Braving the chill and rain, shoppers crowded Taipei’s Dihua Street (迪化街) as the annual Lunar New Year’s markets opened yesterday.
“Hot ginger tea, taste it for free,” a salesperson called to the crowds of passersby, as others sampled wares at stands and shops full of colorful candy, dried goods and ingredients for New Year dishes.
Bamboo charcoal peanuts and green tea peanuts, in large heaps, were some of the slightly more exotically flavored snacks on offer, next to others wrapped in golden foil to symbolize a prosperous New Year.
The Lunar New Year starts on Jan. 23 this year.
The Taipei City Government said the Lunar New Year Festival markets have been expanded from the six major traditional areas, such as Ningxia, Binjiang and Huayin, to more than 20 shopping areas this year, and the range of New Year gift products has been broadened by adding areas like the coffee association and Ba-de computer products district.
Furniture stores along Nanchang Road have also been included, under the motto “getting rid of the old and making way for the new” at home for the Lunar New Year.
According to the Taipei City Commerce Office, the “New Year shopping price index” for this year is up 4 percent on last year.
Office director Liu Chia-chun (劉佳鈞) said the prices for Lunar New Year consumer items have been stable overall, and 20 market areas, including Dihua Street, have provided special discounts for the holiday season.
The office conducted a survey on the price of 15 types of common New Year food items, such as dried mushrooms, dried day lily, dried scallops and pork jerky.
Calculating the price index at 104 this year (a 4 percent rise), using last year’s prices as a base, the office said that among the items it surveyed, the price of a brand of shellfish from Mexico increased the most at 25 percent, and the price of dried scallops from Japan’s Hokkaido also showed a large increase.
However, the prices of garlic, dried day lily and dried squid, ingredients often used in Lunar New Year dishes, dropped compared with last year’s, the office said, adding that the price of other snacks often eaten during the holidays, such as peanuts and melon seeds, had remained steady.
Dihua Marketplace Development Association chairperson Wu Jung-ho (吳榮河) said dried goods should be chosen carefully according to their color, appearance and smell.
“For example, good quality Taiwanese black fungus should look black and moist on one side and gray on the other side, the fungus should be slightly spread out, be easily crushed by hand and have no peculiar smell,” he said.
The Dihua Street market will be open for 15 days, from 10am to 11pm daily. For more information, visit the Taipei City Government’s Lunar New Year Festival Web site.