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台湾游记, Dec. 6 – Dec. 16, 2009, Day 6, Tainan Part I March 22, 2010

Posted by hslu in Chinese Food, Food, Restaurants, Taiwan, Travel.
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台湾游记 Day 6, Tainan, Thursday, December 11, 2009

Today we’d have a chance to take 高鐵 for the first time to Tainan where I stayed four years for college after graduating from high school.

It was 43 years ago near the end of summer when my parents took me on a 慢車 ”man4 che1” from Taizhong to Tainan on the day of registration for all new students. 慢車 was a slow train which stopped at every station between two cities. The train ride must have taken more than four hours. 高鐵 was high speed train which would cut the time to 1/5  of what it took in the past.

I couldn’t wait to relive the experience on a train.

Before we moved to 北屯新村 when I was 12 or 13 years old, we seldom saw any train because we didn’t travel that much away from Taizhong. After we moved, we often played near the railroad track which was about 15 minutes from our house on foot. There was this narrow dirt road, about 10 – 15’ wide, meandering from the back of our village to the railroad track. From there it stretched to 大河 “da4 he2,” or big river, and into the mountains.

One of the fun things for the neighborhood kids was playing around the railroad tracks about 10 minutes’ walk from our village. The railroad was called 縱貫鐵路 “zong4 guan4 tie3 lu4” which started from the city at the northern end of Taiwan called 基隆“ji1 long2.” It then connected large cities on the west side of the island such as Taipei 台北 “tai2 bei3,” Taoyuan 桃園 :tao2 yuan2,” Xinzhu 新竹 “xin1 zhu2,” Taizhong 台中 “tai2 zhong1,” Jiayi 嘉義 “jia1 yi4,” Tainan 台南 “tai2 nan2,” Gaoxiong 高雄 “gao1 xiong2”” and Pingdong 屏東 “ping2 dong1.”  The reason it was called 縱貫鐵路 was because

  • 縱 “zong4” implies something that stretch from north to south or from top to bottom as opposite to 橫 “heng2” which mean something horizontal.
  • 貫 “guan4” means piercing through or passing through as in貫穿“guan4 chuan2.”
  • 鐵 is metal or iron and 鐵路 means railroad.

As a kid, train was something that’s exciting to wait for its arrival and amazing to see it passing through just a few feet away. There were two railroad tracks: We’d put our ear to the track and hear the train coming closer and closer toward us from far away. We’d put a penny on the track and wait for the train to come by. When the train finally came, the sound and the wind it generated made us stand back as it flew by us. We’d see steam coming out of the engine and the dark smoke flew away from the locomotive. We’d waved our hands to the engineer and passengers and hoping they’d wave back to us. After the train past by, we’d rush to the track and check the penny which usually got smashed to twice its original size. Sometimes, a slower train would stop on one track about half a mile north from the dirt road and wait for an express train to pass by.

After I graduated from high school, I moved to Tainan for college. Four years later, I joined the Army and served in a transportation division in Gaoxiong. Whenever I had a chance to go home, I’d usually take slow train to Taizhong because it was cheaper. The train stopped at every station and took forever to get to Taizhong. On the train, I got so used to hear the repetitive clatter when the box car I was in rolled from one track to the other, it became so calming that I ignored all other noises from fellow passengers and food vendors. On the way back to college, I sometime would buy a 便當 “bian4 dang1” for lunch or dinner because I had a few bucks in my pocket. Another reason was that the food in  便當 was something I very seldom eat at home and it looked very appetizing to me: a hard boiled egg cooked in meat sauce(鹵蛋 “lu3 dan4,”) a few pieces of pickled yellow radish (黃蘿蔔 “huang2 luo2 bo1”, Korean Takuwan,) a piece of deep-fried pork chop, some 酸菜 and soft rice soaked with meat sauce. The rice was softer than what we ate at home. The meat sauce was savory and slightly sweet. The pork chop was deep-fried to golden brown which paired well with 酸菜 and 黃蘿蔔.

We got to Taipei train station well before the 10:30 AM departing time and got our tickets to Tainan at 1,145 NTD each. We looked around the huge building in order to find a restaurant for breakfast. It appeared that there were some restaurants on the second floor but all gates to the second floor were closed. Furthermore, there was no one at the Information desk to provide any help. We were very disappointed that a busy train station with no breakfast services to its customers. Fortunately there was a newspaper stand which also carried 便當. We got one for 60 NTD but it was not very appetizing to me: greasy pork chops, a few pieces of over-cooked vegetables and some lukewarm rice. I had a few bites of rice and that was all I cared to eat.

