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這能吃嗎? December 16, 2016

Posted by hslu in Food, Taipei, Taiwan.
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我們來台北市東區市民大道的大潤發買家用的東西看到櫃子裏擺的麪包,忍不住多看一眼。

結果呢:

大潤發超市賣的麪包。

我,

一看它就發毛,

再看它更傷心,

你要賣給我,

我就把你照起來,

別以為台北市裏好氣人。

不過,我想這大概是我大驚小怪,沒見過世面吧。說不定臺北人還真喜歡這一款台式 ham & cheese 的麪包呢。

台湾游记 Dec 6 to Dec 16 2009 Day 8, 9 and 10 Taipei April 14, 2010

Posted by hslu in Chinese, Chinese Food, Economics, Food, Life, Death and Yuanfen, Restaurants, Taiwan, Travel.
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Today was Sunday and we got up just in time to have lunch at an all-you-can-eat place called 野宴 “ye3 yan4,” or banquet in the Wild, at Xiaobao’s suggestion. This restaurant used a traditional clay pot and a metal wire mesh, instead of a hot plate on natural gas, as the cooking surface. It burned carbonized wood, or 木炭 “mu4 tan4,” as fuel. Again, there was plenty of food including three kinds of meat, shrimp, squid, fish, clams, various kinds of mushroom and a Japanese style shabu shabu. We stayed for about 90 minutes and were all stuffed with too much food and sweets.

At 3 PM, Bao and I went to the older SOGO to meet a friend of us for about an hour. We spent about 15 minutes just to find a seat at three busy cafes in the huge department store. We then went back to Xiaobao’s apartment to wait for Jack to join us for dinner. He had offered a lot of help to Xiaobao and we wanted to thank him for his help before we left Taipei. Another of Xiaobao’s Langley friend couldn’t come.

Jack came from 天母 “tian1 mu3” right after sun set and we went to a Sichuan restaurant near by. On the way there, we walked pass by this small restaurant called 王氏非常麵 “wang2 shi4 fei1 chang2 mian4” on a narrow side street about a stone throw from Xiaobao’s apartment. It specialized in noodles but also operated a government sanctioned Keno game. According to Xiaobao, each ticket is 25 NTD and we could bet as often as every 10 or 20 minutes. It ran 24/7 and we could be as often as we like. With each game, we could choose as many as 10 numbers or as few as four or five numbers. Of course, the more numbers we matched, out of 20 selected by the computer, the higher the winnings were. We each had a game or two and didn’t have any winning hand at all. I guessed that, like many state governments in the United States, Taiwanese government had to rely on lottery winnings to supplement government spending too. I wasn’t sure what kind of revenue stream this endless Keno game could bring to government’s purse, but allowing public gambling in such a way could bring sorrows and heartbreak to many who were addicted to gambling.

Winning numbers

The Sichuan restaurant, Kiki Restaurant, looked classic from its 門面 “men2 mian4,” or its overall appearance, and according to its display has been in operation since 1991. I guessed that this restaurant had to be good in order to survive 20 years in such a competitive market as Taipei. We ordered six homey dishes, or so called 家常菜”jia1 chang2 cai4” but they were all just okay. There string beans were as good as our restaurant’s version. The 麻婆豆腐 “ma2 po2 dou4 fu3” was numbing and spicy from its seasoning but the other dishes weren’t very authentic to me. The 蒜苗臘肉 “suan4 miao2 la4 rou4” (Young Leeks with Chinese Bacon) was under-cooked and it needed more cooking oil and more salt. The 炸醬麵 “zha4 jiang4 mian4” was below par. After the dinner, we went to SOGO food court together and had some 芝麻湯圆 “zhi1 ma2 tang1 yuan2” again. They were so good and filled with so much creamy and yummy 芝麻 that none of the frozen 芝麻湯圆 we could buy from the freezers here in Northern Virginia came even close. As I walked around the food court admiring bountiful desserts and pastries in various stores, the kids and Bao gathered around Jack’s laptop and checked out pictures of their mutual friends from the past. Their laughter could be heard from the other side of the food court. I was glad that they had a good time there.

蒜苗臘肉

String Beans Sichuran Style

麻婆豆腐

番茄炒蛋

Monday is the day that Jingjing had to fly back to NY while Xiaobao went to his class. It was cloudy with drizzle but not too cold. We took her to the airport via 長榮巴士 “chang2 ren2 ba1 shi4”at $140 NTD each at a bus stop 5 minutes away from Xiaobao’s apartment. The bus ride was comfortable and took only 50 minutes. It was convenient and cheap compared to last time we were here.

Jingjing at Taoyuan Airport on her way back to NY

This was one of the progresses I’ve noticed this time around. In addition, there were at least two other bus companies served this route which benefited the consumers. We had used two of them and each offered comparable services and price. I guessed that a little capitalism goes a long way to introduce a little competition in the market place and I liked that a lot. Gone were the dreaded feelings of choosing between government-operated buses and private cars or taxis called 野雞車 “ye3 ji1 che1” after getting out of the airport. The buses were slow but cheaper. But the bus station was far away. There weren’t too many buses especially after 9 PM. 野雞車 was fast and convenient but we had no way of knowing whether we were had or not on the price. In addition, they flew past every car on the highway, raced between the airport and your destination and offered no service at all. They had little regard to their passengers’ safety and all they cared about was trying to get back to the airport for their next fare. The new system was operated by three companies right in the airport building. They were cheap and fast and all we had to wait was no more than 15 to 20 minutes. What a surprise! What a change! I loved it.

