I ate SO MUCH TARO during my year in Richmond, but before those 365 days started, I hadn’t even heard of it. Or maybe I had? I don’t know. It’s impossible to remember back to my pre-taro days.

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I do remember that one of the first things I realized about taro is that, like other sweet natural foods, it has plenty of fake counterparts. Just like fake fruit flavours, artificial taro can simply be described as “sweet and brightly coloured,” if not necessarily distinct. The majority of taro-flavoured bubble teas are more purple than the My Little Pony Unicorn I had as a child, and let me tell you – that thing was PUR-PLE.

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The first time I saw real taro, a pile of the roots stacked precariously in a market stall, I was fascinated to discover its flesh was only faintly purple, coloured by thousands of fine, thread-like fibres.

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I was even more amazed when I began to see just how many ways it can be prepared. I ate it pureed, fried, steamed, boiled, stuffed with things, stuffed into other things, and so on.

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Sometimes it was prepared with sugar, sometimes with salt, but either way, I couldn’t believe how this tuber had managed to remain in my culinary blind spot. Taro’s texture varies depending on its preparation, but generally speaking, it’s like a dense potato, with a starchy, slightly sweet flavour.

In case you’re in need of a taro education yourself, here are a few facts about Colocasia esculenta that do not involve My Little Ponies:

-Due to the presence of calcium oxalate just below the skin, it should not be eaten raw. So #1 rule – always cook taro!

-Its heart-shaped leaves can be eaten as a vegetable, and are good sources of vitamins A and C

-Taro’s flesh is full of dietary fibre, and therefore more nutritional to consume than potatoes. Sorry, potatoes.

-There are a number of varieties, ranging in size, flavour, and typical methods of preparation

-To grow, taro prefers warm climates, and requires plenty of water

Alright, now that we’re all caught up on our taro facts, here are a few of my favourite taro-based dishes from around Richmond. Anybody want to go on a taro crawl…..?

Taro dumplings from Fisherman’s Terrace (worth it for the web of deep-fry around them alone)

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Fresh taro bubble tea from Leisure Tea (they also offer the powdered version, if people prefer it!)  I have no picture of this delectable drink, unfortunately, but check out how relaxing Leisure Tea looks!

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Crystalized sugar taro dessert from Cheung’s Chiu Chow Restaurant

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Fresh taro bun from Kam Do Bakery

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Coconut and taro leaf stew from Cucina Manila

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What are your favourite ways to eat taro?