Maqaw is a traditional spice used by the Taiwanese indigenous people and gives off a complex layered fragrance that brings to mind ginger, lemon, and lemongrass, while also having a slightly spicy peppery taste. As such, it is used by chefs and bakers around the world. It is paired with crunchy nuts roasted at low-temperatures, and no matter whether it is used as a salad dressing, a dipping sauce for bread, or a sauce for rice or noodles, it will add layers of flavour to the food. It is an essential all-purpose sauce for the kitchen.
The word ‘maqaw’ came from the Atayal language and means ‘bursting with vitality’. Maqaw, which comes from the tribes, is obtained through a process of farmers’ hand-picking wild fruits in the summer, sun-drying them, and then preserving them for use. In addition to using Maqaw for cooking and seasoning, the indigenous people would also drink Maqaw water to seek the protection of their ancestral spirits when they had disputes with others. In the early days, the mountainous regions lacked accessible transport and on the rare occasion when one would travel on foot to visit family and friends who lived far away, they would prepare a gift of Maqaw for each other. The indigenous people regarded the herb as the black pearls of the forested mountains.