Thursday, March 24, 2011

Reason #13 to Love Taiwan

Healthy Street Food!

At the corner of Heping and Fuxing Roads, near MRT Technology Bldg, there is a woman who sells the most delicious vegetarian lumpia (倫餅 - I think. Please correct my Chinese if not). No disgusting rou song (pork floss - ick) here: crushed peanut, alfalfa, some leafy green goodness, a few slices of apple, raisins, carrot slices and red lettuce all stuffed into a healthy wrap of deliciousness. Next to her, or sometimes down the road, is an old guy who sells super tasty red guavas when in season. Across the street, a woman sells dried fruit and nuts - including Taiwanese Irwin mango, which I love to eat dried.

A little bit west of MRT Minquan W. Road, there is a tiny stand inserted neatly into a little alcove with stairs leading up to...somewhere. Just steps from three different places to buy fried chicken, they sell vegetarian fantuan with that mottled purple sweetish rice, or sticky purple rice, full of more peanut powder, something pickled and a few other tasty things. They also sell a bulghur and chick pea salad, marinated tofu, a selection of vegetables, salads and veggie rice and bottled health drinks.

Near MRT Jingmei Exit 2, in the mornings there's a guy who sells vegetarian sticky rice (素油飯) from a large wooden rice bucket. He and his wife are retired, and they make a batch each day (I estimate about NT$1500 worth) to sell: I haven't asked directly but I think it's something between a hobby and a bit of extra money to pad out a pension and savings. It's really good sticky rice and it doesn't get more mom-and-pop than a retired couple making it and selling it from a big wooden bucket every morning. Near him is a woman whose family owns a farm in Zhanghua County - she sells the best baked sweet potatoes (starchy, but a great source of nutrients so you get a lot of bang for your carb-tastic buck) I've ever had.

These folks are scattered across Taipei - I've just named a few of my favorites, for whom I am a regular customer (in my neverending quest to just put down the sweet potato fries already and eat something good for me) and I love what they sell.

I love them because they're small businesses and I enjoy supporting that kind of entrepreneurialism. I love them because what they sell is actually good for you. I love them because what they sell is tasty, too. I love them because I have a good network of food vendors from whom I can grab a meal on the go - as someone who runs around Taipei to various offices all day often has to do - and know that I'm being good to myself, to the mom-and-pop economy, and I don't have to force down yet another 7-11 or Take-Out Sushi seaweed triangle (though I admit it: I like those too).

Finally, I love that Taiwan's economy and culture is such that they can do this, be successful and make a reasonable wage at it here. I'm not sure those Falls Church pupusa guys can say the same, and that's too bad.

All around goodness. The USA could use folks like these (not that I begrudge the pupusa guys in the DC Metro area...pupusas are great, just not healthy).

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