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When searching for a variety of wild vegetables and seafood, the Changbin market located in eastern Taiwan, Taitung is the place to go, opening every morning on Changbin Street.
Fooding Taitung’s investigators arrived at 8 a.m. and saw the road lined on both sides with food stalls full of vegetables, seafood, siraw (jars of pickled fish), and much more, while their owners chatted amongst each other in this lively atmosphere.
Interestingly, there’s barely a soul looking after the stalls because they gather together, bring their own chairs, sit in a row, and chat.
One stall owner ran over and struck up a conversation with a neighboring stall, followed by yet another next door who immediately helped to make introductions, and finally, a fourth seller spoke up, “Customers have arrived!” as the first stall owner rushes back.
One local explains: “Changbin Market is like a venue for them to interact. If there isn’t anyone to set up the stalls with them, there might be fewer stalls that day. They set up shop together so that they won’t get bored.”
On a street corner, six stalls have popped up, some selling fresh vegetables and others, sticky rice. As soon as one of the stalls in the corner shouts out to others that we investigators wish to snap a photo, one of the stall owners chatting far off in another corner returns to indulge in the picture-taking.
With lots of Chinese scallions, coriander, red radish, pumpkin, and gac (Momordica cochinchinesis) leaves bing neatly placed on the stall, the stall lady grabbed the gac leaves and asked us to smell after rubbing it, indicating that it can be cooked afterward and made into a gac salad.
Almost all the stalls of Changbin Market are experts at food gathering – plump but bitter-tasting sliced fruits, crispy nest fern leaves, processed white cassava, and many wild vegetables that the investigator doesn’t recognize.
We asked, “Ma’am, when do you pick these vegetables?” She replied, “We head up the mountain at 4 or 5 o’clock to pick them, then begin selling after sorting them out!” Freshly picked produce was bountiful and could be described as “straight from the land” – as fresh as they can get.
Of course, the long coastline nearby is rich in seafood and other marine life. The tide is usually checked after closing the stalls in order to determine the next suitable time to collect from the sea and after processing, they’re brought to the market for sale the next day.
Although the investigators have come to know some seafood in the past few days, the shocking variety of each species still leaves an indelible impression. There are just too many to remember! Some of them look like certain plants that grow on trees, while others look like coral.
Curiously pointing to one that looked like antlers, the investigator asked, “Excuse me, what kind of seafood is this?”. To which the seller just took a bite and simply replied, “It’s delicious!” As for knowing its name … Well, at least we know it tasted good. After some research, it was discovered to be a kind of seaweed called “dokido” in the native Amis language.
In addition to sea vegetables, seafood siraw is also a common commodity in several stalls. Our investigators thought he had seen all siraw varieties last year at Guanshan Market, but he didn’t expect to come to the seaside market and discover that there was still so much more to explore.
Not only was there the familiar such as cured pork, beef and lard, but also lima beans, abalone, barnacles and more – all of which dazzled him.
When visiting Changbin Market, you have to get there as early as possible. At ten o’clock in the morning, stall owners promptly finish working. Some go collecting, while others go home to cook or visit neighbors. Everyone is just so busy, and if you’re too late, you’ll miss everything.
Changbin Market Information
Time: 6am-10am every morning (subject to adjustment due to weather)
Location: Changbin Street (near the township office)
Article originally from Fooding Taitung
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