Category Archives: Taste Taiwan

10 Foods You Must Try in Taiwan

I love Taiwanese food, that’s why I’ve stayed in Taiwan so long! Oh, and my lovely fiancé, Ruby, played a part in that too! As much as I love Taiwanese food, it is often difficult to talk about in English, and many of the English names below are just made-up approximations or descriptions. The following list is not in any particular order, and is by no-means complete. Taiwanese cuisine is incredibly diverse, and there is so much more out there for you to try! So, to start off, we have…

1. Marinated food lŭ wèi 滷味– I love this stuff, the sauce is amazing and you have tons of choices to choose from and create your own dish, so each time you can eat a new combination of foods. You pick everything out your self(usually) with a pair of tongs and place it in a basket for the cook, and they boil it all in a wonderfully flavored soup.

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2. Sausage with rice sausage wrap dà cháng bāo xiăo cháng 大腸包小腸– The English name I gave it sounds kinda weird, but a true translation would be stranger. “A big sausage wrapping a small sausage” sounds great in Chinese, but just weird in English, therefore I have jokingly dubbed these “Chinese hotdogs”. Many stands offer lots of favors, such as wasabi, black pepper, garlic, and others. They are awesome, so go get one!

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3. Green-onion pancakes cōng zhuā bĭng 蔥抓餅– This was one of my go-to snacks when I first moved to Taiwan. They are great by themselves, but I personally always add an egg and usually corn, but other great toppings are cheese and bacon, even tuna!

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4. Red-bean popsicles hóng dòu bīng bàng 紅豆冰棒– Have I mentioned that Taiwanese people love red beans, and they are a big feature in their desserts? Try one and see if it’s for you!

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5. Dumplings and fried-dumplings shuĭ jiăo 水餃 and guō tiē 鍋貼– I’ve eaten these regularly since I’ve been here, and I still love them! They are much better than anything you can get back home. An interesting side-note, fried-dumplings, which are usually called pot stickers, probably got this English name because in Chinese, means pot and means stick, go figure!

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6. Tofu pudding dòu huā 豆花豆花, which literally means “bean flower” is a great traditional dessert. Tofu is healthy, nutritious, and CHEAP, and that is why it is a big player in Chinese cuisine. I am constantly impressed with the ingenuity it took to make so many different dishes from one base ingredient! Bottom line, try it!

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7. Stinky tofu chòu dòu fŭ 臭豆腐– I hesitated to add this one, as I feel it’s the most discussed Taiwanese food out there, but at the same time no list of Taiwanese culinary creations would be complete without it. 臭豆腐 is aged tofu and it stinks, literally! It comes in two forms, fried with a side of cabbage, or boiled with soup (my personal favorite), but they are both worth a try. So next time you are wandering through a night market and you venture into a pocket of stink, look around and find the stand responsible and steel your stomach!

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8. Hotpot huŏ guō 火鍋– This is my fiancé’s personal favorite. The general idea is you take a ton of vegetables, and huŏ guō liào 火鍋料, ingredients especially made for hotpot, and you toss the, in boiling water and eat until you’re about to explode! Served with fish, chicken, lamb, beef (meat is dipped into the boiling soup until it is cooked, then it is dipped into shā chá jiàng 沙茶醬 and eaten) and a variety of seafood fare, or even just vegetarian, served with your choice of rice, noodles, or dōng fĕn 冬粉 a type of thin noodle made from beans, hotpot makes for a great, and filling meal! Also, many restaurants include an nice selection of all you can eat ice cream!

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9. Seafood hăi xiān 海鮮– This should be a no-brainer. Taiwan is an island, and as such, you have access to higher quality, and cheaper priced seafood than you can get in the states, and it is awesome!

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10. Bubble milk tea zhēn zhū năi chá 珍珠奶茶– Also Translated more literally as “pearl milk tea”, this is a Taiwanese invention that is so popular that it’s hard to walk five feet down the street without passing half-a-dozen tea shops that sell the stuff. Some brands have even opened up stores in the USA, such as Come Buy. A word of warning though, it’s really sweet and incredibly bad for you, so don’t drink it every day!

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And, just because I’m nice, I’ve added an 11th food…..

