If you have peanut or cilantro allergies, I would not recommend a visit to Taiwan. Crushed, pulverized, peanut powder is liberally sprinkled on many dishes, both savory and sweet, and cilantro is a common garnish on soups and savory dishes.
Here, a vendor scrapes a solid cake of peanut-studded sugar to prepare a sweet snack.
Jiufen (nine portions) is a gold rush town with an old-style street. In addition to being the shooting location for Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s A City of Sadness, Jiufen is wildly popular with young Japanese and Korean tourists for its depiction in Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away.
This thin rice pancake with fresh peanut shavings and two scoops of a light vanilla sorbet rolled up like a burrito (35 NTD < $1.20 US) had a good crunch. I washed it down with a fresh almond milk. In many markets, the aroma of ground almond powder is intoxicating. I didn’t buy any, though, because it doesn’t keep well after it’s processed.
A few days later, for breakfast, we had similar rice pancakes smeared with shaved peanut and cilantro and stuffed with shredded vegetables, bean sprouts, and a little bit of shredded chicken. I recall that this also cost approximately $1US.
In Taiwanese, this is called a roong byang! (no idea how it’s actually spelled, and I included the exclamation point to emphasize the accent on the second syllable) and we think it’s comparable to South Indian dosas. Most people were buying these to-go, but we sat and enjoyed them with hot soy milk.
The stand was at a market near my family’s house. Despite Taiwan’s modernity and availability of European-style groceries, to say nothing of 24-hour convenience stores (more about these in a future post), many people still do their daily food shopping at markets like these, often outside temples. These open-air markets sell everything from produce, fish, meat, and flowers to kitchenware and underwear.
More on peanuts–and cilantro–in an upcoming post on a very Taiwanese street snack.