I’ve been to Taiwan this summer as readers will know. Now I’ve been back a couple of weeks but really miss a couple of fruits that are really hard to find in the UK. It’s a shame because it includes two of my favourite fruits.
I went to see my great-uncle one day and he runs a very small scale farm, you might call him a market gardener, with a smallish plot but a big variety of fruits and vegetables all together. Some of the fruits come from trees that have been established for many years but there are also things that need planting every year like the vegetables. In the picture above you can see the beautiful collection of vegetables I gathered that day.
Let’s move on to my favourite fruits, the ones I miss so much. The first is called the longan and it is a close relative to the lychee but grows wild in Taiwan. The name is pronounced “Long -yen” in Taiwan. Though Lychees are specially bred trees to produce this kind of fruit; the cultivation over the years has produced a fruit with a minimal ‘stone’ or ‘pip’, I find them to be unsettlingly fleshy and watery. Longan have a very large black stone in the middle and the layer of flesh is relatively small but it’s flavour is much better in my opinion!
I have found longan for sale in the UK on vegetable stalls in Markets which sell Thai food and ingredients. There is a season for these fruits and in the northern hemisphere it’s just about over now.
My second favourite fruit from Taiwan is the ‘shi jia’ which is pronounced “ser jia” and known by English speakers as the Custard Apple. This fruit seems to be a popular one in Australia but I’ve never seen it in the UK. However ‘custard apple’ is a pretty good description of the overall flavour of the fruit. To my tastebuds the best description would be “rice pudding with a teaspoon of apricot jam”. It’s really delicious and once it is ripe I will put one in the fridge to eat cold, picking up the flesh covered seeds with my chopsticks!
I’m surprised there aren’t so many ‘custard apple’ flavoulred drinks and desserts but I did find one I particularly liked in Hualien, in eastern Taiwan. Here you can buy shi jia ice cream. If you ever go to Taiwan’s east side I recommend you try and find some pots of this tasty ice cream. I bought some, very easily, when we stopped to fill up at a CPC petrol station.