Our 高鐵 train moved out of Taipei train station on time. It traveled underground for the most part of Taipei city then emerged to the surface near 板橋 “ban3 qiao2.” The train was clean, comfortable and nice but I didn’t like the PA announcement which broadcast in four languages: 國語 “guo2 yu3,” mandarin Chinese, 台灣話 “tai2 wan1 hua4,” Taiwanese, 英語 “ying1 yu3,” English and 客家話 “ke4 jia1 hua4,” kejia dialect. It suggested to me that Taiwan was a deeply divided country. I was afraid that it may be a matter of time that台灣話could replace 國語as the official language. Taiwanese people accounted for almost 85+% of the population on this island and 台灣話 was widely spoken outside of the capital city of Taipei. It was an ominous sign and I didn’t like it.

The train ride was fast, quiet and comfy. The scenery along the track was different because there were many high rise buildings now. The box car still rocked but not as rough. The repetitive clank was still the same but it came much faster. Things have definitely changed from what I remembered many years ago. Everywhere I went, I saw progress and prosperity. Yet there are signs of deep division in the society. The cultures divide still existed which could be the Achilles’ heel for this island of 21 million people.

When we arrived at Tainan, I was impressed by the bright and clean platform which was way better than the old, dark and dirty platform I knew before. We got our carry-on luggage and walked to the station and my professor friend was already there waiting for us.

He took us to the city and on the way there we saw many unfinished buildings near the train station. He said that the promised growth around the train station has never materialized. Many developers lost their investment and were forced to abandon the constructions. He said that the economy in Tainan has struggled for many years because a steady flow of capital was moved away from Taiwan in search of better returns in China. High labor costs and unfavorable government policies could not compete with China’s massive expansion. The money drain began almost two decades ago and it continued unabated to this date. In his own words, he said that Taiwan 完蛋了 “wan2 dan4 le1” which means “finished.”

He was very pessimistic about Taiwan’s future and didn’t like the previous government under the independent minded Democratic Progressive Party 民進黨 “min2 jin4 dang3.” He also didn’t like the corruption and mismanagement in 國民黨 “guo2 min2 dang3” to the point that he switched party several year ago. He joined  親民黨 (sprung out from 國民黨) and used his own money from professor’s salary to compete with local wealthy business men in national legislature elections several years ago. Of course, he and his puny election money didn’t have a chance competing with billions of personal wealth from local politicians. At least he said he tried and he had no regret that he failed.

The Tainan I knew 40 years ago was no longer there. On the way to city center, new streets, new buildings and new shops were every where. There were traffic jams at many traffic lights and the bicycle era was gone except inside the university. Tainan became much bigger and the rural area I knew back then was replaced with high rise buildings and department stores. Restaurants were everywhere and many of them I have never heard of.

Busy street to Anping Harbor.

My professor friend took us to a famous local restaurant called 周氏蝦卷 “zhou1 shi4 xia1 juan3” (Shrimp rolls from Chou’s) which I have never heard of when I was a student here. The light industrial area with a second class dance hall and run down building on the way to 安平港 “an1 ping2 gang3,”  or An1ping2 Harbor was replaced with wide streets, cars, taxis, fashion stores, restaurants, apartment buildings and coffee shops. The area was quite familiar to me because I have frequented the dance hall several times because it was cheaper than the one in a 10-story building on Zhongzheng Road just east of the canal. The change was amazing and I couldn’t recognize it at all. However, I believed the restaurant wasn’t very far from the dance hall I used to know.

The restaurant had about 80 seats or so and there might be a section upstairs too. The menu was displayed on an overhead board and my professor friend placed our orders at the counter. As I returning from the rest room, I thought to myself that there was no way I could finish that much food. We each had an order of deep-fried 蝦卷 with dipping sauce, 擔擔麵 dan4 dan4 mian4, a shrimp ball soup and a bowl of fish soup. Wow! That’s a lot of food and I wasn’t sure I could finish all this, especially the fish soup.

Since my Dad didn’t like seafood, we seldom had fish at home. As such, I wasn’t very fond of fish at all and didn’t like the cheap, 3-day old fish smell. Because of this, I rarely cook fish at home and if I did, I’ll buy live fish and add tons of ginger, onions, wine and heavy sauce in order to mask that fish taste. Whenever there was a fish dish in front of me, be it steamed, sweet and sour or deep-fried, I’d eat one or two small bites, carefully separate fish bones in my mouth and spit out the bones sometimes with fish meat too. I then casually moved on to something else.

I started with 蝦卷which was fresh and juicy. The wrapper was crispy and golden brown. There were a few good size shrimps inside. They were fresh and very tasty. No wonder the restaurant was doing such a good business with students, businessmen and housewives alike. However, I was concerned about its cholesterol content so I moved on to finish the 擔擔麵, ate the shrimp balls and then it was the dreaded fish soup.

