20.06.2013 § Leave a comment
It was not until my son commented that I have the weirdest taste that I realized my taste buds might not be typical taste buds. I’ve traveled to many places over the past 15 years, and while eating has not been the most important part of those trips, some of the foods that were new to me left a lasting impression.
Artichoke Fries from Tuscany
About 8 years ago, I was in a small town near Florence when the mill owner I was visiting took me to a farmhouse restaurant. I’ve forgotten what the main dish was, but I remember they had artichoke fries. Since marinated artichokes are on top of my list of favorite foods, I fancied the idea. Of course, the Tuscan valley is so rich with artichokes that they can use them how we use potatoes. They were delicious. I’ve never had artichoke fries since. To the right is a picture of fried artichoke hearts served in a restaurant in the US.
Sugar Sprinkled Strawberries
People in Tuscany seem to eat strawberries differently too. I grew up eating fruit as they are and never thought of dipping them in a sauce or sprinkling anything on them. I learned the fruit salad culture after I came to America. On the same trip when I tried artichoke fries, the mill owner and I stopped by a sorbet place where I ordered strawberries. They came in a stemmed champagne glass, sliced thinly, with fresh lemon squeezed and granulated sugar sprinkled on top. The strawberries were sour, but I enjoyed the treat. I suppose their fruit is not as sweet as what I find in the US.
Fruit Country: Taiwan
The most outstanding place for fruit among the places I have gone so far is Taiwan. I could eat only fruit when I’m there. There are so many, but I will just pick a few.
They have a type of pineapple called “milk pineapple.” The color of the meat is a cream color, and the taste, well, I don’t know how to describe it. Sweet, crispy, juicy and fragrant. I was told that the milk pineapple seed came from Hawaii, but I have never heard anyone from Hawaii talk about milk pineapple.
Their guavas are huge, crispy, tender and fragrant. Guava is not a sweet fruit, and for a fruit does not rely on sweetness to be as popular as it is is amazing. The locals also like to eat guava with sweet and sour plum powder, a sweetening agent made with dried plum and sugar, etc. Here is a picture showing the powder.
Another one from Taiwan is the wax apple fruit, also called jambu fruit, rose apple, java apple, or bell fruit. The texture of the fruit is like a sponge; strange, right? How could a sponge-feeling fruit be tasty? But it is delicious. Here is a picture of the fruit on the tree.
Water Chestnuts from Xiau Xing
I was traveling alone in the early 2000’s in the countryside in China near Shanghai. Since I speak the language, I was free to roam around the town and choose where to eat. Someone recommend this restaurant, and I ordered a few dishes. The water chestnut meat stir fried in ginger was amazingly fragrant, crispy and tender at the same time. It was totally different than the water chestnuts I ate when I was little. They were not the water chestnut we are familiar with in the US either. It is a totally different thing, I nicknamed it “ox horn water chestnut,” but its generic name should be something like Trapa.
The restaurant was a rural, simple restaurant in those days. I remember I left a tip after I paid. The restaurant waiter chased me outside the restaurant and told me that I’d forgotten my money on the table and gave me back the tip. I had to take it back. Ah, those days, China was still innocent.