Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Spotted on a tree in a tiny grove on my way to Vipassana. $100 to anyone who can identify this bad boy by the end of the post!
Nothing beats a papaya break on a hot day. I'm now an expert a gutting these without losing a drop of precious papaya juice or mucking up my knife.
Another fruit mystery! What the heck is in these bags?
A little sneaking around reveals that they are: rose apples! I didn't steal any from the tree...but I did pick up a few that had fallen onto the ground. Fair game, right?
A normal breakfast: sweet sesame seed paste buns, savory vegetable dumplings and spring onion rolls.
A $1 (US) vegetable platter.
Whenever I feel the need for a quick calorie load: battered and deep fried sweet potatoes. I feel a little self-conscious being in love with such peasant food, but all I can think about when friends take me to restaurants that cost more than about $10 bucks a head is how that money could give me two or three days of blissful street eats.
"Hey boss, do you have any vegetarian food?" "No, there's no vegetarian food in this town." "Could you make me some vegetarian stir-fried noodles?" "Sure, no problem." Why don't they just say "yes" in the first place?
Buffet for 40NT ($1.33)! Insaninty! I was so engrossed in the marinated wheat gluten nugget at the bottom of the plate that I didn't see whoever snuck up to my bike and stole my speedometer.
Another day, another buffet! This one only had disposable cardboard trays, but the owner didn't mind that I used my camping pot. In fact, whenever I pull it out, most people crack a big smile and go "Ah, environmentalism!"
A normal afternoon pick-me-up.
Sign that my life is reaching new levels of simplicity: buying three-dollar serving of candied kumquats, which will provide me with little snacks for three or four days, constitutes me "splurging" on myself. I'm sure that buying these - and having them put directly into my tupperware, foregoing the plastic bag - gave me more pleasure than a new mp3 player would.
Breakfast in the woods. Fresh fruit, dried fruit, and some nuts are always on hand, but I also thought ahead the night before and bought a veggie dumpling and a red bean paste pastry.
More peasant food I can never get enough of: roast sweet potatoes. Cheap, filling, hot, sweet, creamy, and oil-free. Easy to eat, easy to get without plastic, easy to digest, easy to clean up after, easy to store for later. If only they were easier to find!
Yes, another buffet. Why not? That's bamboo on the left, boiled peanuts and peas and carrots on the right, and dried tofu with some sort of fermented black bean hidden there at top-right.
Even though I had filled up at the buffet, I wasn't going to turn down the owner's offer of this "tang yuan." My Chinese is even good enough to understand that they're sweet rice balls filled with black sesame and sugar. Warm, sticky, and chewy on the outside; rich, sweet, and crunchy on the inside. In a sweet green lentil broth. Bring on the food coma.
The answer: it's a jackfruit, perhaps the biggest fruit in the world. These suckers can weigh over 100lbs! There were about thirty jackfruit trees in this grove, some of them with ten or more fruits forming. Imagine that - half a ton of fruit from one tree. I had a little chat with the farmers, who told me that the trees were about 20 years old and that the fruit would be ready to eat in 40 days. I may have to extend my visa just so I can have a chance to chow down on a few of these. Then again, maybe I should just book it to Vietnam where they're on every street corner. Decisions, decisions...