From vegetarian to duck tongues in six months

January 8, 2009 at 7:26 PM | Posted in Taiwan | Leave a comment

We’ve been eating a lot of street food, and it’s been fun to try so many new things. If I were still vegetarian, I’d really be missing out–although given some of the stuff I’ve eaten, it’s sort of amazing that six months ago I could count on one hand the number of times I’d eaten meat in the past 15 years. Yesterday on our way back from our site visit to China Shipbuilding Company, we saw a stand on the street that smelled amazing, and it turned out to be a street snack that we had all been wanting to try–soup dumplings, or small pieces of pork and spring onion in broth, with the broth encased inside a dumpling wrapper and served with finely sliced ginger root and hot sauce on top. They are small–about an inch and a half in diameter–and you have to be very careful when picking them up with chopsticks so that you don’t pop them. They were unbelievably delicious. Then for dinner, the students who are hosting us at Kaohsiung Medical University (KMU) took us out to the biggest night market in Kaohsiung. There must have been close to 100 food stalls, as well as stands selling clothes and jewelry. Our usual routine is to each buy things and then share all of them, so you get to taste many different things. My list of things that I tried last night (my most adventurous night yet)….most of it was pretty good!

  • Braised duck tongues (still attached to the trachea)…it was rather, shall we say, springy
  • Slices of chicken neck
  • More stinky tofu (it was better this time but still not great–our unofficial Taiwanese social director kept buying us plates of it!) with kimchi
  • Shaved ice (fresh-made snow mixed with syrupy fruits, rice balls, taro root, and sweet red beans
  • A sweet medicinal soup that was thick and black, mixed with the same things as the shaved ice
  • Pancakes filled with a sweet paste (in this picture)
  • Candied strawberries on a stick
  • Papaya pureed with milk (a popular drink here)
  • Edamame tossed with salt, pepper, and garlic (delicious!)
  • Little marinated tofu cubes
  • Cherry tomatoes split and filled with a kind of brown sugar paste
  • And I didn’t try this, but a few other Harvard students did….congealed pig blood mixed with rice, in slices on a stick

Very healthy, right? Our Taiwanese hosts were very impressed at how willing we were to taste things! As we were leaving the market, I noted that I had never before been to a place where I saw things laid on on sticks at a food stand and wasn’t sure whether it was a meat or a dessert.

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