Tag Archives: Taiwanese dessert

Vignette #2: But Is It Dessert?

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I’ve inferred in earlier posts that the Taiwanese have little to no comprehension of dessert (here). I’d like to share a memory from when I had just moved to Taiwan that graphically illustrates the point.

One of the first friends I made in Taiwan invited me to join her and a group of friends for dinner. It was a lovely evening where we were graciously treated to a nice meal by one of her friends. After dinner we wandered over to a cuo bing (剉冰), Taiwanese shaved ice, shop. This is a popular local dessert where a plate is filled with shaved ice and the customer can add their choice of toppings. It is very refreshing in the Taiwanese heat.

Cuo bing toppings. Darren Haughn © 2017

It’s the toppings that give insight into Taiwanese dessert philosophy. There are a few toppings that a Westerner might expect, sugary candies of various sorts. These are for children and I’ve never seen an adult, other than myself, choose them. For adults there is a wide array of flavorless choices, including; red beans, green beans, taro, yams, dou hua 豆花 (a tofu-like bean product, lacking tofu’s taste and texture), Job’s tears and various other boiled grains. In short, if it tastes like wet cardboard then it is regarded as dessert-worthy.

Which brings us back to my reminiscing. After a fine meal with new friends, I was expecting an equally fine dessert. You can imagine my shock when we all gathered around a bowl of shaved ice on which the shopkeeper had unceremoniously dumped a can of corn. The corn was literally standing in the center of the shaved ice in a semi-gelatinous blob, having retained the contours of the can it so recently occupied. My new friends were digging into it with relish, raving about how delicious it was. I was poleaxed. After overcoming my initial stunned reaction I had to struggle not to break into peels of laughter. I didn’t want to do anything that would crap all over the kindness that had been extended to me, but come on, how is that dessert?!?