Chinese and Taiwanese New year is coming along shortly! One of the big questions that many people will have is what dishes to prepare. One of the best places to find traditional and New Year Taiwanese dishes is Taiwan Cooking on YouTube. It’s my mother’s site and she loves to cook – a lot.
She recently held an early New Year lunch party and made a huge amount of great food for the day. Many Taiwanese sisters managed to share a great, happy, warm New Year together! Please have a look at the wonderful range of food she prepared in the video I have embedded below.
There’s lots of favourite Taiwanese and Chinese dishes shown off above. To help you easily find some of my favourites she prepared that day you can look at these links:
I’ve been to Taiwan this summer as readers will know. Now I’ve been back a couple of weeks but really miss a couple of fruits that are really hard to find in the UK. It’s a shame because it includes two of my favourite fruits.
I went to see my great-uncle one day and he runs a very small scale farm, you might call him a market gardener, with a smallish plot but a big variety of fruits and vegetables all together. Some of the fruits come from trees that have been established for many years but there are also things that need planting every year like the vegetables. In the picture above you can see the beautiful collection of vegetables I gathered that day.
Let’s move on to my favourite fruits, the ones I miss so much. The first is called the longan and it is a close relative to the lychee but grows wild in Taiwan. The name is pronounced “Long -yen” in Taiwan. Though Lychees are specially bred trees to produce this kind of fruit; the cultivation over the years has produced a fruit with a minimal ‘stone’ or ‘pip’, I find them to be unsettlingly fleshy and watery. Longan have a very large black stone in the middle and the layer of flesh is relatively small but it’s flavour is much better in my opinion!
I have found longan for sale in the UK on vegetable stalls in Markets which sell Thai food and ingredients. There is a season for these fruits and in the northern hemisphere it’s just about over now.
My second favourite fruit from Taiwan is the ‘shi jia’ which is pronounced “ser jia” and known by English speakers as the Custard Apple. This fruit seems to be a popular one in Australia but I’ve never seen it in the UK. However ‘custard apple’ is a pretty good description of the overall flavour of the fruit. To my tastebuds the best description would be “rice pudding with a teaspoon of apricot jam”. It’s really delicious and once it is ripe I will put one in the fridge to eat cold, picking up the flesh covered seeds with my chopsticks!
I’m surprised there aren’t so many ‘custard apple’ flavoulred drinks and desserts but I did find one I particularly liked in Hualien, in eastern Taiwan. Here you can buy shi jia ice cream. If you ever go to Taiwan’s east side I recommend you try and find some pots of this tasty ice cream. I bought some, very easily, when we stopped to fill up at a CPC petrol station.
Taiwan’s special night markets are a very famous cultural signature of Taiwan. What is special about just a market at night you may ask… Well they aren’t just markets. They are a lot more than markets. The kinds of markets that sell meat, fish and vegetables in the west take place here in Taiwan in the morning and day times and usually at a completely different venue dedicated to such produce. Night markets are more like a nightly carnival with food and shopping liberally mixed in. So they can be quite a lot more entertaining than a morning or a day market.
Taipei – Shilin Night Market
This is probably Taiwan’s most famous night market, it’s one of the biggest and takes place in the capital city. Apparently there are more than 500 food stalls alone within this night market!
Above you can see one of the entrances to Shilin. If you are in Taipei and want to get to this market the best way is via the underground metro system – head to Jiantan Station on the Tamsui Line.
Taichung – Fengjia (or Feng Chia) Night Market
This is the night market where I have been the most often because I used to live near to Taichung and also went to high school in this city – Taiwan’s third biggest city in the middle of the island geographically.
This night market is near Feng Chia University so of course it’s a popular destination for students who all love the wide range of hot and cold snacks to be eaten and all the fun and games that can be had at the carnival-like stalls. Some of my favourite game stalls are “hoopla” and the air guns. Also you will see very many stalls featuring the game with water filled balloons and darts.
Kaohsiung – Liuhe Night Market
Kaohsiung’s biggest and best night market is called Liuhe Night Market. I’ve only been there once or twice as I haven’t been to this southernmost city very often. Kaohsiung is Taiwan’s second biggest city and a very big and important port.
The night market here was great and had all the attractions you would expect. Overall I think that seafood, already popular in Taiwan, is even more prominent at this night market. That’s better than the touristy prominence of snake restaurants in Taipei!
If you visit Taiwan and have a spare evening make sure to go down to your local night market for a bit of food and fun!