Now Jingjing is on her way back to NY, we had to get our stuff ready because our flight back to DC was a day away. After Xiaobao got back from his class we went to 大潤發 “da4 run4 fa1” to buy some stuff for Xiaobao’s apartment. 大潤發 was a huge supermarket stocked with light appliances, clothes, fresh produces, daily necessities, ready-to-eat food, meat, seafood and a lot of other things. Prices were great too. We ordered a dehumidifier for him because Taiwan’s humid weather made wet towel smelly like a five-day old sock after just a day or two day’s use.

大潤發

Fresh White Bitten Melon

Ready-to-Eat

大潤發

At大潤發, I saw something that I haven’t seen for 40 years: 黑人牙膏 “hei1 ren2 ya2 gao1,” (Black me toothpaste) a popular brand of toothpaste we used when I was a kid. The package and its color scheme have changed but the brand survived legal challenges over the years. I found it also interesting that白人牙膏 “bai2 ren2 ya2 gao1” (White men toothpaste) were also available to the public.

黑人牙膏 and 白人牙膏

I also took Bao to SOGO to buy some eye lashes. The sales lady was so persuasive that Bao bought a couple of them at what she thought was a good bargain. Unfortunately, I found out later that I could get similar stuff on Amazon at about ¼ of what she had paid. Well, I knew SOGO was not cheap but I didn’t realize that it was that expensive.

Our lunch was very simple: 擔擔麵 “dan4 dan4 mian4” and 甜不辣 “tian2 bu1 la4,” two very simple dishes for everyday common people at SOGO food court. 甜不辣 can be literally translated into “sweet but not spicy”  which is deep-fried fish cake and radish stew popular in Taiwanese and Japanese cuisine. I do not know how this dish came about but I have had this from street vendors since my college days in Tainan. Both dishes provided a comfort feeling as you eat it in Taiwan’s winter days which could be very damp, windy and extremely cold. Back then, very few houses in Taiwan had heater or air condition in the house. Even if it was available, many homes left them unused except when guests came by. As such, the inside temperature of a house could drop to 40 to 45 oF in the winter. A dish liked 甜不辣 or 擔擔麵 and their warm and savory broth made the cold winter that much more bearable.

擔擔麵

擔擔麵

甜不辣

Dinner was at 糖朝 “tang2 chai2” at 微風廣場 “wei1 feng1 guang3 chan3.” Since we both like糖朝 a lot when we visited Hong Kong earlier, we decided to try its chain store in Taipei. I wasn’t sure whether it was because we were about to leave Taipei and Xiaobao or was it something else, I didn’t like any of their dishes at all. It was as if it was operated by a different company. Even its sweets were all flops. They didn’t even look good to me. So disappointing!

Taipei 微風廣場 糖朝

Picture taken at Taipei 糖朝

On the way back to Xiaobao’s apartment, I saw a Chinese calligraphy scroll hanging in a store.

人要 知福 惜福 再造福

It says:

人要  知福  惜福  再造福

“ren2 yao4 zhi1 fu2 xi1 fu2 zhai4 zhao4 fu2”

It reminded me that life is short and it was up to me to realize and cherish the blessings I have in my life: my wife, my children, my parents, my career at Mobil, the restaurant and many things surrounding me. I wasn’t sure how much blessings I was able to create for the others, but I’d think about it and be content with what I have.

Taiwan has changed a lot and, in many aspects, has been positive. People were more civil to each other. Streets were cleaner than before. There were only a few bicycles because many of them have been replaced with motorcycles and cars. Motorists more or less followed street signs compared to what it was before. Even pedestrians at Taipei’s 復興忠孝 intersection followed traffic signs with very few people jaywalking. 捷運 was wonderful, on time and clean. Food was cheap at neighborhood restaurants. All-you-can-eat places were common near where Xiaobao lived.

However, air quality was poor and the exteriors of many houses and buildings were dirty and in need of a good cleaning. Business signs of different shapes, design and color were everywhere just like I remembered. People in the Southern section of Taiwan were more concerned about Taiwan’s sagging economy and they were worried about where Taiwan will be a decade or two from now in light of the dominant presence of China. Most of my classmates didn’t like what they saw in the current president but were afraid of the alternative. My professor friend was particularly concerned about the quality of Taiwan’s university graduates; even the ones from top universities who came to study in his research center. His exchange students from China were eagle to learn and anxious to fulfill their dreams while Taiwanese exchange students from his department were more concerned about when their one-year terms were over.

Well, we had a nice time here and it gave us a chance to live with our kids for a week or so. Time flew by quickly especially when we had fun. Now it was time to say good bye and our trip to Taiwan was almost over.

Tomorrow was our last full day in Taipei and we’d have to say good bye to Xiaobao soon. Chinese has a saying:

兒行千里母擔憂 “er2 xin2 qian1 li3 mu3 dan1 you1”

This short phrase portrays a mother’s apprehension when her child is about to leaveher on a thousand kilometers journey.

Of course, I understood that 千里 was only used to emphasize the distance between us; I also realized that electronic advances have made the distance between us much shorter, but Bao and I couldn’t help but to know that we would be separated by a day’s travel by an airplane.

Xiaobao gave up his easy life in San Francisco and moved to a place he didn’t know a lot and a language he wasn’t very good at. He wanted to start a new life here just like us thirty some years ago when we came to the United States. I like his courage but Bao kept worrying about him. Well, with this trip to Taipei, we knew he has made a new beginning for himself and we were happy for him.

We hope we’d be back soon and will very much like to see him establishes a good start for himself.

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