Tag Archives: Taiwan

Because who doesn’t like to see adorable Taiwanese children randomly on Tuesday?

Here is a child size chair in a Taiwanese classroom. But where are the children?

D’oh! That’s not a Taiwanese child, that’s ME!

Is that a Taiwanese child? Nope, that’s Teacher Maddie!!! (known to me and you as cousin Maddie)

Ah, finally, the children! Right?

Yep, that is Teacher Maddie’s classroom in Taipei. She and this class hosted me for a day when I visited in May 2011. The class was gracious, hilarious and rambunctious! I was exhausted after the two and a half hour session!

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Zelda and Taroko Gorge

As the work day drew to a close today, my colleague-as-boss was berating those of us in the office to go out and enjoy the holiday. He yelled, “Take your 59 minutes!”

To those in civilian government service, this means you get to work one minute and get paid for one hour. Hence, if your work day typically ends at 4:00pm, you can leave at 3:01pm on days when “59 minutes” is granted.

Okay, okay, I can hear the complainers already – “Who gets to leave work at 4pm?!!”

“Why are my tax dollars being used this way?!!”

Let’s focus on the positive here, the government recognizes that its employees are human and will respond to recognition and reward. I hope your private employer provides the same and if not, I hope you demand it.

In any case, as I started to ponder the value of celebrating U.S. Independence Day abroad, my mind wandered to The Legend of Zelda, naturally.

Did you know that the original game was named in honor of Zelda Fitzgerald?! I didn’t know that until I looked it up tonight. How exciting, a United States link to one of the only video games I am still willing to play as an adult (sports games on the Wii don’t count, that’s exercise , duh).

I started thinking about The Legend of Zelda a couple of months ago when I was touring Taiwan with my cousin Maddie. We visited a national park called Taroko Gorge and I felt transported both spiritually and experientially; the sheer natural beauty was overwhelming and yet I felt like I was walking through the landscape of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. This post reminds me that I have kept my Taroko experience largely to myself…it was so special I’m not quite sure how to talk about it yet.

Since that time I have been contemplating ordering the game for our Wii, and with today’s U.S. reference discovery, the purchase is in the bag. During my rigorous research for this post, I came across proof positive that another Zelda player recognized the same scenery at Taroko Gorge. I leave you with his creative representations…

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Taiwan Popcorn

Today’s post is a random collection of oddball Taiwan experiences and photos. Topics and oddities pop up out of unexpected directions, and the content is light and airy – just like popping some delizioso popcorn-o!

(Sadly, adding an “o” to the end of every word is NOT the best way to communicate with Italians when you arrive in Italy. But, this post is about Taiwan, so let’s get to it.)

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POP!
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My gracious cousin & Taiwan host Maddie suffered a fall down the stairs to her apartment recently.


This may be a sign you’re not ready to head down a set of stairs.

Luckily, she has cheery decorations on her apartment door to cheer her up.

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POP!
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My very own hammer pants.

I considered linking to MC Hammer, and the hammer pants of my cat Maki, but I figured you should already know about both of those and if not…GOOGLE!

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POP!
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Taiwan Beer sign. Circa 1980.

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POP!
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This is Taiwan.

This is Maddie in Taiwan (Hualien, to be specific).

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POP!
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Taiwan cuteness effect strikes again!

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POP!
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Rocking the ill-fitting helmet while Maddie mo-peds me around Lyudao, Green Island.

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POP!
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Masks! Worn for self-protection when you are feeling vulnerable to illness, as well as in courtesy respect of others when you are sick.

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POP!
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It’s never a good idea to end a post with sex talk or sex toys. Yet, here I am sharing my incredibly uncomfortable moment with you.

All I can say is this: At LEAST Taiwan’s cuteness effect mitigated the nasty images that are often found on the items in the photos above. The prices are also not bad, less than $5 USD.

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POP!
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Well, just when you think, “That’s gotta be it!”

Just when you are sure I could not have anything more to share about Taiwan…well, that’s just when you’d be wrong.

