Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Week 20_Holiday treats

In anticipation of the coming New Year, my apartment and office have been overflowing with cookies, candies, and various treats for the past week! I tried to diligently photograph each one, and note what they were, but in the end... there are many more treats that I'm able to post on the blog, and most of them, things unfamiliar to me! There were also some treats devoured so quickly by the office that I failed to get a pic before they were gone (or forgot - as I was enjoying my own share - to take a photo...)

Many gifts came from clients, sent direct to our office:

Box of fancy pineapple cakes from a client's own bakery
Individual pineapple cake
Pineapple cakes are a traditional holiday gift in Taiwan - loved by all. Unbeknownst to me until this week, these little desserts are actually not made with pineapple at all, but are instead filled with a chewy winter melon filling, flavored with pineapple flavoring. Apparently, the actual pineapple fruit is a poor and rough consistency for these little "cakes". The filling is wrapped with a thin crust, in this case it was light & pastry-like. Pineapple cakes are always similar, but each bakery has a flavor or crust composition of their own - making some more popular than others.

Sesame seed cake
The cake above was brought to the office by one of my colleagues who had received it as a gift. This cake, traditionally given as an engagement gift, was really tasty, with a sweet & savory flavor combination... Now let's see if I can describe it... :/   The outside was a very thin, flaky crust, sprinkled with sesame seeds, wrapped around a soft & sweet interior. If I were guessing, I would say the filling was some sort of sweet potato or pumpkin mash. My slice was very crumbly, but I liked the taste.

Name unknown!
The cake or cookie above [side note: the terms "cake" and "cookie" cover a much wider range of foods in Taiwan than in America... probably largely because there are a variety of sweets that may not have an English name at all...] did not look enticing to me at first, but once I decided to try one, it was actually quite good. The outside was a sticky, clear, gelatin-like dough, tossed in raw flour - the lightly floured exterior offered a very nice contrast to the gooey interior. The filling was a taro paste, quite sweet, that was good in small doses.

Taiwanese fruit, lian wu
This large basket of fruit appeared one day in the office. I am not sure exactly what the English name for this fruit would be - I think they may be called a wax apple. The fruit is lightly sweet, and very watery/juicy. This particular batch was still ripening at the time I took the photo - the redder, the better.

Almond cookies
These thin crispy cookies taste a lot like they look - crunchy strips, laced with almonds, and dipped in a thin, sweet glaze covering the entire cookie.

Taiwanese sweet crisps
One day, much to my surprise, I received a package at work from my very own realtor (who helped me to find my apartment in Taiwan). One of my coworkers laughed and said "That's how you know you paid them too much!"

Nonetheless, it was really fun to get a package of my own :) The box contained 5 smaller packages of different flavored crisp treats. The one pictured above was much like a long thin cracker, which a very subtly sweet flavor. It was the consistency of a hand cut potato chip, with a flavor similar to animal crackers in the US. I set these up on the communal ledge in the center of the office, and they were gone in a flash! (hence, the picture of an almost empty box!)

Wei-Chuan gift box, from my landlady
Just when I was thinking that the gift from my realtor was generous, I received another package the following day from my landlord... and this time it made me laugh too - I must be paying too much! Ha ;) [but I'm not complaining, I looove my place]

Traditional & contemporary Taiwanese cookies
Inside were three packages - the two bags in the back contain traditional milk "cookies" (we would probably more likely call these "candies"), one bag flavored with almonds, the other flavored with sesame seeds. These are made from milk (condensed maybe?) and are the consistency of a very stiff taffy, slightly chewy. The other container held three different types of more modern cookies - almond, red bean, and green tea. The almond were my favorite. Much like a Pecan Sandie, but with almonds instead of pecans...

You may have noticed, the typical dessert flavors in Taiwan are a little different than the vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry so commonly used in the US. Instead, I think the most common dessert flavors would be: red bean, green tea, peanut, & taro.

All of the excitement leading up to Chinese New Year has been very fun - and even though I don't exactly know how to explain all of the snacks I've been munching on, I've definitely enjoyed eating them! :)

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