Chowish souveniers from Taiwan?
My family is visiting Taiwan and has asked me what I'd like for them to bring back.
I've asked for some nice tea but would love it if you guys could help me give them some specifics as to what is the best to bring back. Amount of money does not matter.
Aside from tea, what else should I ask them to bring me that one can not find here (or can not find here but for a pretty penny) in Los Angeles?
I agree on Oolong...absolute must.
It depends on where there are visiting. Almost every town/county has their specialty.
For sake of brevity, I'll limit myself to only a few:
From north: danshui makes excellent tiedan (iron eggs), among a hundred other things it's known for.
From central: Taichung has of course the famous taiyang bing (sun cake). Also a little up in the mountains there are lots of mushroom places that sell mushroom puffs that are great.
From central-west: the taro puffs from Dajia is absolutely amazing. They also have in mochi, green tea, etc. This has to be my fav out of all.
From east: the beef-tongue looking crackers (niushe bing) and dried plunes from Yilan.
The list goes on and one. The key is to buy the local specialty, and from the store that everyone goes to to buy that item. Hope this helps.
I'm mulling the same myself since I'm leaving Taipei soon. Currently on my list are
1) vinegar - many varieties of vinegar are available here including pineapple, rice or pine-infused vinegars. For me I'll be taking a bottle of good plum vinegar to go
2) condensed soy-sauce - you can buy this stuff in the US but the ones sold here are less salty and more subtle in flavor. for serious soy-sauce junkies only
3) petit teacakes from a shop like Kuo Yuan Yi (http://www.kuos.com) - again I like the plum flavored ones
4) vegetarian meat jerky - these are so addictive!! the texture/flavor can be better than meat jerkies depending on the brand
and that's it...happy shopping!
Just back from Taipei and Hsinchu. Unfortunately, the best food is at the stalls and restaurants. As far as foodstuffs, the selection can be vast, so it really depends on what in particular you are interested in eating. Here are a few unique things I picked up on my trip:
Hsinchu - mifen (dried vermicelli noodles)
Hakka villages - nutritious barley cereals using mortar and pestle
Pastries from the numerous ubiquitous bakeries (perishable, of course - buy on the day of departure).
Snacks and candies - most are available at 99 Ranch, so seek out the ones that aren't, such as certain brands of the pineapple cakes that taste better than the ones here. You'll of course need to have someone ask the locals as to the standouts.
BTW, Jason's Market Place in Taipei 101 has a humongous selection of unique imports (many from Europe) that aren't available here.
In Taipei, behind (or in front of) the new location of Guanghua shopping center (the famous place where you get computer related shopping done, cel phones, mp3 player accessories, used books etc) is an extended parking lot that is a national farmer's market on weekends. Vendors from all over Taiwan sell fresh produce and products. Of interest there were bags of dried fried/fish shavings (yu sung), of which they had ones made with local salmon, tuna, and one other fish I can't remember. The salmon version tasted really good (they had samples too).
Some might like wine from Taiwan using their local kyoho style grapes.
I also went to Jason's Marketplace in the basement of Taipei 101 but bought nothing from there. It is impressive to say the least and probably Taiwan's version of Whole Foods market and more. I loved their fish selection and Chinese cooked food deli that puts our local Chinese supermarket chains to complete shame.
In Danshui Taipei, Yu su (fried fish shavings chips) are great with soup, and you can get them prepackaged. They look and taste similar to lobster or prawn chips but way better. The prepackaged ones surely won't taste as good as the ones in the restaurants but they make great souvenirs and probably more easily acceptable than the iron eggs/teh dan.
You can also pick up tons of snacks from Hsin Tung Yang, a famous chain, but they tend to be pricier and more generic. They have a distributor in South San Francisco, CA USA but their products are nothing like the ones in Taiwan.
The pineapple cakes from Jiaofen in northern Taiwan are crazy good and famous. There is a bakery there that specializes in them and other similar baked goods. The problem is that place is a bit far out of the way and up on a hill. Definitely consume them within a week, they have no presevatives.
On the 2nd floor of Zhongzhen/CKS airport where the food court is, there is a stall that sells organic honey from Nantou province with samples (also honey vinegar and crystalized honey for hot water drinks). If you like the longan honey that is used for making numerous tea drinks at Tea Station in Southern Cal, you'll love Nantou honey even more. Prices are going to be much higher but if you can't get to a local vendor that sells them I highly recommend getting them here last minute. Wish I did two days ago when I was there but I had no room in my hand carry.