米苔目 (mi-tai-mu) is a short fat rice noodle usually served in brown-sugar water topped with shaved ice, with or without other ingredients added, such as boiled peanuts, love-jade (see a previous post, here), or grass jelly (see above and below, the black chunks). Supposedly, it can also be prepared as a hot soup dish, or even as fried noodles; perhaps it was a regional thing, or only in the country-side during rice harvests, rarely seen in Tamsui proper where it was always a summertime refreshment.
|仙草, Grass jelly extracted from mesona plants|
There are some legends associated with 米苔目-eating, for example, partaking it on the 6th day of the 6th month on the lunar calendar* guarantees a forthcoming fortune with so much money made that it would come up to your ankles "六月六呷，賺錢賺到淹腳目". This might have been an old-time ad created by some clever vendors; on the other hand, this is also the day when the Gate of Heaven opens. On this auspicious day, one is supposed to repent for their sins and pray for more good luck at the same time. Indeed, all Taoist temples are crowded with such believers, in the searing summer heat, too. It does then make sense to go down to the local eateries after the prayer session and get some icy-cold 米苔目 for a satisfying follow-through.
In addition to Tamsui Old Street, across Tamsui River in Bali, a place to go to for truly outstanding 米苔目 is in the 下庄市場ShiaZhuan Market on 舊城路JiuChen Road where you can also try their famed chicken smoked with sugarcane.
*According to 漳州ChanChou tradition, the day of the Gate opening is the first day of the 6th month when bowls of sweetened sticky rice each with a dried 龍眼 longan nut on top are served. Most Tamsui-lang were originally from 泉州ChuanChou, however, hence the differences.