*11. Mochi ma jí 嘛吉! This is probably my favorite food that I have discovered since I have lived in Taiwan, and it is definitely my favorite form of rice! 嘛吉 pronounced moa ji in Taiwanese, is a snack traditionally made by painstakingly squishing sticky rice in a big bowl with a wooden stick…it’s a great form of exercise, I should know, I’ve done it! But nowadays, it is most-often machine-mashed. After the rice is smashed into a thick, sticky paste, it is rolled into balls and rolled around in peanut powder. There are lots of other modern flavors and styles (filling, no filling, served in a bamboo shoot, ice cream) but I love anything peanut flavored, and 嘛吉 is at the top of my list!

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So the you have it, eleven more reasons to make Taiwan your next travel destination. Enjoy!

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Chinese phrases of the day:

滷味= a type of marinated food
大腸包小腸= sausage with rice sausage wrapping (“Chinese hotdogs”)
蔥抓餅= green onion pancakes
紅豆冰棒= red bean popsicles
水餃= dumplings
鍋貼= fried dumplings(potstickers)
豆花= tofu pudding
臭豆腐= stinky tofu
火鍋= hotpot
火鍋料= hot pot ingredients
沙茶醬= hotpot dipping sauce
冬粉= thin noodles made from beans
海鮮= seafood
珍珠奶茶= bubble(pearl) milk tea
嘛吉= mochi

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Café-liscious

Now I’m not a big coffee drinker, but another great thing about 7-11 is the City Café. Don’t get me wrong, I like Starbuck’s and the fancy cafés you can find all over the place (especially if they have a view, like the ones by the ocean in Sanzhi near Dansui where I recently volunteered at the animal shelter), but for a guy who isn’t a gourmet coffee enthusiast, the prices at these places are just a little too high(though if you save your promotional stickers you get when you spend your cash at 7-11, Starbuck’s often has a buy-one-get-one-free deal măi yī sòng yī 買一送一 which is awesome if you love their frappuccinos like me!).

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They have a good menu, you can order a late ná tiĕ 拿鐵,American coffee mĕi shì kā fēi 美式咖啡,Japanese style green tea latte mŏ chá ná tiĕ 抹茶拿鐵,hot-chocolate rè qiăo kè lì 熱巧克力 and more, but I almost always get the English milk tea yīng shì năi chá 英式奶茶. It’s awesome!

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Drinks come in two sizes. They don’t have a small , but it is still useful vocabulary to know so I have included it, and some of their drinks only come in one size. Here are the sizes: small xiăo bēi 小杯, medium zhōng bēi 中杯, large dà bēi 大杯.

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You can order your beverage either hot rè de 熱的 or iced bīng de 冰的 drink, and if you don’t like your coffee very sweet, you can tell the staff that you want half a serving of sugar bàn táng 半糖 a little sugar shăo táng 少糖,very little sugar wéi táng 微糖 or no sugar wú táng 無糖.

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That’s it for now, go enjoy your fresh cup’ o Jo…not the person, I mean a coffee, yuck!

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Chinese phrases of the day:

買一送一= buy one get one free
拿鐵= latte
美式咖啡= American coffee
抹茶拿鐵= Japanese style green tea latte
熱巧克力= hot-chocolate
英式奶茶= English milk tea
小杯= small(cup/drink size)
中杯= medium(cup/drink size)
大杯= large(cup/drink size)
熱的= hot
冰的= iced
半糖= half sugar
少糖= little sugar
微糖= very little sugar
無糖= no sugar

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The Man in the Moon, BBQ and a Typhoon!

I apologize for posting this so late, but the past few days have been somewhat of an adventure. Yesterday, my fiancé and I tagged along with a friend to volunteer at an animal shelter in sān zhī 三芝, near dàn shuĭ 淡水 in Taipei county(or xīn bĕi shì 新北市 if you prefer). Expect a detailed write-up on that tomorrow. The day before yesterday, however, was one of the major holidays in Taiwan, Moon Festival.

Moon Festival, or more accurately Mid-Autumn Festival Zhōng qiū jié 中秋節 in Mandarin, is an important national holiday that, much as Halloween or Thanksgiving, finds its roots in ancient harvest-time traditions. 中秋節 is celebrated during the full moon of the fifteenth day of the eight month of the traditional Chinese lunar calendar nóng lì 農曆. As a harvest festival, there must be a food that is in abundance, and in Taiwan there is no lack of pomelos yòu zi 柚子 at this time, and chances are if you are in Taiwan during 中秋節, you will be given enough of these citrus fruits to feed a family, so eat up and enjoy!

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(A pair of pomelos)

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(We didn’t have anyone do it this year, but one thing that kids often do is wear the cut-off pomelo skin as a hat! This picture is from a few years ago)

As with most traditional festivals, there are many interesting stories that accompany 中秋節, and the moon in general. For example, where Western people see a man in the moon, Taiwanese people see a rabbit!

As amusing as that is, there is a much cooler story associated with the moon. In the story of cháng é 嫦娥 and hòu yì 后羿, rather than the one sun we have, the sky was filled with ten suns! Don’t forget your sunscreen! 后羿 was a renowned archer and shot down nine of the suns with his bow(beat that Robbin Hood!), and having seen this an immortal sent him an elixir of immortality(a fancy way to say “live-forever juice”). He chose not to drink it so that he could stay with his wife on Earth, but as the story unfolds 嫦娥 ends up drinking the elixir and flies into the sky to live on the moon. So 后羿 started to place the things she liked in their garden so she could see them and not feel lonely. His neighbors started doing it too, and that’s how the Moon Festival began!

Every year during Moon Festival, Taiwanese families gather together and have a good old fashioned BBQ. We go to Keelung jī lóng 基隆 to return to my fiancé’s great-grandmother’s céng zŭ mŭ 曾祖母 home, where we meet every year. It is always nice to return to Keelung, as that was the first place I lived in Taiwan. It was a little bittersweet this time, however, as a recent heavy rain caused a building to collapse, and a near-catastrophic accident when a huge boulder fell out of the mountains and crashed into the street, nearly smashing a passing car. It really hit me close to home, as I used to live just a few minutes down the road from there, and Ruby still has a lot of relatives in the area. Luckily everyone was safe, but the families that lived in the collapsed building have lost their homes, and several businesses, including the local McDonalds have shut-down. But life goes on.

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(Ruby trying to calm the dogs down…they may look innocent, but they barked the whole train ride to Keelung!)

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(The patio in front of Ruby’s great-grandmother’s house is a great place to catch some fresh air…family gatherings are fun, but it’s nice to take a breather for a minute and check your emails.)

With a typhoon forecast to arrive, we had expected our BBQ to be ruined, but we lucked out. The rain wasn’t bad(rare for Keelung!) and it stopped by the time we started to barbecue and didn’t return until we were on our way back to Taoyuan County. We spent the afternoon chatting, watching TV, playing cards and eating moon-cakes yuè bing 月餅 and other snacks. Then in the evening we had our BBQ!

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(月餅 were created in the moon’s image by a general during the Tang Dynasty so that his soldiers would be able to carry them easily, and because they could last for a longer time. Now we eat them as a delicious snack, but they were originally created as military rations! Above are a few pictures of the ones we had this year. The first one has an egg-yolk and red bean paste filling, and the other has a green bean paste filling.)

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(Did I mention that I really like moon-cakes? And apparently my dog does too!)

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(First, we have to get the coals nice and hot. Using a paper plate it a nice way…)

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(But this hair-dryer works faster!)

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(Now let’s get cooking!)

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(L: Ruby with her family, grilling the night away R: The best thing about being on grill-duty is you get easy access to all the food!)

中秋節 is one of my favorite traditional festivals, it’s a great time to relax, forget your worries and enjoy good food and good company. Thank for reading and Happy Moon Festival!

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Chinese phrases of the day:

中秋節= Moon Festival/Mid-Autumn Festival

農曆= traditional Chinese lunar calendar

柚子= pomelo(s)

月餅= moon-cake(s)
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Lunch-On!

One of the things I love the most about living in Taiwan is the food. It may not be what you expect if you have never tried it though. It’s not quite the same as the Chinese food we eat back home(except for the fried rice chăo fàn 炒飯, that’s a pretty universally similar dish). Today we had a big family lunch, and my fiancé’s mother spent the morning preparing lots of tasty dishes.

