(1) Candy plums: These bright red candy plums were made with crunchy 桃接李 (produced from plum twigs grafted onto peach trees), i.e., plums strung on a bamboo stick dipped in melted cane sugar with red dye No 2 added, and let cool to form a hard shell. These plums with orange-colored flesh were a bit on the sour side, usually eaten with grain sugar or after marination in 甘草licorice root flavored juice. Sugar coating similar to that of candy apples in the US was a wonderful idea (tooth decays aside) and certainly a huge hit among the children. Still available in Tamsui now except they are made with cherry tomatoes.
(2) Rice puffs: 爆米香 - This is a two-step process. First the rice-popping part (operated by man with a hat in photo below) and then the cake-making part (man in white at the rear of the cart). You were supposed to bring your own rice. Children with their own rice in a pot queued up to wait for their turns:
Rice-popping was done by using a iron sphere/cylinder with a one-way air-outlet valve. With the rice inside, the sphere was rotated slowly over charcoal fire to create a vacuum inside for the rice grains to pop. A remarkably loud boom was heard from opening the decompressed roaster when it is done. The popped rice would explode into a collecting net. It was then mixed with caramelized sugarcane sugar and molded into a slab. Little rectangles were then cut to make mouth-watering 米香 (pronounced Bi-Pang).
|味香 in the making|
|A vendor usually peddled his masterpieces at the small Triangular Park in Tamsui|
This folk art is still hanging around, not for too long, though (above).