October 25, 2013

Exploring Taiwan, fruit by fruit - first challenge

Exploring Taiwan, fruit by fruit, vegetable by vegetable

Part one – the sour little ones called – yes, called what?

One of the great pleasures with travelling and with living in new places is discovering the fruits and vegetables as well as other foods. For a foodie like myself Taiwan is the perfect country, there is so much fruits and vegetables here. Some I have seen before, some I have eaten before – but not all. And even the ones I HAVE eaten taste different here, where they were allowed to ripen in the sun. 

This little one is one, see the picture, is unknown to me. No no, not the pineapple  cut in pieces in the background, that was part of my night time snack as well, but the one in the centre, the It reminds me of a little fruit we had on some trees when I was growing up, but we wouldn't eat them (except for the occasional bite now and then) because they were very sour and would just make your face crinkle up in a strange way, and make your tongue feel weird for a while, instead we would throw them at each other, and have them as "pretend-food" when we were playing, the way children do. 

The to me unknown fruit. 
Here the fruit that looks similar to the one we had in Sweden are sold at the night market with other fruits. They are rather expensive compared to many of the other fruits so I imagine there must be something special about them. I bought some last night, because I had to try. They are indeed sour, with a consistency that reminds me about apples, they feel like little apples when you bite into them. except as I said, they are far more sour. It's not unripe apples, they just look like they could be. 

The seeds are different, they are almost like the seeds from figs, but gathered in the middle of the fruit, unlike figs that have seeds in the whole fruit. I was thinking that maybe it could be a variant of quince (quitten in German and Swedish) but when I look at quince online they look different, and the quince I used to have in my garden was indeed VERY different. 

I believe this specific type may have been pickled somehow because they felt more sour than I would otherwise expect. It's hard to describe – and I don't know if I like them or not. They are not unpleasant to eat, but also not very exiting, to be completely honest. I think I could get used to them though.  What is very strange to someone like me who is never lost for food references; I don't even get a feel for what I could use them with? Maybe it is because how they are pickled but I don't get any associations when I taste it, no inspiration; The way they taste and feel I can't think of anything else to do with them but to eat them as they are? Not in salad, no to make jam, not in a side dish, not sweet, not sour. I am just confused. 

I probably have to try a few times, because as I normally say; You should try everything at least twice. The first time you have to get over the surprise and the second you may start to figure it out. Very true at least with food.. Never give up on food after just one trial.

And in the meantime, if anyone know the English name of this fruit I'd be happy to learn it. I will return to the night market and try and find the Chinese one myself. 


Hsun-yu Chan said...

Hello, the Taiwan Reporter (Herr Klaus Bardenhagen) shares your blog on his Facebook fan page today so I got here. I'm also from Taichung, now studying in the US. Welcome to my home town, your posts reminds me of home :)

Based on your description, and if it's super super super sour and somewhat crispy, then I think it's 山楂 (shān zhā; first tone for both words), or hawthorn. You are right that it's close to apple.

It is the same fruit you'd get if you buy a 糖葫蘆 (táng hú lú, all in second tone), though now some 糖葫蘆 are made of strawberry, plum, tomato, etc. It's a traditional sweet, sugar-coated, so you'd get a mixture of sour and sweet taste at the same time.

Or if you can visit a traditional Chinese herb shop 中藥鋪 (zhōng yào pù; first, fourth, fourth tone), you can ask for 山楂餅, another traditional treat that you can have everyday, but it's salty (not sour anymore, yay!) It's good for your vocal cord, so take one after a long day of talking with lukewarm or hot water.

TravellingAK said...

Thank you very much! I will go and see if I can find hawthorn and try and figure out if it is the same, now that I have a Chinese name! We do have hawthorn in at least northern Europe but I believe there are several different types of hawthorne, the ones I have seen in Northern Europe looks somewhat different.
But now I have a mission - to find out more!

(Thanks a millon for adding the tones as well; I may not get it right straight away but I have to start somewhere...)