Taitung food sellers meet-n-greet visitors at Changbin Market

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." A stall stands at a street corner with a group of six sellers all huddled around it. As someone shouts out they wish to snap a photo, one of the stall owners chatting far off in the corner returns to indulge in the picture-taking. (Courtesy of 台東食育提案所 FoodingTaitung)

TAIPEI (The China Post) — Our lives are deeply regimented by three daily meals, but eating isn’t just about putting food in our mouths, it’s the moments connecting each meal. So just how many are there?

During our 100 years on this earth, how can we enjoy both the tasty and the healthy in life? Fooding Taitung is a platform with a long-term dedication to food and has launched the “Taitung 100 Meals” (台東100食) project this year, inviting food experts to share their delicious and healthy secrets.

Fooding Taitung is comprised of government, schools, locals, and designers concerned about dietary education in Taitung, kick-starting events on the subject and becoming a platform for topics concerning food.

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.

(Courtesy of 台東食育提案所 FoodingTaitung)

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.”

(Courtesy of 台東食育提案所 FoodingTaitung)

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.

Gac leaves(Courtesy of 台東食育提案所 FoodingTaitung)
Ina makes us rub some gac leaves, saying they can be cooked as a salad or soup. Only after rubbing do they emit a fragrance.(Courtesy of 台東食育提案所 FoodingTaitung)

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.

Eye-catching bundles of nest fern leaves, freshly plucked the same morning.(Courtesy of 台東食育提案所 FoodingTaitung)

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.

There’s a shocking variety at the market. There are just too many species to remember! Some of them look like certain plants that grow on trees, while others look like coral. This antler-shaped seaweed is called dokido by the local Amis natives.(Courtesy of 台東食育提案所 FoodingTaitung)

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.

Lily-white arrowroot can be used as a tasteless starch, but its texture is particularly fibrous.(Courtesy of 台東食育提案所 FoodingTaitung)
Pearl onions(Courtesy of 台東食育提案所 FoodingTaitung)

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

台東食育提案所 FoodingTaitung

A platform for bringing together the government, schools, local people, and designers concerned about dietary education in Taitung. Deepen and integrating knowledge regarding food issues.

臺東設計中心 Taitung Design Center

Follows topics regarding Taitung’s governmental administration, urban life, natural landscapes, and others.

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