Sauces for the shrimp rolls

There it was: a large piece of fish fillet with skin intact in a bowl of clear broth; nothing could be simpler than this. For garnish, there were some shredded ginger and green onion. And that was it. I started with the broth which was very delicious and full of ginger flavor. The green onion complemented the ginger nicely which was exactly the way it should be. So far so good! Now, let’s do the fish. And I’ll skip the skin because I hated fish scale in my mouth.

The first bite of the fish made me think: was this fish meat? It was very fresh but that’s what I expected. How come it was so tender? It practically melted in my mouth. How come there was no fish bone at all? This kind of fish was supposed to have a lot of small fish bones. Maybe I got lucky on the first bite. I was ready for the slow process of picking bones out of the fish before I could continue.

The second bite followed by the third and fourth. There was no bone. Every bite was as good as the first one. Amazing! Even the skin was good: smooth, tender and no scales at all. Not even a tiny one on the whole piece of skin. The skin was gelatinous and very delicious too.  Pretty soon, the fish and the soup were all gone. I finished it the whole thing because it was the best fish soup I have ever had. It was that good: fresh and extremely tender fish meat, delicious fish broth with strong ginger flavor, a hint of white pepper and right amount of green onions. A wonderful surprise in a town I spent four year here!

Our next stop was a tour of my university and the research center started by my professor friend. Tonight, we’d meet a few of my college friends who lived close to Tainan for dinner. I’d stay at my friend’s place for the evening.

Tomorrow, we’d take the 4 PM train back to Taipei.

Alligator Meat March 21, 2010

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Care for some Alligator Meat?

You can get a pair of alligator legs at $3.99 per pound at a Chinese grocery store in Rockville, Maryland.

Let me know how does it taste, please.

Only $3.99/lb.

好客来, Rockville, MD March 21, 2010

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Jumble Bubble Restaurant –   好客来 “hao3 ke4 lai2”

Been here twice on weekends and liked it. A no thrill restaurant with minimum service and five or six tables. The small restaurant were very busy on weekends with mostly young Asian customers.

Their Beef Noodle Soup was great but the portion was a bit small.

One of the most popular dish was their Crispy Chicken Nuggets: spicy, crispy, delicious and tender on the inside. Although it was a little greasy but that’s what made the chicken good. At $4.75, the price was right, too.

You should give it a try.

Minado, Morris Plains March 21, 2010

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Went to NJ with Bao to visit in-laws and had a chance to try Japanese buffet at Parsippany, New Jersey.

Restaurant: Minado – Morris Plain on NJ 10.

Food: Japanese Buffet

Time: Noon, Tuesday, March 15, 2010

Price: $17.95/person

Huge restaurant with 400 seats on one side and a big party room of equal size.

Very impressive!

  • 20 different cold dishes.
  • 50 to 60 varieties of Sushi.
  • No sashimi.
  • Three soups.
  • 25 to 30 hot dishes.
  • 10 to 15 desserts.
  • Five or six fruits.
  • About 15 sakes to choose from.

Everything was very fresh and the presentation was very nice. There were about 20 tables for lunch on a Tuesday which weren’t too bad.

The restaurant has been in operation for about 10 years. Obviously they knew what there were doing. The ambiance was very pleasant with good quality furniture and utensils. The wait staff was efficient and not intrusive. The price was very good for the quality and quantity of food we were served. If you like sushi though. The cold dishes were excellent because they all have very complex tastes. None of them tasted like the others. The selection and quality of the hot dishes were also very good but I was too full to try many of them. Green tea ice cream was great too. Desserts were great.

The bottom line: we’ll go back to try its dinner buffet some day.

It also reminded me of Tokyo One on Beltline at Midway in Dallas (Addison) that we used to go for lunch when I worked for Mobil.

Picasa and iPhone March 21, 2010

Posted by hslu in Camera and Camcorder, Computer, iPhone.
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I don’t think Picasa is compatible with iPhone. I’d tried to import photos on my iPhone to my PC but couldn’t.

Not sure why?

Other software did it without no problem at all.

调养怒中气 March 21, 2010

Posted by hslu in Chinese, Life, Death and Yuanfen.
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I saw this at a Chinese furniture store.  Something to learn as I get older.

调养怒中气

“tiao2 yang3 nu4 zhong1 qi4”

提防顺口言

“ti1 fang2 shun4 kou3 yan2”

留心忙里错

“liu2 xin1 mang2 li3 chuo4”

爱惜有时钱

“ai4 xi2 you3 shi1 qian2”

Korean Buffet – Seoul Bok Dae Gee, Annandale, Virginia March 21, 2010

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The ad on local Chinese newspaper said $14.95 for dinner buffet. After 10 PM, the price drops to $9.95. Hmm, sounded like a very good deal.

