by May Tien
Texture has a funny way of dividing eaters. Many people use texture to determine quality somehow, and the way we perceive textures is quite personal. One person’s al dente could be another’s undercooked noodle, but very often in Chinese and Taiwanese cuisine, texture can be the qualifier for what makes good food great. For me, it’s essential and as meaningful in identifying character and integrity in food as it is for quality.
One of my first unforgettable memories of the texture Q—or “QQ,” as I would call it as a child—was on the annual “homecoming” trips back to see my maternal grandparents during the sweltering summer months in Taiwan.
They lived in a multigenerational flat with my uncle and his family on a narrow, tree-lined alley off Qingtian Street in central Taipei. I associate such a distinct aroma with that street—humid and sweet from overripe mangoes fallen to the ground on the neighboring property, mixed with the piles of street rubbish and the subtropical haze heavy with exhaust from scooters, cars, and diesel busses on the main thoroughfares.
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