The above is a crumbly, peanut-flake-type confection filled with ground black sesame seeds, from Taiwan. After taking care of my grandmother there for the last month, my mom had returned to New York last week with her two suitcases packed with treats. Along with candies, pastries, and a bunch of packaged snacks, she also lugged back heavy jars of fermented tofu paste, peanut-studded hot sauce, and pickled vegetables. You see where I get my dedication to food from?
I've noticed that pineapple shortbread is sort of a ubiquitous Taiwan gift: it's what people bestow upon us while we're there, what we bring back to give to other people, and what other people coming back from Taiwan give to us. Consequently, I've come to view pineapple shortbreads as standard pastry, but these—a gift from my cousin as a thank-you for a pair of earrings I had made her—were excellent. The fresh, buttery crust just barely encased the soft, sweet, fruity pineapple jam.
These look huge here but they're not (they're about the size of baby carrots). I don't really know what to call these snacks, but they are essentially small, crisp logs of dough that have been fried and glazed with sugar. The fry oil might have been lard; they were a bit heavy. I was satisfied after just a few.
There were little squidgy, salty bits of ham fat in these pastries, which played nicely against the sugared-melon filling and the layer of toasted sesame seeds coating the underside. (This might seem like an odd combination, but it's actually pretty classic.) The box says each is about 200 calories, but I feel this must be a lie. A dirty, dirty lie engineered to allow me to eat more ham-fat-and-melon pastries.
Now, if only it were possible to bring back some of the goodies from the night markets in Taiwan!