The New York Times is predicting that 2024 will be “buckwheat’s year.” While we have nothing against buckwheat, we would also like to submit taro for your consideration, especially in its form as ice cream.
Now if you did not grow up with a hipster ice cream shop in the neighborhood, or even if you did grow up in a hipster neighborhood, it’s okay if you do not know or can not place the flavor that we are referring to. Taro has long been a staple root vegetable cultivated across Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean often as a substitute or equivalent for potatoes, turnips, and yams which are more common across Europe and North America. As a vegetable, Taro has a natural savory sweetness that lends itself well to desserts found across Asia, and in recent decades it has also become a sensational ice cream flavor.
If taste alone is not incentive enough to push Taro to the top of 2024 taste preferences, it should be advertised that it is also, often, a far healthier than other ice cream flavors. Taro is naturally creamy and frequently requires far less cream and sugar in its recipes. The ice cream flavor itself often evokes senses or comparisons with chestnuts, maple syrup, creamy mashed potatoes, and even coconut. It is unique and, in brief, delicious. Enjoy.
While they might not make the staple of the year list, as ice cream flavors the ones below certainly qualify as ones to try in Taiwan in 2024. They have texture, they have style, they have a certain je ne sais quoi and pop that your palate will come to love. You may find some at convenience stores, others at regular ice cream joints, and for some flavors they come only seasonally.
Red Bean paste is the classic, the iconic, perhaps the true desert flavor in Taiwan and other parts of Asia. Foreigners are often invariably a little less than impressed as the sweetness is subtle compared to the sugar-overload that defines the western palate of the 21st century. Nevertheless rest assured, it will grow on you. We would recommend starting with the bean paste in pastry form (7/11 makes addictive, cheap, packaged red bean buns) before making the jump to ice cream. When you do try the ice cream, approach it from the stand point that the bean chunks are there in the same way that we expect mint chocolate chip to have texture.
This one is unique and stands alone as a desert to be had at least once in your life. It’s a little like rice pudding in a sweeter frozen form. It reminds us of something they would eat in a Disney movie, perhaps Frozen.
This one is not that out there, but like most other things pineapple in Taiwan, it’s done well. We were known to frequent our local ice cream shop for weeks when we stumbled onto this one.
It is a mystery to us, but we have never understood why Taiwan is not more internationally recognized for its mangos. They rival some of the best we have tried anywhere, Latin America, India, China, and beyond. And when it’s mango season, the mango ice cream at smaller specialty ice cream shops becomes heavenly. When we imagine the fabled nectar of the gods, this is what often comes to mind: an icy, sweet, pure delight.
Close to the mango in its sweetness, the lychee is a sensory overload. We have heard through the vine that one shouldn’t eat too many of the fruit itself but, we choose to believe that this provision does not apply to it in ice cream form. We recommend balancing or juxtaposing it with a flavor that is less sweet.
If the romans had had access to dragon fruit, we suspect that the color of royalty would have been slightly more magenta. As an ice cream flavor, and more specifically a color, you can never go wrong with dragon fruit. While we freeze the fruit itself and eat it by the spoonful, the stuff they sell at the ice cream stands is just as eye catching and tastes even better.
It’s a trip, but the best basil soft serve comes from the Snow King Ice Cream shop in on the western side of the city. Basil is a strong flavor but it pairs well with cream, almost like mint. We tend prefer our flavors more towards the fruitier end of the spectrum, but it’s fun to try at least once.
Perhaps you’ve encountered it already, but if not, meet a major source of consternation between many Americans and their Taiwanese friends. In our view, meat floss is a demonic, beef-jerky-crossed-with-cotton-candy, substance that lies in wait in otherwise delicious looking pastries in the window shops across Asia. Our friends in Taiwan accuse the West of drowning the world in cheese. Believe us when we say “we’ve gone the rounds.” Nonetheless, if you want to try something truly unique or start an argument that may span continents, meet the meat floss ice-cream. It’s found in specialty shops around Taipei and beyond. We’ve tried to warn you.