Yes, I know I’ve already raved about cold snacks in Taiwan once before. But here’s another you really can’t miss.
First stop on our list of Tainan Small Eats was a small fruit stand tucked away in a narrow alleyway, away from the cars and chaos of the main street. Here, a 4th Generation fruit vendor has continued his family legacy of bringing only the freshest, most regional selections to his adoring fans.
In late winter, nearing the Chinese New Year, he has selections of the freshest tangerines and makes a sweet, tangy juice that I’ve heard people sing praises about. In early spring, when strawberries are at their ripest here in Asia, his strawberries are known to burst with flavor- and he makes a smoothie-like concoction with them. Later in the year, he has melons, kiwis, tomatoes- which he serves plain, as a juice, or with a balsalmic-type dip, or however he deems is the best way to consume his fruit. He’s the best kind of vendor, too- willing to share his knowledge and the best he has to offer with anyone who walks up to his store.
On this trip to Taiwan, it was peak mango season- which the roadside stands and signs told me very early on in the trip. So naturally, at the fruit stand, we got a taste of the sweetest, ripest, juiciest magoes I’ve ever tasted. They were served in a traditional Taiwan style, over shaved ice and drizzled with a dark sugar syrup and milk. Upon his advice, we also tasted a mango that’s been cross-bred with dragon-eye (longyan) lychee, with a little of the mango skin left on to really be able to taste the lychee. He also mixed for us a juice with pineapple and watermelon- the unlikeliest of combinations, but when the fruit guru gives you juice, you drink it. And no surprise- it tasted awesome.
My favorite of all, though- and quite possibly my most favorite thing I consumed on my whole trip- was the avocado smoothie. Much to my delight I discovered that Tainan and its surrounding land is appropriate terrain and weather to grow avocados, something I have not yet found in my new hometown of Guangzhou. The fruit man blended his fresh avocados with a sweet homemade pudding and fresh milk- to produce an avocado smoothie that might as well have been a milkshake.
It’s something that transcended being at that one place at that particular time. I felt like I was partially transported back to an outdoor cafe in LA, or at a cool eatery in Nolita, or sitting in my parent’s home in San Jose, partially transported to exotic Thailand and Bali and the Philippines, but also deeply rooted in my amazing new experience enjoying the company of my family and friends. And hence I experienced the magic of the fruit vendor- he created something that made me a bit nostalgic, but was completely new at the same time. It’s a quality that I love about food, and the people are behind its creations.
Taicheng Fruit Shop, 泰成水果店
80 Zheng Xing Street, Central West District