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(This is where the magic happens, my fiance’s mother is a great cook!)

Meals are traditionally eaten at a round table with the various dishes placed in the middle. Unlike most Western style dining scenarios, where you have your own plate of food, what typically happens in a Chinese family is everyone fills a bowl with rice and then takes what they want to eat, serving themselves. Of course, there is etiquette that you should be aware of, such as older people get the first pick, and you shouldn’t grab the biggest and best pieces of meat or other dishes, and leave the lesser quality for everyone else(that’s just rude!). And you all know about sticking your chopsticks end-up in your rice bowl, right? If not, go check out my article on taboos in Chinese culture.

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(Pull-up a seat, lunch is served!)

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(L: delicious roast duck kăo yā ròu 烤鴨肉 R:a stir-fried egg plant, qié zi 茄子 dish)

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(L: yā jiăo 鴨腳 duck feet, yum! R: I love the fish, but I try not to look it in the eye…it makes me feel guilty)

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(L: boiled bamboo shoots, zhú sŭn竹筍 R: Thai style liáng bàn mù guā sī 涼拌木瓜絲, a crunchy dish consisting of slices of pickled papaya served cold)

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(L: stir-fried beef with yellow and red peppers R: a traditional staple Chinese dish, tofu dòu fŭ 豆腐)

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(a fantastic marinated pork dish called méi gān kòu ròu 梅干扣肉)

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(and no Taiwanese meal would be complete without a good soup, we had lián ŏu tāng 蓮藕湯, lotus root soup)

Do you know another good thing about home-cooked meals? The leftovers shèng cài 剩菜 baby!

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(Round two…FIGHT!)

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Chinese phrases of the day:

炒飯= fried rice

烤鴨肉= roast duck

茄子= eggplant

鴨腳= duck feet

竹筍= bamboo shoots

涼拌木瓜絲= a dish made from pickled papaya

豆腐= tofu

梅干扣肉= a marinated pork dish

蓮藕湯= lotus root soup

剩菜= leftovers

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Beef Cake!

Today I want to introduce you to another of my favorite Chinese dishes. If you have been to Taiwan, then chances are you have at least tried it once.

niúròumiàn牛肉麵, beef noodle soup is easily one of the most popular local dishes, and you can order it just about anywhere. The quality will vary from stand to stand, or restaurant to restaurant, depending on the noodles it is served with, and the herbs and spices that are used to flavor the soup, so the flavor can differ drastically depending where you order it.

If you want to eat the best (in my opinion, of course) niúròumiàn牛肉麵 that Taiwan has to offer, then I suggest you try the two restaurants that I recommend below. The first, niúlǎodà牛老大, is located in the Shida Night Market shīdàyèshì師大夜市 in Taipei, just near NTNU.

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(牛老大, located in the Shida Night Market in Taipei. Worth a vist…or three!)

This is the better of the two, in my opinion, as I really like the flavor of their hand-made noodles, and you know you are are getting the real deal because you can see their master noodle maker doing his thing right as you enter the restaurant. This in and of itself makes it a unique dining experience. The noodles are thick and chewy, and they make a big difference in the overall taste. Their soup is also really great, a little spicy, but not so much that people who don’t do hot food will be turned off.

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(Just look at those chunks of beef! Yum!)

Though they have a full menu and offer a variety of dishes, pretty much everyone just orders the beef noodle soup, because it’s just that great! I have also tried their hóngyóuchǎoshǒu紅油炒手 which is also the best of this dish that I have had in Taiwan, so I’d imagine that their other food must be good too!

The other place that I highly recommend is a chain-store called sānshāngqiǎofú三商巧福, which I love and eat at regularly, as they have a location near one of the schools that I work at.

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(This is the 三商巧福 near my school in Taoyuan county)

This is my fiances favorite, but as much as I like their niúròumiàn牛肉麵, I usually end up ordering their niúròushòuxǐfàn牛肉壽喜飯 because it just tastes awesome. It’s a simple dish consisting primarily of rice and beef, but the addition of ginger adds an extra kick that really compliments the taste. Plus, I always order a set meal with a side of kimchi(which usually gets stirred in with the rice, yum!). Also included in the set meal are a seaweed soup and a fountain drink of choice.

