When out-of-towners visit us in San Francisco, one stop on our tour includes a farmers market– either the much-hyped, lovely Ferry Building, or what we like to call the People’s Market, otherwise known as Alemany Farmers Market.
Most visitors enjoy the chance to see and sample the diversity of beautiful, local produce. But not my mother.
I didn’t understand. My mom is a fruit and vegetable lover, and enjoys walking— why not the farmers market?
“Linda,” she laughed, “I live in a farmers market.”
On a recent trip to visit my parents at their new place in New Taipei City (outskirts of Taipei), I finally understood what she meant. She took us on her daily morning walk, which ends at this “traditional market” comprised of several blocked-off (or meant to be blocked-off) blocks of stalls fronting small storefronts.
From the entrance, it doesn’t appear promising. But inside, it’s a treasure trove of fresh produce, seafood and some prepared foods. Just like the Ferry Building.
Look at these fresh greens and ginger:
I was happy to be around during bamboo shoot season. Here, a vendor is peeling some freshly dug shoots:
The fruit was vibrant, fragrant and sweet. These golden apples were nice, but I was more interested in the lychees.
Same thing with the kiwis, which I ignored in favor of the dragon fruit.
My mom made sure to ask the vendor for the best mangoes. This variety, called Ai-wen (love culture), was my favorite. It has a small seed surrounded by creamy (not stringy), deep orange flesh.
The mangoes are joined by wax apples, which are neither waxy nor apples. They’re tart-sweet with a juicy, crisp flesh.
Taiwanese guavas, unlike the Hawaiian variety we most often see here in the mainland US, are green skinned and white fleshed. They’re often eaten with fruit salt, which is ground preserved plums and salt.
The seafood was abundant and freshly caught, as befits an island.
I wasn’t expecting a cooking demo in this casual market, but this guy did a pretty good job with a propane powered hotplate and a frying pan. He was pretty funny, telling me in Taiwanese as I focused my camera on him, “Don’t take my picture, I’m too ugly. Take a picture of the food.”
There were a few prepared foods being sold as well. This is a large block of lemon gelatin, which is usually served with shaved ice or in a drink.
Another stall sold preserved fruits. The scary looking black things are preserved citron or Buddha’s hand, and the samples we tasted were delicious.
And what are these? Not flying saucers, but bawan, or what are called “Taiwanese meatballs.” They’re large pork meatballs wrapped in a sticky rice flour based wrapper, steamed and served with a sweet soy and garlic based sauce. This stall made an excellent version.
There are lots of shops selling cheap clothing scattered through the market. Many shirts have English, badly written English, on them, and are quite popular. This one was almost right, almost:
So I won’t be forcing my mom to accompany me to the farmers market (either one) when she visits. She has it all.
And if it’s markets you like, I’ve got them:
Thanks for coming by! Where’s your favorite farmers market, and what’s special about it? Feel free to share a post; I’d love to visit virtually.