Eating in Taiwan

I was about to start posting some of my Hong Kong and China pictures, but I realized I still have tons more for Taiwan. So here we go...

At first I was a little intrigued by all the different flavours of chips, so I tried these Grilled Basil Chicken Doritos. I still prefer the cool ranch chips from my childhood, but these were okay. I'm not a big chip person, so after I tried these the intrigue was gone and I didn't need to try any others (until I saw blueberry potato chips in China). Now on to the real food!

I have to say I wasn't really familiar with Taiwanese food growing up. What I mean is I grew up eating Chinese food and Taiwanese food, but to me it was just food. I wasn't aware that so many of my favorite dishes were Taiwanese until I started craving them in Shanghai and couldn't find them except at Taiwanese eateries. I love food. Good food. Taipei night markets are fabulous places to get your eat on. But the city is full of tiny noodle shops, dumpling shops, dessert shops....There're also TGI Friday's, Macaroni Grill and Swensen's if you miss the taste of America, but I did not.

Let's start with some classic Taiwanese food shall we?

Pork chop rice bowl with some pickled vegetables....mmm, I'm getting hungry.

Chopped stewed pork belly rice (滷肉飯) and some stir-fried greens

Wonton noodle soup isn't necessarily, but the green vegetables with the sauce is very Taiwanese style.

I don't know what this is called. I believe it's made with rice flour, steamed in a bowl and flipped over. In the middle is meat and mushrooms. It's delicious.

Yonghe Soy Milk (永和豆浆) This was not the best Yonghe dhou jiang breakfast, but it's the only one I have a picture of. Yummy....who wouldn't want potstickers for breakfast? My mum doesn't eat this stuff, but if I was up early enough on weekends I'd go out with my dad to get some of this tasty grub.

Grass jelly with adzuki beans and taro and yam balls from Meet Fresh. Meet Fresh is a Taiwanese dessert house franchise. They have shops everywhere in Taiwan which pleased me to bits. I went there nearly every week for tofu pudding in peanut soup or adzuki bean soup with sweet rice balls. I really missed this stuff when I was in Shanghai.

One of many visits to Meet Fresh. I love this place!

Tofu pudding in peanut soup

Cuttlefish soup (魷魚羹) and sliced bean curd with sauce.

Beef Noodle Soup (牛肉麵) Taiwan-style

Taipei has awesome bakeries and it seems like there are two on every block. I ate a different bun or cake from breakfast everyday until I got sick of them.

One of my favorites. It's a sweet bread baked in the shape of a nerf football. In the middle is some sweet crumbly buttery stuff and raisins. We like to call it bomb bread.

Another bakery

The rest of these are pretty common foods that aren't unique to Taiwan.

Necks and tongues. Don't worry, the rest of my pictures are far more appetizing.

Dumplings!! These are boiled. Also hot and sour soup.

Dumplings!! Little steamed ones (小籠饅) at dinner with relatives. I ate most of the dumplings.

Sweet potato vendor. I don't really like them, but I like the carts.

More dumplings! Potstickers at Ba Fang (八方), another franchise I love. I always got a bowl of hot and sour soup with my dumplings. YUM!

There's this tiny little dumpling cart at the night market near the hospital. My mom had read in a local paper that this dumpling cart was highly recommended, so we checked it out. I'd always seen a long line of people patiently waiting for cheap dumplings, but I had never tried it. While the dumplings are cooking, they wrap the next batch.


My sack of tasty tasty dumplings. Too bad I didn't know how delicious these were until my last weeks in Taipei. The filling is mostly cabbage, with some shreds of carrot, scallions, and a few tiny dried shrimp. and also probably a good deal of MSG. I know this because I made a point to try to recreate these when I returned to the US. Well, I did try to recreate these, and I failed. I wish I had a few of these right now. I'm so hungry. Mmmm....

Little hot pots (火鍋)

Some savory bread-like yummies

Unfortunately the popular way to make coffee here is the instant way. I got used to the 3-in-1 instant mix with coffee, creamer and sugar, but I can't really call that stuff real coffee. It took me a while to find coffee beans, but I finally found some affordable beans at Carrefour. Yay for French supermarket chains!

A steam bun shop. You'd be surprised at the all flavours

Getting my chocolate and brown sugar buns from the steamer.

This is a cafeteria. These great because I could help myself to seaweed, stir-fried mushrooms, and fried chicken (my usual cafeteria fare). And it comes with a soup. If you chose to eat there, you have to dump your leftovers into a slop bucket next to the rubbish bins so the city can collect the food waste.

There you go. Hope you're hungry now. I am!

My Daily Creature Habit

I was lamenting the realization that my confidence in my drawing skills has dwindled over the years. Especially when I remember how much I used to love to draw and paint as a kid.

In college I took a drawing class and LOVED it. So I took another drawing class which turned out to be not so great. The class was less about drawing and more about art and abstract ideas. I remember a boring class discussion about ordinary movement or motion verses extraordinary movement. I don't recall what our assignment was, but I do remember a class trip to the cinema to see The City of Lost Children because it had good examples of extraordinary motion. Huh? My school transcript tells me that I withdrew from the class (an extraordinary motion?), so we will never know how I would have done with the remainder of the class, probably not enough drawing for me to be satisfied. Somewhat related, I also signed up for a yoga class only to withdraw the next day when it was explained that we would have to write essays. What? I switched over to Tai Chi Chuan, where instead of writing essays we practiced Tai Chi. Me, satisfied.