There is still the Taroko Gorge story, a continuation of food discussions, and follow-up on Maddie’s tumble down the stairs.

If I’ve asked you once, I’ve asked you a thousand times – trust me that Taiwan is worth it, and start planning your vacation to Taiwan already!

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Mmmmmm…Guava!

Happy Hump Day Cinquecento Readers.

If you’ve never tried fresh guava, why not make today the day? Call around to your local grocers and see if your store carries guava. If not, or if you prefer to buy local, then you might as well resign yourself to planning your next vacation in Taiwan.

Taiwan is an amazing place. I tell you why here, here, here, here, there, there, there, and there.

Today I’m telling you that Taiwan’s guava is scrumptious!

This prepared guava was picked up at the local 7-11 store, and served with a small packet of cinnamon sugar. I skipped the topping and went right for the unadulterated guava goodness.

The texture is very much like a perfectly ripe apple, yet not quite so fibrous. Er, perhaps guava is more fibrous, or there is more water held in the fruit’s fiber structure. For guava is crisp and crunchy but not as dense as an apple.

The flavor is mild with a undeniable hint of tartness. Although the water filling the large guava fibers quench your thirst, guava is not overly juicy as you eat it. And, eat it you should. Delicious!

Guava? What is it good for? Lots and lots of jelly. Uh.

(Song to the tune of:
)

Guava! Huh.
What is it good for?
Lots and lots of Jelly.
Listen to me…

*For a great exposure to the cuteness that affects all things Taiwanese, please scroll back up and click on the 7-11 link. No thing is immune to the Taiwan cuteness effect.

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Mr. Cheeseburger Face Man

Or is it “Mr. Cheeseburger Head Man”???

Cheeseburger FACE?

or

Cheeseburger HEAD?

That is the question.

No matter your answer, if you see this symbol whilst traipsing about Taiwan, you can feel secure that should you stop by for breakfast, brunch or lunch, you will enjoy traditional Taiwanese food, freshly prepared, served in a Western style format familiar to you, at low cost.

Here is another picture with poor lighting. Practice glancing at this quickly before you leave for Taiwan, that way you’ll always be able to spot Mr. Cheeseburger Head Man (JSP) as you are walking down the average Taiwanese street. Streets are filled with a lot of other neato things to look at, plus traffic, scooters, and people, so you might be distracted. And, let’s face it, you don’t want to be so distracted you miss Mr. Cheeseburger Face Man.

If you insist that it is Mr. Cheeseburger Face Man, then you are probably adventurous enough to try this.

I saw these jiggly white patties getting crispy on a griddle in Hualien and just had to try them. Maddie and I mistakenly thought it was some variety of tofu, so Maddie asked for tofu. The two women working the breakfast shop in Hualien looked at us with very confused faces. Maddie was speaking in Chinese, so we thought maybe she hadn’t gotten the tones quite right (each vowel sound has four or five tones that completely change the way the word is understood). Maddie then showed them the kanji characters from her handy phrasebook, and the confused faces stayed right in place. Then Maddie and I were confused! Instead of using words, Maddie walked over and pointed at the cake on the griddle and the cook added it to my breakfast sandwich.

This version was at Mr. Cheeseburger Head Man in Taipei, a hop, skip and a jump from Maddie’s apartment. The mysterious cake is made of turnips or white radishes and it is delicious.


Why yes, that IS a plastic sheath covering a plastic plate.

The crispy edge from sitting on the griddle gives texture points and flavor points to the otherwise flat flavor of the cake. The oil on the griddle probably helps a lot. The flatness of the flavor was hopefully due to the high ratio of turnip to “other” ingredients in the cake. I do not know what those other ingredients might be, but fillers are rarely good for you. The texture of the cake itself was a gelatinous cake. It was not so gelatinous to be Jello-like, and not so gooey as to be cupcake batter, somewhere perfectly in the middle. It got a little boring at the end of the serving pictured above, but when it was served in the middle of a hamburger bun with fillings, an egg and homemade tomato-vinegar sauce, as pictured below, it was delightful!

