Friday, November 13, 2009

The Taiwanese Meatball (肉圓)

One of the things I love about the Taiwanese people is how proud they are of their local cuisine and how eager they are for foreigners to enjoy it. A requisite question asked of foreigners by locals here in Taiwan is "How do you like Taiwanese food?"

This question is routinely followed by a discussion about hot pots, stinky tofu, oyster omelets, Taiwanese meatballs, and an endless list of other local delicacies.

During my stay here, I've attempted to try as many Taiwanese dishes as possible, but I never made it a priority to seek out a special Taiwanese meatball. Just walk through any market in Taiwan and you can find a veritable cornocopia of meatballs with your choice of pork balls, fish balls, squid balls, beef balls... balls of all shapes, sizes, and colors.

I just figured that any meatball that I ate here in Taiwan was, by definition, a Taiwanese meatball, right?

I also assumed, incorrectly, that this "big Taiwanese meatball" I had heard about was just that - a big ball of ground meat. I've had lots of those since I came here, so I can check that one - 肉圓 - off my list!

But fate was at work the other day when I was walking along the street with my friend Yumi looking for something to have for dinner, and after 10 months here in Taiwan, I finally came across a meatball stand 肉圓.

To my surprise, I realized that Taiwanese meatballs don't look like meatballs at all, they're actually more like large dumplings. They've got a thick rice-flower dumpling skin surrounding pork meatball with mushrooms, bamboo, and other yummy ingredients.

When you order one, they grab it out of this tub, slice it a couple of times with scissors and cover it with a sweet brown sauce and a splash of cilantro. The skin is chewy and the meat inside is tender and moist. It was delicious.

From this stand we also bought a rice dumpling (糭子 zong zi) which is made by wrapping a bamboo leaf around a filling of sticky rice mixed together with meat and veggies.

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm yummy

Try a Taiwanese meatball - Check!
Another thing off my list.

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