Tea in the Foothills

An unconventional working lunch in Taiwan

Reflections  /   /  By Annie

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One of the things that I will miss the most about Taiwan is no doubt the food. Taiwanese food is not internationally renowned, but that’s surely not for lack of deliciousness. It may be more so attributable to its relatively humble origins as well as presentation. The lush and fertile island is known most for light and simple presentations of the many vegetables, particularly leafy greens, that are indigenous to the area. While Taiwanese food shares many similarities with what we may call “Chinese”, the lighter and more straightforward presentations are one of many nuanced distinguishing factors.

On the last day of my most recent placement in Taiwan, my supervisor decided to take me and fellow research assistants on a little trip to the foothills nearby, away from the same old city food that we are used to near the University. This place had a menu, but the lady who owned the place had an even stronger opinion about what one should order. “Obviously I’m putting you guys down for chicken, and some soup, and I’ll throw together a few greens. Anything else?” is how she started off our order.

With all the ingredients straight from the adjacent farm, I am sure that there isn’t a single thing on the menu that would not have been delicious. But their famous free run chicken was definitely their crowning glory. Succulent and flavourful, you just don’t get these kinds of chickens down in the city.

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The next dish here was a little complicated and less rustic than the others. Basically, it was a 100-year old preserved egg (not really that old, that’s just what we call it), battered in cornstarch and tapioca flour, deep-fried, and then sautéed with a peanut and chili sauce. It was a little intense, but very unique.

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There were many plates of “I think that’s called something-or-other greens”. And as promised, there was also a delicious clear broth with pork, daikon and dates to finish off the meal. Since the area is best known for tea, the owner of the restaurant also gave us some delicious and simple tea gelatin desserts. We sat around and sampled some new teas as we enjoyed each other’s company, and the scenery.

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What a beautiful way to spend the day! Breathing in the smell of guihua, a small yellow fragrant flower and one of my favourite smells in the world, I couldn’t help but feel lucky to come from such a beautiful country, and have great new friends to show it to me in a different light.

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Of all the memories I have from Taiwan, it is certainly the food memories that I will miss the most.

 
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