When I was doing my crafting thing in Seattle, I made a brief half-hearted attempt at creating something every day. Well, turns out my craft of choice (sewing) is very time consuming and difficult to churn out completed pieces daily that you want to show the world. A few weeks ago I read this Design Something Every Day post on Smashing Magazine and decided this is the exercise I needed to get myself drawing again. I decided I'd draw a little bit every day, and it would be fun. I call it A Creature A Day. It's an assortment of characters, so far all digitally produced, but most of them have started out as pencil and paper sketches. It's a good way to warm up prior to doing "real work", and hopefully by the end of you the year the quality of my creatures will have improved. Come see my daily creatures!

Scenes from around the hospital

I spent a good deal of time at a several hospitals in Taipei, not as a patient, but as family of a patient. My mum had surgery to correct a heart defect a little more than a year ago, so I was there for the post-surgery recovery, follow-up appointments, and rehab therapy. I even got myself checked out while I was there since I couldn't (and still can't) afford to do it in the US. So, this issue I have with my heart skipping beats turns out to be a common heart valve defect that for the time being requires no treatment. Yay! I've noticed it's definitely exacerbated by stress and alcohol. Ah, well, alcohol I can control, but stress, that's hard to control especially in this economy. At least I saved myself a good deal of money by seeing doctor in Taiwan.

Looking down at my 24 hour heart monitor...each of the wires lead to electrodes stuck to my chest. It was not comfortable, not ideal for sleeping.

In Taiwan the burden is more on the family to provide day to day care. Nurses check on patients regularly, dispense medication, check blood pressure and that sort of stuff, but if you need to vomit or have trouble getting to the toilet, that's why you have family stay with you to help. If family is unable to stay, they can hire a caretaker to stay with the patient at the hospital, help them eat, help them bathe, etc. Since they're basically living at the hospital, carers usually wash their clothes in the bathroom. We shared a room with another patient and her carer. This caretaker will never know that I posted her underwear on the internet.

We also shared a room with another woman and her live-in carer, a young woman from Southeast Asia the family kind of adopted to take care of the woman who appeared to be in poor health. I'd noticed that the girl was of a different ethnicity, but called the patient "Ma" and spoke a different language when she was talking on the phone. When the family came to visit, they would call the girl "little sister". And then the family would leave to go home, while the girl stayed to care for the woman. My mum explained that sometimes families "adopt" girls, often from poorer Asian countries, into the family to care for someone disabled or in chronic poor health.

This it the pail for food scraps in the patient kitchen area. Taipei collects kitchen waste for compost or pig feed. Even at self-serve restaurants you'll find a bin next the the trash to collect leftover food waste.

this belongs to another patient. she'd been in the hospital for 3 weeks.

A chair folds out for sleeping

this was a great hospital. the doctors and nurses were fantastic. we'd been to a few, but this one was by far the best...and one of the more expensive, but still hell of a lot cheaper than any American hospital.

patient watching telly in the lobby. he probably has a four person shared room; crowded, but completely covered by the National Health Insurance, whereas the more private rooms are not.

small bakery shop in the lobby. at meal times the table next to it sells meal boxes for about US$2-3.

The hospital cafeteria was undergoing renovations, so patients were given meal boxes. this one looks like fried fish with rice and vegetables.

if a croissant mated with a cupcake...

the brand new rehab center

view from somewhere high

Taiwan Storyland

Since I had several months to spend in Taiwan, I had been looking for fun (and quirky) things to do in Taipei. One of those places was the Modern Toilet Restaurant, which was a toilet bowl of fun. Another place I really wanted to go to was Snow King (雪王) Ice Cream, where you can get ice cream in flavours you've never imagined, like beer, mustard, and various meat flavours. I don't know if those are tempting, but the guava and custard apple flavours sound scrumptious! Unfortunately I missed out on visiting Snow King due to several reasons; it was winter, no one wanted to go with me, and it's location was not convenient for me. The only time I was in the Ximen area where it's located was to visit the toilet restaurant, but I didn't learn of this little ice cream shop until later. Hopefully I will find myself in Taipei again to try that wasabi ice cream.

Across from the Taipei Main Railway Station is this little gem of a museum called Taiwan Storyland (台灣故事館). It's not so much a museum in the usual sense with exhibits behind windows. It's a recreation of life in Taiwan in the 1960s. I dragged my dad to see it with me because this was the time period of his youth in Taipei, which I know he's pretty nostalgic about. He almost didn't go in because the admission price is slightly high in Taiwan dollars, about US$6, but once we were inside I think he was pleasantly surprised. He'd point to an old wooden food cart and say, "When I was a boy, we used to buy snacks from a cart like this." It was nice to have that personal touch.

This entrance is at street level, but the museum is several levels down. It's arranged like a small village with store fronts, alleys and even fake trees. I wish I had some better photos, but it was quite dark inside.

dad looking at candy and snacks in one of the shops

I used to have a scooter just like this. It was awesome.


shaved ice shop

we snacked on some grass jelly and ayu jelly shaved ice

dental chair...yikes

home of a well-to-do family in 1960s Taiwan

dining area

If you're ever in Taipei, I'd highly recommend a visit to Taiwan Storyland, especially if you or any family members lived in Taiwan during the 60s. It's well worth the admission price, cheaper than going to the cinema.