Home made Marzipan

One of the things I’ve found that I sometimes need for baking and that is really expensive to buy in Taiwan is Marzipan. However, it’s quite easy to make by yourself. One great thing here is that it’s dead easy to get hold of powdered almond, as it’s used as an ingredient for some kind of drink. You should be able to find it in most supermarkets, although I know for sure you can get the pure powder in Carrefour. Sometimes the almond powder is mixed with sugar and thickener etc. at least if you’re going for the pre-mix that some shops sells. This can still be used, but isn’t as good, although there’s no need to add any sugar if you get this stuff. Costco also sells whole almonds that you you can blanch, peel and grate (work ok in a blender if you do small amounts at a time), but this is a bit of a hassle, although in my opinion these almonds are a bit nicer than the local kind.

So what you need is almond powder, powder sugar and an egg white. You need equal amounts of almond powder and powder sugar which is placed in a mixing bowl along with an egg white. One egg white is good for about 100-150g of each of almond and powder sugar, but you might have to add more of the dry stuff if it’s too soft. You’ve now made a batch of almond paste, which can be used for baking and making various sweets, as it’s not overly sweet in itself, but it’s not really suitable for covering cakes with, as it’s very soft and doesn’t stick together well enough to be molded in the same way as Marzipan.

To make this into Marzipan you need to add a little bit more powder sugar, in total it should be about 1/3 to 1/4 of almond powder and the rest sugar. This makes the almond paste much more moldable. This isn’t “real” Marzipan, but it’s as close as you’ll get making it at home. The real deal is made with almond oil instead of the egg white and usually apricot seeds, but I doubt that is easily available in shops here. Sorry I’m not being to specific with regards to the measurements, but it’s a little bit of a trial and error process. To get more almond flavour you can buy almond extract which is available in some supermarkets here. You’ll want to add it little by little so that the flavour doesn’t get too powerful. You can also colour this with food colouring if you intend to use it for other things.

Supermarkets in Taiwan

If you’re moving to or have just moved to Taiwan and more specifically in this case, Taipei (as it’s the part of the country I’m familiar with), it can be hard to find certain things, as you’ll most likely not recognize any of the supermarkets here from back home, unless you’ve got Carrefour or Geant (now A-Mart) in your country. Even so, don’t expect to find the same stock of things as you would in a western country.

People here eat quite different things from Westerners and even other Asians and as such, the supermarkets stock mostly what the locals eat. I’ve compiled a list of all the local supermarkets below and I have written a short description about the ones I’ve been to. If anyone has additional information, please feel free to email me.

Carrefour is the biggest supermarket in Taiwan and as a French company, they stock some imported items, although depending on where you live these things might sell our more quickly than in some other areas and the selection also vary. They have specials at times when they import a selected amount of items from specific countries and they’ve had big drives for US food and Thai food in the past. They stock things like yogurt (although quite expensive and usually not that good), French cheese (again quite expensive), cereal (also quite expensive), a wide range of tinned and canned food and of course French wine. Some Carrefours are open 24h, seven days a week.

A-mart (Previously known as Geant) is another French supermarket chain, but generally it’s a lot more localized than Carrefour and you won’t find the same amount of imported items here. That said, A-Mart is generally a bit cheaper than Carrefour, but there aren’t as many around. A-Mart tend to stock slightly different brands and items than Carrefour and it’s a good place to have a look in if you can’t find what you’re looking for in Carrefour. Again, the various shops seems to carry different items, so just because one Geant has it doesn’t mean you’ll find it on another one. The larger the store, the bigger chance that they’ll have something a bit more special it seems.

Wellcome is a Chinese supermarket chain and it’s not one I frequent very often. They carry more local things, but have some imported good as well, mainly from the US. As with the larger supermarkets, all branches doesn’t carry the same items, so it’s worth looking around. They do at times carry some hard to find items and are usually cheaper than Jason’s and C!ty’super on those items. Their shops are usually smaller than Carrefour and Geant, but the advantage is that all of the shops are open 24h, seven days a week.

