February 28th, 2013. Jiǔ Fèn festivities and fun.

Feast. Peanut-ice-cream-burrito (Yes. The combination exists). 草仔粿, cǎo zai guǒ, (herbal cake). Steamed taro cake. 肉圓, ròu-wán, (meat sphere). A-Ghan Auntie’s red bean & sweet potato/taro balls. Meat paper. Buttery mushroom. More stinky tofu. “Taste of Gayke.”

My mother’s sister’s daughter (or just cousin) invited me out to Jiǔ Fèn with her fiancé for the day to explore the festivities. This was an inclusive opportunity to catch up, since there was a period of a decade and a semi-language barrier since we had any sort of interaction resembling “catching up.” For example, and for starters, I didn’t even know she had a fiancé. A rather excellent and embarrassing way to begin the day.

Jiǔ Fèn is an area that was and still is known for its night lanterns. The whole area reminded me of a massively Asian-ized Sorrento. There’s alot of elevation changes contained within the hill, so that made for some gorgeous pictures and “stacked” sunsets. Perspective for night pictures was also augmented. A side by side comparison of similar locations at different times of the day confers a contrasting essence that is somewhat pleasant to observe.

I’ll rewind a bit. The day started off with a hike. Right after disembarking the car (driving was a nightmare up in that area), my attention gravitated towards the large hill in front of me, which housed several small white “lighthouses,” (or faux teahouses?). According to Wiki, this was Mount Jī Lóng, which housed a rather steep forty minute hike comprising a long-ass staircase that doesn’t lead to heaven, but gets ya’ close enough. Figuring that I would be a fat-ass for the rest of the day (or year), I decided that squeezing in some anti-obesity tactics would probably be a good idea. We, or rather I, decided to climb the god-awful mountain, essentially committing my cousin and her fiancé into an hour of unplanned, un-consented exercise.  Luckily, I felt the view was worth the somewhat rubbery feeling in my lower extremities.

Begin post-workout festivities. Our first stop in Jiǔ Fèn was for the Taiwanese delicacy 肉圓, ròu-wán. “Meat sphere” is the direct English translation; the meat contained within (usually pork) is marinated in red vinasse (monascus purpureus), which gives it its characteristic maroon color. All of this botany-marinated meat nonsense is combined with mushrooms and bamboo shoots and stuffed inside a thick skin made from any combination of sweet potato, rice, or tapioca flour. This is subsequently chucked into a steamer until translucent and gummy.

Hm. Can't really see that maroon.

Hm. Can’t really see that maroon.

Meat paper was pretty funny. We sampled it in the open air market. It resembled the taste of meat wool, just in paper form. Funny all the different forms that meat can take. Steaks, cured, jerky, paper, wool, Lady Gaga’s bacon dress, powder…what’s next? If meat could “evolve,” how would you organize its chronological evolution?

Evolution.

Evolution.

Herbal Rice Cake (草仔粿). Sticky rice + a special herb called Gnaphalium (鼠麴草) + dried shrimp/fish filling + steam = deep grass green glutinous cake that tastes like a savory forest.

A mini-stuffed Hulk.

A mini-stuffed Hulk.

The peanut ice cream burrito! If this were ever marketed in the United States, it would need a better name. This superhero consisted of a cape tortilla, a handsomely trimmed mustache finely shaved peanut brittle, a fine-toned ass two scoops of pineapple flavored ice cream, and swag cilantro. The taste was sweet, fruity, and crunchy, finished with that cilantro bite. I’m not too sure of the functionality of cilantro in this case, but I found that the savory contrast added a much needed herbal component, so…the ultimate functionality was balance. Aside from the tortilla, it wouldn’t be far to see those components in a salad. Imagine shredded green papaya, julienned carrot, and pineapple vinaigrette tossed together with cilantro and a dash of peanuts…awesome…or gross?

You put cilantro in what?

You put cilantro in what?

They even had a stand-alone apparatus for safely dismantling an uncomfortably large block of peanut brittle. This gadget of course, was hand-operated, nowhere to be found in a Bed Bath & Beyond, and probably not patented.

A-Ghan Auntie’s red bean & taro/sweet potato balls. This was what was going on in the back of the store. Out of context, and it could easily be mistaken for a crack-cocaine plant.

This was the storefront, and what was going to go on into my mouth. Various forms of powdered starch reformed into semi-recognizable edibles. Easily digestible and pretty fun to eat.

I finished the day sneaking a picture of this bad boy. I don’t think the stand was very popular. Or legal. Well, probably legal, just not appropriate.

Shhh...

Shhh…

 Cheeers! Eat fun things.