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(Above, the beef noodle broth 牛肉湯麵 (no beef chunks), and below my favorite, 牛肉壽喜飯 (a beef and rice dish) served at 三商巧福)

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Regardless of where you get your niúròumiàn牛肉麵, you should have access to an ample supply of pickled Chinese cabbage, suāncài酸菜, and I suggest you take advantage of it.

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(A healthy serving of 酸菜, and there’s always more where that came from!)

It’s a really good compliment to the soup’s flavor. A lot of stores also refill soup for free! Take your time and enjoy! mànyòng慢用!——————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Chinese phrases of the day:

niúròumiàn牛肉麵= beef noodle soup

hóngyóuchǎoshǒu紅油炒手= dumplings served in a spicy sauce

niúròushòuxǐfàn牛肉壽喜飯= a beef and rice dish

suāncài酸菜=pickled Chinese cabbage

mànyòng慢用= take your time/enjoy

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The first three pictures are taken from http://www.ipeen.com.tw as I didn’t have any photos of the restaurant on hand, and the rest are my own.

Bada-danbing!

Okay, so I have to take a minute to rave about my latest addiction…no, it’s not anything bad, except maybe a little for my waistline. And the culprit is shūcàidànbǐng(蔬菜蛋餅)!

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(The stand I always go to in the Zhongyuan Night Market in Zhongli City. Let’s take a look behind the scenes.)

Like the classic Taiwanese breakfast food, dànbǐng(蛋餅) which is like an omelet, only injected with steroids(not literally I hope, but they are seriously like 5 times the size of your regular dànbǐng(蛋餅)!), these babies will keep you coming back for more! This growing chain of stands is popping up all over the place, and with good reason. With flavors such as tuna wěiyú(鮪魚), barbecue kǎoròu(烤肉), beef niúròu(牛肉), corn yùmǐ(玉米),cheese with bacon qǐsīpéigēn(起司培根), ham huǒtuǐ(火腿) and more, you won’t get sick of eating them, just try a new flavor each time!

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(Let’s see how it tastes….)

One of the reasons I love shūcàidànbǐng(蔬菜蛋餅) is that each one comes stuffed with cabbage, so you’re getting a balanced meal all in one package(or at least I like to think so!). Actually, the only thing I really don’t like about this stand is that the food is really popular and I always have to wait in line (waiting in line is just part of life in Taiwan, but I’m an impatient American and I want my dànbǐng(蛋餅) immediately!).

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(You can tell by the look on my face that it tastes awesome!)

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Chinese phrases of the day:

shūcàidànbǐng(蔬菜蛋餅)= vegetable Chinese omelet
dànbǐng(蛋餅)= Chinese omelet
wěiyú(鮪魚)= tuna
kǎoròu(烤肉)= barbecue
niúròu(牛肉)= beef
yùmǐ(玉米)= corn
qǐsī(起司)= cheese
péigēn(培根)= bacon
huǒtuǐ(火腿)= ham

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Pancakes!

Who doesn’t love them? Especially lathered in butter and dripping with maple syrup! Yum! I’ll be blogging about the best place to get pancakes in Taiwan in the second part of this article, but for now I’d like to introduce you to a local equivalent. Chēlúnbǐng(車輪餅)is one of my all time favorite Taiwanese snacks (shown below)

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They are called Chēlún= wheel bǐng=round cakes due to their shape. In fact, they are a lot like pancakes in sandwich form, and what self respecting Westerner doesn’t like sandwiches?!? In all seriousness, these tasty little treats will fill you up, and it won’t hurt your wallet much at 10NT a piece (though some more famous stores can sell them for as much as 20NT). They come in an assortment of favors, such as cabbage, chocolate, peanut, hóngdòu(紅豆) or red bean, and cream….Let’s try a bite!

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Boy, that was GOOD!

The two most popular flavors by far are cream or nǎiyóu(奶油) and red bean. In fact, they are also often called hóngdòubǐng(紅豆餅), or red bean cakes. Whatever you call them, they’re delicious and I’m going to get some! See you at the night market!

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Chinese phrases of the day:

Chēlúnbǐng(車輪餅)= tire cakes

hóngdòu(紅豆)= red beans

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