RT Mart is a local supermarket that has a partnership with French Auchan and as such they carry a fair share of imported goods. They got a lot of own brand import items such as pasta, sauces, etc and it’s all imported from Europe and has pretty good quality. They also carry a small range of organic items. From time to time they also have a lot special time limited imports from both Asia, Europe and the US. RT-Mart also have a large selection of imported beer and alcohol. As with most supermarkets here, the available items will vary from shop to shop, but the one in Xindian is the only one I normally frequent and from time to time they have a lot of good imported goods, but it’s usually not things that are in stock for long, so if you see something you want, get it there and then, as it might not be available next week.

PX Mart is a budget supermarket, although there has popped up a lot more of these recently as they took over a government-run chain of supermarkets. They mostly sell local stuff, but tend to have a few imported items as well. Generally quite a cheap place, but most stores don’t sell things like fruit, vegetables and unprocessed meat.

Matsusei was a Japanese supermarket that was taken over by PX Mart.

Sinon is a supermarket I’m not familiar with, as it’s generally located in central Taiwan. Thanks to joesax over at Forumosa I have some more information about this shop. Here’s what he had to say:

You mentioned that you’d like more information about Sinon (Xinnong). It was my local supermarket in Taichung. Large branches have quite a few imported goods from south-east Asia and also from Europe. They have some stuff that people posting in the “Where Can I find” forum found it difficult to get in Taipei. However, I didn’t mention it at the time because I wanted to preserve the illusion that people down south eat zongzi and betelnut all day.
Some people, such as my old boss, think that because the company was originally an agrochemical manufacturer, they know not to let their suppliers put too much pesticide on their vegies! I’m not sure about that.
If you go there when the Sinon Bulls baseball team have just won a game, you get an automatic discount.

Taisuco, the Taiwan Sugar company, also has a few large stores in southern Taiwan and I know of one small location in Taipei, near ShiDa Rd. I don’t have any experience with these stores. They’re meant to offer discount coupon books (similar to Costco) a couple of times a year ranging from NT$1,000-3,000 in terms of discount, with with each coupon being worth about NT$100. (Thanks to TainanCowboy from Forumosa for the update). There’s one located near Taipower station in Taiwan, but it looks like nothing more than small Wellcome.

KUMA Your’s Mart appears to be a smaller chain of local supermarkets similar to PX Mart, although admittedly I’ve never been to one.

Discount Mart is a new-ish chain that at least has started to open up in Xindian. I’ve seen at least one location where they’ve replaced a Wellcome. It’s a cheaper supermarket and they don’t seem to stock anything unique as such. I haven’t been able to locate a website so far.

For those with a bit more money to spend, there are also some upmarket supermarkets here, although there’s only a few of them, so you’ll have to do some traveling to get there in most cases.

First up we have Jasons, the one I’ve been to is located in the bottom of the 101. They used to have a wide selection of imported food from all-over the world, but the store in the 101 building has about halved in size due to the fact that Din Tai Fong moved in next door and took over a lot of their space, so it’s not as good of a supermarket as it was a few years ago. They’re anything but cheap, although if you’re looking for something special, this might be a good place to find it. They’re big on organic and healthy stuff as well and if you have special dietary needs, then this might be the place for you. Don’t bother with the deli counter for sliced meats, as the staff isn’t very knowledgeable and the stock is also quite limited. Sometimes you can score a bargain or two here, especially when they have a promotion or sale going. Recently Jasons has been expanding with multiple new, smaller stores around the island. The company has also taken over a few Wellcome stores in Taipei and possibly elsewhere.

Next up we have C!ty’super which again offers a wide range of imported goods, although more so from Japan and the UK it seems than from other parts of the world. They’ve improved over the past couple of years and they have the best supermarket delicatessen which among other things sells locally made ham (as in real ham, not processed square stuff) that is much cheaper than the imported options. They do of course also have a wide range of imported deli-meats and cheeses as well, but the selection can vary immensely depending on when they got new stock in. This is also a good place for various other odds and ends such as fancy olive oil, tinned/canned goods and some harder to find baking ingredients. If you didn’t find what you were looking for in Jason’s, this might be the next best place to find it. This is also the only place I’ve found that sells decent cheese slicers and graters in Taiwan.

