Cold Treats for the Hot Weather

24 09 2007

Despite having been there before, nothing quite prepared me for the heat and humidity in Taiwan. The shock to Charles’ system was even worse. Imagine the hottest, most humid day in DC or in Chicago and add more humidity, more smog, and no air conditioning. That’s how it feels to step outside in Taiwan in September. The funny thing is that the Taiwanese residents seem to think that September is on the cooler side. We saw many people walking around in long pants and long sleeves! After the typhoon, people were wearing jackets.

It was difficult to get used to the weather, and took a day or two to not instantly sweat whenever we walked outside. When I say get used to the weather, I mean before we realized the importance of balancing outside sightseeing with inside air conditioning appreciation at shopping malls and museums. I can’t believe that most Taiwanese residents don’t use air conditioning. Even before the typhoon, which actually cooled things down quite a bit, it was really really really really really hot and humid. Then it was rainy and humid. Really rainy. No wonder the island is so green with vegetation!

One positive side effect of the heat is that Taiwan is a great place to find all kinds of cool drinks and cold snacks. In addition, this kind of weather, though punishing for humans, is wonderful for growing fruit and tea. The Taiwanese often say that the fruit here is sweeter and more abundant than anywhere else in the world. Mango, guava, papaya, dragonfruit, starfruit, custard fruit, Asian pear, lychee, and longan are everywhere, just to name a few.

Fruit Stand

Below are some cut dragonfruit and fresh longans. Delicious and fresh! Unfortunately for me, lychees, my favorite fruit, were out of season.

Fruit

Iced tea is its own category here, with options from pearl milk tea to red tea to green tea to oolong tea to mint tea. The bubble tea phenomenon that is sweeping the Chinatowns of the U.S. originated in Taiwan.

The cold drink options in Taiwan are endless, as evidenced by the water and tea section in the local convenience store (the one with the half smiley face).

Cold Drinks

Lucky for me, in Kaohsiung my aunt knew all the best (and cleanest) places to buy food. This stand on a side street off Liuho 2nd Street in Kaohsiung sells a great grass jelly mint tea.

Grass Jelly stand

Like many drink stands in Taiwan, the mint tea is sealed with plastic on top. Since sanitation can be an issue at street stands, this is a welcome measure. You just poke your straw through the top anywhere. However, I think putting your sealed drink in an additional plastic bag as they also do here is a little over the top. The only reason I can think of why they do this is because of the condensation.

Grass Jelly Tea

Cold treats are also available everywhere. The stand pictured below sells various red bean, green bean, taro, gelatin, and fruit ice drinks. We had some and it was yummy! This stand is located in Kaohsiung on one of the side streets behind the <name to be filled in> temple.

Cold Treat Stand

Cold Treat Stand

The best street stand cold treat, in my opinion, is Tzua Bing, or shaved ice. We had some every other day, and it is YUMMY! Each stand will have at least 6 toppings for you to choose from, including red bean, taro, green bean, taro, fruit, milk, and syrups. We stopped at one in Kaohsiung, but I forgot to take a picture. I was too busy eating!

Here is a picture of a tzua bing stand I found in the food court in the basement of Taipei 101. This particular dish is special because it features “snowflake” ice, or shaved frozen milk. It was delicious! Later I will wax poetic about the wonderful food court at Taipei 101, but that deserves its own post.

Snowflake Shaved Ice with milk and red bean topping.

Snowflake Ice Treat

I wish I could have one of these right now!

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7 responses

25 09 2007
aglassofwine

i can’t believe they dont take more advantage of air conditioning in tw! singapore is about as humid, and we have air conditioning everywhere – including some bus interchanges. and most bus stops come equipped with fans at least too!

25 09 2007
travelswithsandy

Most of my relatives didn’t use their air conditioning, even if they had it. The public buildings all seemed to have A/C, though. I know that the Taipei MRT had air conditioning, as did the government buildings, shopping malls and museums. The food stalls on the street, of course, didn’t have A/C!

26 09 2007
globetrotteri

Terrific photos Sandy. I especially like the fruit photo and the shaved ice photo.

21 03 2008
headhoncho

All indoor areas in the cities are air-conditioned in Taiwan. Almost everybody has at least one air conditioner unit in each household in Taiwan. In fact most restaurants and convenience stores use too much air conditioning and that’s bad for customers and also bad for the environment. Taiwan’s climate is cooler in the north and more tropical in the south. It’s also got some of the highest mountains in Asia and that’s where the tea is grown mostly. Get out of the city and go to the beach or up a mountain is the best way to cool down, and yes, it is slightly cooler in September than August but still very hot and humid in the big cities especially (heat effect from too many air condiitioners and vehicles).

Of course it’s a bit difficult to put an air-conditioner on the OUTSIDE isn’t it? Although the Singapore poster seems to think that is possible…..total waste of energy.

But I have to confirm that Taiwan fruit is the best in the world!

21 03 2008
travelswithsandy

Although almost everyone has air conditioning, it doesn’t mean that they use it! This is completely understandable for Taiwanese since 1) they are used to the weather and 2) it can be a waste of energy. However, for visitors to Taiwan, even a Taiwanese like myself, the weather is still an adjustment for the first few days. I am missing the heat right now though! It’s snowing in Chicago still…

Thanks for your comment!

2 04 2008
Sera

I spent part of my childhood in Kaoshiung, but haven’t been back since 1986. This was a culinary walk down memory lane. Thank you!

15 03 2009
aNSY

OMG!! that red bean shaved ice looks soo delicious. I could eat 20 of those right now!

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