Conrad's favourite ice lolly is made from soda water. I know, it sounds strange but he loves it. In some other lollies the thing that makes them so nice is a technique for making the inside soft and creamy, while the outside is frozen. So there are lollies with a frozen chocolate outer shell, frozen chocolate ice cream, then semi-soft chocolate in the centre. Another one high on my list of the nicest ice lollies I've ever had has a vanilla/white chocolate outer shell, soft and creamy inner tip, and strawberry ice cream as the centre.
They're also very cheap. The creme caramel costs the equivalent of about 30p. So, I hope I've adequately conveyed my enthusiasm for ice lollies here. There are also red bean ones but I've steered clear of those so far.
7-11s and other convenience stores abound. I'm not exaggerating to say there are three within five minutes walk of our flat and the same is true throughout Taipei. The merchandise sold is exactly as you would imagine: snack foods and drinks, toiletries, stationery, and all those little things you might have forgotten but find you need as you travel from one place to another, such as, for example, umbrellas (it's been raining for about three days now and we have five umbrellas bewteen three of us).
Here are some snack foods I've sampled. I'll start with my favourite again. These are baozi, or steamed buns with a meat, or sometimes red bean filling. You buy them hot from a cabinet in most 7-11s.
To give an idea of the size, I need both hands to hold them. The larger ones are about the size of a hamburger, so as you can see I took rather a large bite before taking this photo. Something else I've tried for the purpose of scientific enquiry are hot spring eggs. Eggs preserved in various ways are popular here. Some of you may have heard of 1,000 year old and 100 year old eggs, which of course aren't, but have that appearance due to the preservation method. I haven't been brave enough to try those yet, but a hot spring egg just sounded as though it had been cooked in hot spring water, and that was how it tasted too;
Sorry about the blurry picture. I was probably chewing at the time. It had a salty, mineral tang to it. Quite nice.
There are other kinds of egg available that I haven't yet tried. 7-11s sell just-cooked eggs kept warm, along with all the other hot snack foods, and the northern suburb/town of Danshui is famous for these small, black spherical objects about the size of large marbles that are reportedly eggs too, but I haven't tried them. I'll let you know if I ever do.
As well as Western-style sandwiches, wraps and buns, the convenience stores also sell lots of rice-based snacks. I'm sure a lot of you will be familiar with the triangular cakes of rice wrapped in seaweed with various fillings. Andy really likes these. I like these things below better: shaped like a wrap and also covered with seaweed they're filled with things like ham, processed cheese, cucumber and other undefined fillings. Very nice.
Nibbles abound. There are all kinds of nuts, seeds, beans, crisps, and other processed snacks to serve as the things to eat when you aren't really hungry that make you put on weight. Something you don't generally see in the UK but that are actually really nice are tiny dried fish and other dried fish or seafood-based edibles. Andy and I eat a lot of these:
which are slivered almonds and dried fish. I've also seen tuna sweets on sale but haven't sampled them yet.
All of these things are also on sale in supermarkets, as well as other convenience foods. I have to confess that I've got no idea what a lot of these things are, but I thought I'd show you anyway.
Many basic foodstuffs are a mystery to me, in fact. I have no idea what these are either (though I think the top one may be coconuts: