Tasting My Way Through Taiwan (Part 2)

This is the second installment of my travels in Taiwan. For part one, go here.

Thinking back to the trip makes me realize on how I marked each day by what we ate. And, really, that wasn’t a bad decision because, if anything, that soupy noodle soup or that hot bread from the street vendor are worth talking about.

As we looped around the southern tip of the island and started driving back up north, we passed through an area where a lot of tropical fruit flourished.

We stopped along the way at a stand that sold a local variety of dried mango. I sampled the fresh mango, and it had a richer, more complex flavor than the varieties from the Philippines or Mexico that get imported to the U.S. This little road-side shop had many different dried fruits and little cakes (and lots of samples).

Pineapple fields, semi-reminiscent of a past visit to the Dole Pineapple fields in Hawaii

Next stop was Alishan, which is famous for its tea. Our visit included a meal in a windowed room overlooking the green hills, a cultural dance performance, and an hour of tea tasting. All I can say is that I don’t have the same appreciation for the pungent, bitter tea that my grandma has. We drove for a long time that day as we crossed over a mountain range. When we got to our next stop, we pulled out the rain coats we hadn’t yet gotten a chance to use from our luggage and experienced a true rain shower in Taiwan.  We had arrived so late in the day that it was pitch black when we reached our hotel in Nantou County. Each room had a balcony overlooking the famous Sun Moon Lake. We did get the full scenic experience the next morning as we woke up to a beautiful view and later took a private boat out on the water.

According to our driver, who frequently gives tours throughout the area, we couldn’t miss Ah Po’s tea eggs, which are made in one of the towns surrounding the lake. People wait for hours to get these eggs which are hard-boiled in a solution of tea leaves and shitake mushrooms, and if I remember correctly, the family business sells around 3000 eggs a day. That’s crazy!

The business made a little Taiwanese lady,”Ah Po,” into a local celebrity. While I didn’t think the eggs stood out from the tea eggs that my own grandma makes, they were still tasty. Hey, doesn’t anything taste good on a long car ride?

Memorabilia from Ai Po’s house
Dawncake

A few more hours on a windy mountain road brought us to the bustling streets of Taichung. The next stop on the itinerary planned by the tour company was Dawncake Bakery. Formerly a dentist’s office, the building has been converted into a shop with different stalls selling very cutesy and beautiful pastries. We sampled some pretty but pricey nougat candy. The floral stenciled ceiling and wooden bookcases are even lovelier, though!

 

A trip to Taiwan can’t be complete without pearl milk tea. PMT or “boba” is all the rage in the United States right now; in my hometown, new shops selling the hip Taiwanese milk tea with tapioca “pearls” keep popping up.

“The Origin of Pearl Milk Tea”

Chun Shui Tang prides itself as the home of the original pearl milk tea.  I’m not a huge fan of PMT, but I figured that if I was going to have it in Taiwan, this was the place. I’m sensitive to caffeine so I ordered one of the only de-caffeinated drinks on the menu, an iced winter melon tea. The pearls came on the side. Long story short, I didn’t love the iced tea I ordered, so I mooched off my family member’s classic eulong teas and ate the tapioca by the spoonful.

A side dish to the PMT

Other highlights of the last few hours of our last day in Taiwan included hot steamed bread from a street stand and browsing through a wood utensil shop.

If you haven’t had a chance to explore the tastes and views of Taiwan, I highly recommend you add it your trip bucket list. 🙂 As always, thank you for reading!

—Bethany

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