“Food is where the heart is” has always been one of my favorite quotes, as it really does seem to be true for everyone, regardless of who and where they are from. As a Taiwanese-American who lived on the island for eight years, street markets have always been my second home. Even though it has been years since I lived there, the food from those night markets still holds a special place in my heart, as it reminds me of my childhood. Here are three of my favorite desserts, reminiscent of those nights.
Peanut Ice Cream Roll
A traditional dessert from Yilan, 花生捲冰淇淋 (Huāshēng juan bīngqílín), roughly translated to peanut ice cream rolls, are most often found around night markets and in front of temples. On a thin piece of crepe (made up of flour and water), peanut and maltose shavings are first spread in a thick layer. Next, two or three scoops of taro and pineapple ice cream are added before being topped with a handful of cilantro. Lastly, the ice cream is wrapped up like a burrito before serving. Almost like an ice cream wrap, this unique dessert is creamy yet crunchy.
Bubble Ice Cream
Often known as Taiwanese ice cream, 泡泡冰 (Pào pào bīng), or bubble ice cream is another traditional dessert that can be found throughout the island, though it is most famous in Keelung City. To make this dessert, shaved ice is mixed with natural-flavored syrups (passion fruit, red bean, pineapple, peanut, milk, lemon) until it’s beaten to a smooth and cloudy consistency. The texture resembles something between a slushy and ice cream. Smooth, silky and creamy, this dessert is a must-have when visiting Taiwan!
Ai Yu drinks
A refreshing dessert, beverages with 愛玉 (ai yu) are often consumed during the hot summer months between May and September. To make the drinks, ai yu jelly, a gel made from the seeds of a variety of the ficus pumila (found in Taiwan and other East Asian countries with similar climates) is mixed with your preference of tea before being topped with a drizzle of honey and lemon or lime juice. As they are low in calories but high in fiber, ai yu drinks are popular as a healthy but filling dessert!
If you ever do have the chance to visit the beautiful island of Taiwan, definitely try out these desserts. I promise you won’t regret it!