Breeze super is as far as I know, a one off supermarket located in the basement of the Breeze Center located on FuXing South Road. This is a Japanese supermarket, but they import a lot of stuff from all-over the world, although most of what they offer is available in Jason’s or C!ty’super. I don’t have a link to a website for them and if you know of one, please get in touch.

Shin Kong Mitsukoshi also has its own supermarkets, although not every store has one. They mainly stock Japanese food, but as with most of these upmarket stores, you can also find some imported items. Recently it seems like their selection of imported items from outside of Asia has shrunk somewhat, possibly due to poor sales.

A more recent addition (it opened in late 2012) is mangiamo good meats/滿甲熟肉舖 which is a small deli that uses locally produced ingredients to create mostly Italian and French style deli products. They do also make their own bacon as well as a wide range of sausages and Spanish style chorizo (both fresh and cured). If you’re unsure about their products, they offer a couple of different sample platters that you can order and try on location. If you’re after something a little bit special, this is the place to visit.

Then there’s of course Costco which is the place to go to if you have a big fridge and freezer to fill. I’d suggest getting a Costco membership, it’s currently NT$1,500 for a year and you’ll save it on your first couple of trips there. It’s the cheapest place for cereal (bulk size), cheese, meat and loads of other stuff. More recently they’ve also started to carry things like Greek yoghurt and feta cheese and they also have smaller packs of cheese that you might have a chance to finish before it goes moldy. You can also get other useful things here like bread makers, small ovens (ovens aren’t a common household item in Taiwan, but more on that another time) and just about anything else you could need for your kitchen. Costco has recently (in 2014) updated their website and is posting all their special offers on the website now, in both Chinese and English.

IKEA also stocks a certain amount of imported Swedish food, although the selection isn’t huge, it is a great place for us Scandinavians to go when we have a craving for something from home. That said, more and more stuff from IKEA is no longer made in Sweden, but rather by whatever partner IKEA wants to work with and branded IKEA. The store near the Taipei arena (inside Asiaworld) usually sells out really quick, so if you’re trying to get hold of something special, you might want to try to get to one of the other stores. They normally stock things like tunnbröd, polarkakor (or at least an IKEA version of it), knäckebröd, kaviar (not seen that in years), jam, frozen meatballs and a selection of Swedish sweets and crisps. They also have a selection of Swedish cider, beer and alcohol. This is also the only place to get Julmust when it’s that time of the year.

HOLA is a local version of IKEA to some fashion and they also sell a few food items, mostly imported things and you can find some bargains there at times. They have various size stores and the larger ones usually have a bigger selection of grocery items.

Another place that I have yet to visit that sells food in bulk is PnP food which seems to stock a lot of specialty items. They normally sell to the hotel and catering business, but they will sell to walk-ins at their warehouse address which can be found on their website. They will also order in special things for you, but be prepared to order large amounts at a time.

Other places to do your shopping in are convenience stores, there are more 7-11’s in Taiwan than in the whole of the USA and no less than 9,100 of them spread across the country with more opening all the time. Then there’s of course FamilyMart, Hi-Life, Nikomart, OK Mart, and Everyday. You can do a lot of other useful things in convenience stores in Taiwan too, like pay your bills, parking fees and collect C.O.D. packages etc. Most of the convenience stores also have an ATM. To find your local shop, either look out the window or head over to Google Maps where most of them tend to be listed these days.

It’s also worth visiting your local “wet market” which might have many of the items you’d want, especially fruit and vegetables which can be of much better quality and at lower prices than what you’d get in the supermarkets. Local stores can also stock various hard to find items and I recently found that a very local little vegetable and what not shop near where I live stock beetroot when it’s in season. The flower markets might also be good for fresh herbs, although you’d have to have space to put the plants where you live.

This post was last updated on the 24th of July 2016