Listen to Mr. Cheeseburger Head Man and “Just Start a Powerful Day!”

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European Style Bakeries in Taiwan

Ciao tutti!

It is Thursday – a day to celebrate your life, your community and all the joys of living!

Let’s start talking Taiwan again. I’m nearly done with the photographic journey of my visit to this mountainous Asian isle. Below are pictures from Mr. Beard Bakery – a European style bakery located near my cousin Maddie’s first residence in Taipei. While I was somewhat familiar with Chinese style breads and pastries from various visits to various Chinatowns in the U.S., I did not expect to find European style breads in Taiwan.

Heck, I can’t find many of what I would call “European style” breads in Sicily! There is not a multigrain to be found, here. Semolina? Sure! Pecan flaxseed? Not so much. Besides my amazing family, darling colleagues, and the Olympic Mountains, Tom Douglas*’s pecan flaxseed bread from the Dahlia Bakery is probably the thing I miss most about Seattle.

Whereas Sicilian breads are lacking in grain diversity and flavor variety, Taiwanese bread choices are flush in both. Mr. Beard Bakery had a wide variety of European style breads, a dizzying array of grains, loaf shapes and flavors, as well as hybrid Euro-Asian offerings.

The chocolate chocolate bread was divine (second photo down in the link), a chewy crust with a cupcake-like inner soft core, the bread was a chocolate rush without being too sweet to eat another bite. And another bite. I ate half the loaf immediately. Did I mention these bites were punctuated by chocolate chips hidden in the dough? Yes. Those chocolate chips alternately stayed firm and melted just enough to create a rich chocolate vein. It was spectacular!

Here is Maddie, selecting a loaf of chocolate chocolate bread.

I also tried a sort of sourdough loaf with red bean paste filling, an example of the Euro-Asian hybrid. Red bean paste dessert wontons were one of my favorite desserts ever, thank you Muramoto! They led me to sample other red bean paste delicacies in a variety of settings and styles, with almost uniform results of enjoyment. Mr. Beard Bakery did not disappoint me, either.

The buns wrapped in plastic are other Euro-Asian hybrids, mimicking the Chinese style of stuffing creative fillings into bread. Since my first experience of this was a pork bun, I have called them “pork buns” ever since, no matter what the filling is.

Many cultures came up with the basic idea of a pork bun, which provided an edible carrying case for a high-protein filling. The carrying case is often a carb (bread, rice, etc.) that holds seasoned meats or vegetables. These portable meals were vital to manual laborers who worked far from home and could not return home for lunch, and did not have a snack shop nearby. The arancino is the pork bun of Sicily.

As you can see from the Mr. Beard Bakery photos, it was a magical place full of delectable baked goods. Per usual in Taiwan, the staff were also impressively friendly and gracious. While Mr. Beard Bakery is a unique bakery, the European style bakeries were everywhere in Taiwan. Yet another reason to stop what you’re doing right now and start planning your vacation to Taiwan.

*Tom Douglas recently won the James Beard 2012 Outstanding Restaurateur award! He runs a great group of restaurants in the Seattle metropolitan area, employing many wonderful people!

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Taiwanese Junk Food

I love junk food.

I really do. I think it says a lot about contemporary culture (marketing), food culture (types of common foods they turn into junk foods), and food policy (which highly subsidized agricultural product is included in all junk food; hint, in the U.S. it is corn!). It is also fun to see the magnificent ways food scientists have dreamed up for combining those cultural ingredients with fat, sugar and salt. If you haven’t noticed, those are the key aspects of most junk foods.

As much as I love junk food, I have to recognize that I am fairly good at moderation – or at simply subbing out an entire meal for junk food. The unspoken truth is that this inevitably leads to a junk food hangover. It is similar to an alcohol hangover, but less discussed. Luckily, I never hit upon the junk food hangover while in Taiwan. Junk food was a fun diversion, but I was busy eating all sorts of Taiwanese real food, too.