Bao and I finally had our chance last night after laboring through accounting work for our restaurant. After a stop at our bank and post office, we drove to Bok Dae Gee in Annandale at a little after 6 PM. We both didn’t have anything for lunch and we were ready to eat.

The buffet restaurant was half the size of an earlier buffet joint at the same location which was closed several months ago. Apparently the new owner leased ½ the space because it is difficult to fight competitions from the other Korean restaurants near by. According to one estimate, there are probably 30 Korean restaurants, including 2 or 3 buffet restaurants, within a 3-mile radius.

The restaurant has about 80 seats plus 6 to 8 rooms which can accommodate parties of various sizes. We were early yesterday but the restaurant had several tables already.

Seoul Bok Dae Gee

There were five or six selections of BBQ pork and beef. BBQ seafood was limited to squid and fish fillet. There was no shrimp because of its low price. There were eight selections of cold dishes, all of them vegetables, and around ten hot dishes such as tofu, squash, noodles, fried rice, corn and deep-fried chicken meat in sweet sesame sauce. The soups were all vegetable soups including tofu, kimchi, beans and zucchini. I didn’t recognized several selections there and didn’t care to try them either.

There were three waitresses whose job included removing empty dishes and taking care of BBQ jobs for customers. We also ordered a small bottle of 百歲酒 “bai3 sui4 jiu3,” literally hundred year wine. The amber-colored rice wine was slightly infused with Korean Jensen and other herbs. It was chilled, low in alcohol content and slightly sweet on the palate. It was $12.95. The wine is not 100 years old. It implies  that you’ll live to 100 years old after you drink the wine.

百岁酒 "bai3 sui1 jiu3" - Hundred Year Wine

The meat was good especially the beef tenderloins because it was tender and tasty. Thinly sliced pork was also good because it became somewhat crunchy after it was cooked over low heat. Squid was okay but Bao liked it. There was ample supply of Romaine lettuce, garlic and kimchi if you liked them with your BBQ beef.

I liked the pan-fried tofu and zucchini in egg batters. Xiao3cai4 was okay and the tofu/zucchini soup was below par. I didn’t try the other soups though.

By the time we left the restaurant around 7:30 PM, the restaurant had about 70 customers. It felt slow to us because only about ½ of the restaurant was used. Many people went back for their seconds, thirds and fourth with hipping plates of meat. We only had very small amount of meat because we simply couldn’t eat that much meat at all.

We left at a quarter before eight and I was so stuffed that it seemed like I had more meat in one seating than what I usually eat in a month. Well, I needed to work out three or four hours just to burn out the excess calories.

I don’t think we’ll go back there again. Well, I take it back. Probably six months later, I guess. After 10 PM when the price of the buffet is $9.95.

For those of you who like meat and concern about the price tag, Bok Dae Gee is the right place to go.

Fractured rib March 21, 2010

Posted by hslu in Health.
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I am pretty sure I have a fractured rib from a fall about 2 weeks ago in front of my restaurant.

It was raining hard that evening. I ran from my car to the restaurant but I lost my footing at the curb. I fell onto a new metal trash receptacle our landlord just put out at our shopping center. My chest hit squarely to the ¾” round metal rim while my palm hit the edge of the trash receptacle on the other side. Although it hurt a bit below my heart at the time of impact, I was able to pick up my feet and walked away without any problem. I thought the bruise will go away soon too.

Now that the bruise has gone but the pain is still there. Whenever I cough, sneeze or take a deep breath,  the movement of the chest muscles puts press on the rib and it hurts a lot.

It appears that I am getting better but I am afraid that the recovery process will take a long time.

Hmm, better be careful next time.

Grading for U.S. Infrastructures – D March 21, 2010

Posted by hslu in Economics.
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Bridges, highways, dams, water systems, electric grids, schools and other structures in the United States are crumbling down.  According to American Society of Civil Engineers, the average grade of US infrastructure is a failing D.

Here is the breakdown for 2009:

2009 Grades

America’s Infrastructure GPA:                D

ASCE also estimated that it will cost $2.2 trillion in the next 5 years just to bring the U.S. infrastructure in line to an acceptable level.

http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/

My question: where does the money come from?

Tiger Woods Saga – Who win and who lose March 21, 2010

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Tiger Woods is coming out of hiding and will play at the Masters. Immediately, the world of sports is buzzing with all kind of speculations. So many people wanted to get a ticket to see him that the ticket prices have gone up quickly because of such a strong demand.

What is there to see, I said to myself? Come on, give me a break! People actually pay big bucks to see a light-skinned black man who cheated on his wife for so many years?

It made me think: Who wins and who lose with his return to the game of golf?

The winners are: TV stations, Newspapers, Sports Channels, Masters, PGA, his mistresses and Woods himself.

The losers of this saga are his wife, his kids and morality in the United States.