Anyone who knows my eating habits back in the UK will know that I’m a lentil and bean fiend. Here in Taiwan, however, the variety of bean available is drastically reduced. Though soy beans and mung beans are also around, the real Taiwanese favourite is the red bean.
Despite early reservations from Luke over red bean milk tea (hǒng dòu nai cha), this delicious milky beany beverage has become our absolute go-to drink as soon as there is even the tiniest glimmer of sun. We were perplexed to find out that other Westerners who run the teacher training courses we attend, in fact think that this tall red bean mountain of milk tea is actually disgusting. Huuuuh!!
Five doors down from the milk tea shop (Cha Time) is a bakery – oddly but aptly named Wheat House – which we roll into nearly every lunch time after our Kindegarten class is over. Originally hooked on walnut and raisin bread, we soon discovered a new wonder: red bean bread. Yes, what genius, to put red beans inside granary raisin bread with some kind of sweet butter cream swirled inside.
As if my bean fix hadn’t already been met, on my extra long working Friday last week, the kids I was teaching science to (yeah, I teach science, nuts right, anyway…) were delivered a massive pot full of red bean soup (hǒng dòu shā). It’s a sweet soup (táng shǔi) with red beans and mochi (glutonious rice balls). My Taiwanese co-worker insisted I get my bowl, so off I ran into my Kindy classroom where my Kindy class were being served up their hǒng dòu shā – I frantically asked this room full of four year olds if it was good and was super relieved when they nodded vivaciously and told me I should eat it!
My co-worker said that the kids love it because this version of hǒng dòu shā is an extra special one which Taiwanese kids have on their first birthday (instead of cake, I think). As well as red beans, it’s filled with mochi, which are essentially just big balls of sugary starch. Having just been served up some extra big mochi which I had never seen before and obviously lacking confidence in my ability to chew through ping-pong ball sized ones, I looked blankly down into my bowl. My co-worker reassured me that they were ‘special’ big balls saved for the teachers and there was something inside which she didn’t know the English for: being told this sort of thing in Taiwan is rarely a good sign. Alas, I shoved it in my mouth and was wildly surprised to find out they are in fact filled with peanut butter – phew, yummy yummy!
Three days on from this incident with Luke gone from our apartment to cover another teacher’s lesson, I have in fact just ceased the opportunity and snuck round the corner to the local red bean soup café and snuck back home with a big tub of hot, sweet red bean soup (without the mochi) and an accompanying cranberry and walnut roll.
It seems I may actually be a little too keen for red bean…