All are representative of the Taiwanese in a way...
01.12.2008 - 01.12.2008 70 °F
On Saturday, we drove up a a different part of the mountains east of my gramma's house to do a bit of sightseeing. As we gained elevation, we passed large tea fields. First, neatly trimmed rows of tea bushes. My gramma explained that you can only get them that neat by harvesting with a machine, which trims the bushes and vacuums up the tea leaves at the same time. Then, at higher elevation was the higher valued oolong and dong ding tea that is hand picked. From there we headed to the lush Shitou National Forest. Here in Taiwan, the national symbol (besides the flag or the bird) is depicted graphically as 2-D green shape of the island. I am beginning to realize why; it is the "winter" here, but everything remains green, from the flatland agricultural fields to the mountainsides.
(Unfortunately, I didn't get a shot of the bamboo forests, which were beautiful. Think Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.)
After about 3 km of hiking about, we stopped for a snack, boiled fish balls. (That is not a very appetizing description, I know.) As the Swedish have their meatballs, Germans have their bratwursts, and the Americans have their hot dogs, the Taiwanese have their fish balls as a meaty snack. Served two or three on a skewer, they are cooked in soup and served along roadsides and at every 7-11. They proved to be quite tasty, I made short work of them (with little help from my mom).
Lunch and dinner were both sticky foods. The more I describe Taiwanese food, the more I realize that a lot of it is made from glutinous grain flour making it sticky, gooey and springy all at the same time. After driving out of the national forest, we made a stop to partake in a local specialty, sticky rice cooked in a bamboo segment. The short-grain rice is put in raw with some mushrooms and bits of meat into a bamboo segment and steamed. Right before it's served, the bamboo is split open so that the dish is served right out of the bamboo. The rice is supposed to come out with a distinct bamboo flavor (which I didn't really detect...). However, still fun and filling!
As we drove back late in the afternoon, we decided to eat dinner in Beidou, rather than cooking dinner at home. Beidou is famous for their ba wan, which is somewhat like a Chinese dumpling with the wrapper made of sweet potato flour and is filled with pork and bamboo shoot bits. After steaming and frying, the wrapper makes quite a thick glutinous layer around the filling so much that the dumpling is cut into quarters before serving. Traditionally, it's served with a thick sauce, that has a bit of a miso flavor. (Apologies that I don't have a shot of the dumplings, pre-sauce.)
In the background, more sticky rice and tofu soup (not sticky).
It was a good balance of exercise and good eats. Hope you're all enjoying food too!