Nevertheless, I found a few favorites that I am sorry to leave in Taiwan, including seaweed chips and taro chips – I LOVE TARO!!!!!

It really is a small world after all. I recognized several multinational conglomerate brands.

And then, there were new brands with shapes and flavors that were a complete mystery to me.

All right, beer is not *exactly* junk food, but then again, it sort of is. Especially when it is Taiwan beer. This is Taiwan’s national beer and along with a few other similar variations, it costs significantly less than imported beers. “Imported beers” sounds so fancy and good, but unfortunately it usually means Heineken. Nothing against Heineken, just that it tastes like ass and I’d never pay extra to drink it. I love the Dutch, though!

A random sweet potato stand in an oceanside park we visited just outside Taroko Gorge National Park.

Sweet potatoes are a much beloved Taiwanese food. I approve!

Another non-traditional “junk” food – hard boiled eggs. I saw so many Taiwanese chowing down on hard boiled eggs that I know it is a very popular food. This photo was taken inside a 7-11 (ubiquitous in Taiwan). These are “tea eggs” – eggs hard boiled in black tea.

Right next to the tea eggs was a hot case that would hold hot dogs and the ilk in the U.S.; in Taiwan, there are various wontons and other rice paper wrapped goodies.

A whole new way to eat ‘steak and potatoes’! The texture of these chips was akin to that of any typical potato chip. The flavors were what stood out to me. The steak was unpleasant to me, but might please a big meat-eater. The sweet potato chips were good, but not as good as sweet potato fries, or other more-fresh versions of fried sweet potatoes.

The last five pictures document my favorite chips – Seaweed Strip Chips and Taro Chips.

The bag was adorable, too! The seaweed strip chips were light and airy, but somehow still crunchy. The texture was a bit like chewing on that green stuff in produce sections of the grocery store, except the seaweed chip melted as my saliva interacted with it. Crunch, crunch, melty crunch, swallow.

“Rich taste with nutrients from the sea plants!” Hah! I guess it is good for me after all…

Taro is such a diverse root vegetable. It is mild, yet its flavor is powerful enough to be the solo host of soups (taro soup is delicious if you haven’t tried it!). It adds depth and dimension to any stir-fry. Taro is also delightful in bubble milk tea, as the tea base. These types of bubble teas are almost in the ‘milkshake’ region, but you would never guess it was a root vegetable flavoring your tea. It also has a lavender hue, and lavender delights my senses.

The chips were durable, like homemade chips can sometimes be. Yet, they were sliced thinly enough to deliver a crisp crunch that surprised me. This version’s chips were liberally salted, which was a home run in my book. The biggest drawback is the fact that the taro root on the chip bag looks a lot like a big ring bologna in dark skin. Luckily, the flavor and color of the actual product were enough to make me forget all about ring bologna.

Junk Foods Not Pictured:
*Hi-Chew (yummy, yum, yum, yum – like Kool-Aid-flavored Starburst, but a little more like chewing on a balloon, (in a good way, Steph S.))

*Pea Crackers – a little dry, definite underlying pea flavor (think corn chips, but pea-like), crunch was excellent!

*Shrimp flavored chips.

*Bubble Tea. I actually feel shocked that I didn’t take one single picture of the best contribution Asia has made to my beverage options. You can get bubble tea in many a U.S. Chinatown, and it is spreading. Madison, Wisconsin even has more than one option for bubble tea. Bubble tea is cold tea (of a dizzying variety of flavors) served with tapioca “bubbles”. The concoction is sealed with a fancy machine, and then you are given a straw that is sharp enough to pierce the plastic seal (think Capri Sun), and wide enough to accommodate a tapioca bubble. Tapioca is traditional, though many bubble tea shops have other jellied products if you prefer something else.

*Milk Tea. Ditto the bubble tea reference above, and you can get the tapioca balls, too; this tea is about 50% milk and delicious.

There are so many other food experiences to share, night markets, European style bakeries, and more. Until next time…ciao!

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