Chinese New Year is my favorite time of year here in Taiwan. Everyone leaves the city to visit another city, or relatives in the country. The world is QUIET. In a city of 2.6 million people, I can’t hear a thing. It’s wonderous. Which brings me to choosing oranges and tangerines, this season’s finest. I haven’t gotten pictures of all the oranges offered here yet, but let me tell you there are quite a few. Pictured above is a tangerine with loose skin. It’s so sweet you’d think they added extra sugar 🙂 My favorite at the moment. These tangerines are 4-5 in. in diameter, and you want to choose one with no soft spots/discolored spots. The skin should not be tight to the fruit, but slightly loose. You’ll see what I mean if you feel a couple. 新年快樂! Enjoy the silence with some tangerines.
I love the fruit here in Taiwan. It’s all so good. Unfortunately it’s also seasonal, which means I don’t get mangoes all year long 😦 and have had to learn to like oranges. With the warm weather, fruit does not stay fresh for very long. So how do you choose tasty fruit?
Follow your nose. Pineapple should smell fragrant. If it doesn’t, it’s not the best. I also choose one without holes or mold on the bottom. It should also be a nice orange color. If it’s the green variety that grows around January… ask the stall owner for the best one.
Generic bananas – I like my bananas on the green side, not mushy side, so I always eat them right away. I also choose my own. If you ask the stall owner they will choose very ripe ones for you.
The bananas in the picture are apple bananas, and in my opinion the best bananas you can buy here (however if you’re taking about THE BEST bananas go with a true red banana or those small fingerling bananas in Thailand) Apple Bananas take forever to ripen. With these go with a bunch that is all uniformly yellow, not green. If it’s a bit black, it doesn’t matter. Just eat that one first.
For lack of a better term I will call these “mini melons”. I don’t know their English name. They are apple sized and taste very similar to a honeydew melon. I spurned these in the past because I didn’t know how to choose them. They were always a bit bitter. But I know the secret now. Go for melons that have a slight yellow spot to them. If they are all yellow they may be bad already. They will be sweet and not bitter.
My daughter LOVES these. Sweet, slightly tart with a wonderful smell. Choose one that is slightly dark, wrinkled and when gently shaken does not shake. Don’t shake too hard, it will ruin the fruit. Note that the ones in the picture are not ripe yet.
The Taiwanese like these green, crunchy and tart. I prefer them soft and sweet, and I eat the seeds and all. So I choose ones that are already slightly yellow-green at the stand. If you buy green ones and take them home they will not ripen. The outside skin should not be starting to wrinkle. I’ve tried to bake with this variety of guava, and it was a huge failure. The fruit turns gritty when baked. But boiling and straining makes a wonderful “apple” sauce.
There are 2 varieties in this picture. White meat on the left, and red meat on the right. Can you tell the difference? Generally the white ones are smoother skinned and larger. However you can check the sign too. 白 for white, and 紅 for red.
I like the red ones. Choose one that doesn’t have any blemishes or mold. The skin should feel thin. This means it’s ripe.
I love mangoes, and I consider myself a mango connoisseur. 90% of the mangoes you buy in Taiwan are grafted. This means they are without strings, are larger, and have a distinctive sappy flavor. While I prefer non grafted mangoes, I’ll take any kind. They are all tasty. Saying that, the best or most popular ones here are the large gold 金 mangoes. They have a very small thin seed, so you get more mango for your money. The smallish mangoes in the foreground here are very tasty. They have a faint grafted flavor, which is why I like them. The green mangoes in the far background are native to Taiwan. They don’t really get sweet, remain tart and are mostly pickled here I think. They might make a great mango sauce, but I haven’t tried it yet. In general, choose mangoes that are slightly firm with no visible blemishes. Don’t go for the soft ones.
Melons (watermelons, cantaloupe, musk melon, hami melons)
I never choose the right melons. I smell them, but there’s no smell. I tap for hollowness, but it doesn’t seem to make a difference. The best melons I’ve bought have been the ones I’ve asked the stall owner to choose for me. Always delicious.
As the year goes I’ll post more. Long yen season is coming up 🙂