… and lots more adventures to come! :)
betel nuts are something completely new to us, and i was kind of fascinated by them. they grow on a type of skinny palm tree, and are sold fresh wrapped in betel leaf, with a bit of slaked lime mixed in. the stalls and shops that sell them are everywhere on the side of the roads — once you notice their flashy fluorescent neons at night, you cannot unsee them.
in taiwan, they’re sold fresh in little bags of a dozen or so nuts. the nuts and leaves are chewed together, to give people a buzz and a warm feeling (or so we’ve heard). like tobacco, they’re also carcinogenic, so it’s not something i was eager to try. there’s a curious magic to them though: when chewed, the whole saliva and mouth of the person turns blood red… it’s more than a little disconcerting to see someone smiling while chewing them. the leftovers are spit out after the chewing is done, often on the floor. in taipei, it’s forbidden to spit them out on the pavement, which i guess hinders its consumption… but around the country there is no such problem, and everywhere you go outside the capital, you see the red spats on the floor.
apparently, they’re more of a southern asia thing, which helps explain why we never saw them in shanghai. anyway, maybe not the nicest aspect of taiwan, but yeah… it made me look and discover something new.
someone on the postcrossing forum mentioned there was “postcard café” in taipei, so of course we had to go and check it out! :)
the fun starts outside, even before you get in, because the menu is all written in illustrated postcards! you pick the cards featuring the food or drinks you’d like to have, and then take them to your waiter inside. they’ll be gifted to you when the food comes, which is a nice touch.
the special thing about chu entry time is that you can mail postcards to someone in the future! basically, you write, address and stamp your postcards, pay the fee and then put them on the box of the week you want it to be mailed. and they’ll mail it for you when the time comes! so in theory, you can pre-send all your friend’s birthday cards for the whole year, or even a few years in advance.
it’s not the first time we hear of something like this, but it was the first time we saw one in real life, which was pretty cool. while we were waiting, the boy was browsing some magazines they had there, and stumbled on one that mentioned postcrossing, eheh :)
there was also a really nice selection of illustrated postcards and other crafts that you could buy, and a table with rubberstamps for anyone to just use. it was lovely, and i wish there were more of these around.
nice café food and drinks + postcards = perfection!
speaking of eggs, breakfasts in taiwan are so good… though sometimes a little tricky. often the food is served in roadside stalls or makeshift shops with a couple of tables on the sidewalk, and you order by telling the auntie or uncle what you’d like to eat, or ticking the boxes in a sheet of paper that is fully written in chinese. 😅 my vocabulary for food is severely lacking, but with a bit of pointing and google translate, we got around to trying quite a few different things. it helps that we’re not very picky and could probably eat anything!
some of the meals we had included egg pancakes with different fillings, turnip cake, youtiao (fried dough sticks), scallion pancakes, warm soy milk, youtiao wrapped in rice and egg, a kind of youtiao sandwich, glutinous meatballs…
i think the scallion pancakes (with cheese) were probably our #1 though. the taiwanese version of them is a bit different from the chinese one, as here they are more fluffed up and not crispy, but they were delicious still.
we had so many of these that it’s amazing i’m not sick of them yet! 😅
i don’t know why we never bothered to try century eggs while we lived in china. truth be told, i feel like we missed out on exploring a lot of chinese food while we lived there… and now, 15 years later, i regret not having made a more comprehensive study of it. anyway, clay-preserved duck eggs were something we’d never tasted before — but they are awesome, despite the strange look!
the eggs are coated in alkaline clay for some time, to let it dry around the egg and let the chemistry do its magic. it gives them this funky color, with a smooth, gooey center.
in taiwan, they’re eaten alongside tofu, accompanied by some sauce. i could not get enough and ordered some every time they were available as a side dish. definitely made up for lost time!