Magao: Traditional spice, new application
Pineapple cakes have become a popular souvenir of Taiwan. They evolved from a traditional Chinese large, round pastry with pineapple filling, given by the bride-to-be to her relatives and friends to announce her engagement. Today, pineapple cakes refer to pastries that are small squares of flaky, shortbread-like crust with pineapple filling.
Recently, these pastries have undergone further modification with experimentation resulting in different types of fillings and shapes. There is now even an indigenous version on offer. The Taiwan Aborigines Education Development Association is working to promote indigenous culture, including cuisine. Magao, also known as mountain peppercorn, is a traditional spice used by several of Taiwan's indigenous tribes. It has a slightly black pepper taste, similar to ginger, and a hint of lemony aroma, as well as is a natural preservative. It grows wild at high elevations and is cultivated by indigenous communities in mountainous areas. This traditional spice has been used to create Magao pineapple cakes.
The filling is made using fresh pineapple grown in the Ruisui area of Hualien County. The Magao is from the Fushan Community, an indigenous Atayal community, in Wulai District of New Taipei City. Instead of square shapes, these pineapple cakes are formed into rhombuses. The rhombus shape is part of a traditional motif of the Atayal tribe, considered to resemble the eyes of the ancestors and thus to be protective. The Magao gives these pineapple cakes a unique flavor. One kernel of Magao is placed on top to represent the tears of a mother who is both sad and happy to see her daughter married.
This association runs an indigenous coffee shop, providing indigenous cuisine dishes for catered events, DIY activities with advance reservation and a diversity of indigenous-made handicrafts and desserts.
Taiwan Aborigines Education Development Association
1F, 13, Lane 95, Bojue Street, Xizhi District, New Taipei City