened sugar coating comes from dipping the fruit in a heated sugar syrup.
Traditionally, hawthorns were used for tanghulu, but today vendors use a wide variety of fruits, such as cherry tomatoes, kiwis, strawberries or even bananas.
The bright and colorful tanghulu typically sold by street vendors attract buyers of all ages.
- Puffed Rice Cake (mixiang, 米香)
(Wikimedia Commons image)
Puffed-rice cake is a popular traditional food that is a bit like popcorn and is popular in Taiwan, China, India and Japan. The ingredients are rice, malt syrup and other grains.
The rice is roasted in a pressure cooker and there is a kind of explosive sound as the rice kernels expand and create steam.
After mixing the rice with the heated malt syrup, the rice cakes are cut into pieces and packaged.
Although puffed-rice cakes are no longer as popular as they used to be, you can still find them in traditional or night markets.