A Travellerspoint blog

Breakfast time!

Rice, rice, rice... even for breakfast

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Talking about food in Taiwan wouldn't be complete without talking about rice. Here in Taiwan there's rice for breakfast, but prepared a bit differently. The rice from the day before is cooked with more water to make a water porridge called muay. (Some people know it by the Cantonese name, jook.) Sometimes vegetables and meat is thrown in for more flavor. In essence it's the same concept as oatmeal: a grain cooked with a lot of liquid for breakfast. Quick energy + hydration for the morning. Anyway, besides the nutrition science, it's quite tasty!

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Gramma Hsu's muay with cabbage and tiny salted fish.

More pics at Flickr

Posted by hsustyle 18:16 Archived in Taiwan Comments (0)

Shaved ice

Warm days require cold snacks.

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It's been pretty warm lately, so dad and I decided to go have tswa bing which is the Taiwanese shaved ice snack. There's a ton of toppings (or rather bottoms) that go first in the bowl, such as sweet green beans, red beans, black grass jelly, tapioca balls, boiled peanuts or taro root. Then ice is shaved on top (kinda like for snow cones) and then a sweet sugar syrup or condensed milk is drizzled all over the shaved ice. I believe they have a similar snack in Hawaii? Must be a tropical island thing...

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My dad digs in.

More pics on Flickr.

Posted by hsustyle 19:09 Archived in Taiwan Comments (0)

My new office

... in the garden amongst the fountains.

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This is where a lot of morning tea drinking, email checking, travel destination researching and blogging happens. Nice, huh? I figure once I'm out of Taiwan I won't have much down time as I'll be in each city for about 4-5 days. So I'm just chillin'. Plus, this is the countryside. It's a slower paced life. When in Rome...

More pics on Flickr.

Posted by hsustyle 18:59 Archived in Taiwan Comments (0)

Random Things

Color, Cats and Bombs...

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I've always found racial color perceptions in different countries very interesting. In the US, there's a veritable rainbow of racial colors and I get pinned with being yellow. Last summer in Angola, I was dubbed white (basically for not being black). Here in Taiwan, my family teases me for having "black skin" because I have a tan. (Although currently, I'm the palest I've ever been because of my 2+ yr stint in Boston.) As in most East Asian cultures, it's desirable to have a pale white complexion. Something about indicating higher class. So if you mix that all up, you get some sort of beige? hahah.

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My dad feeds these cats that hang around the house. They have short tails with kinks in the end. My gramma says that those types of cats are better at hunting mice. Huh, who knew?

At the wedding yesterday, some of the old ladies were talking about the bombings in their childhoods. Apparently, Taiwan was very heavily bombed at the end of WWII because it was occupied by the Japanese. They remembered hiding for days "too scared to even come out and cook rice" because if the planes saw people, they would drop more bombs. See, I try to mix a little History Channel in with my mostly Food Network travel blog. =)

More pics on Flickr.

Posted by hsustyle 21:21 Archived in Taiwan Comments (0)

Wedding Crashers

Dad and I cross the field to attend a Taiwanese countryside wedding.

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So my gramma gets an invitation to a nearby wedding and my dad and I decide to go check it out. I've never been to one in Taiwan and for him it's been a long time. They've been blasting music all day today and the day before. Guess it's customary to let everyone in the 1-mile vicinity know that you have festivities coming up.

Everything is pink and the bride wears pink. I think it's somewhat a mix of the old school Chinese red and new school Western white. A rainbow tent is set up on the patio of the house (old Taiwanese houses are U-shaped with a large patio in the middle). There are about 12 tables under the tent and a few more in the house. In the field just outside the house, caterers have their own tent to make all the food.

We showed up at 11am, the food came out at 11:30 and didn't stop until about 2pm. Appetizer plate of chicken, abalone, and caviar cake. Lobster soup. Taiwanese sticky fried rice with crab. A giant crispy fried fish. Huge clams. Sea cucumber and shark fin. More abalone. Mango and tomato jello. A multi-layered cake of caramel, flan, green tea cream and taro cake. There was more, but I can't quite tell you what is was because I didn't recognize it (by sight or by taste/texture). Oh and endless tea, beer and liquor. However don't get the idea that this was some fancy affair. (When I asked my dad what to wear, he reassured me that it's acceptable for farmers to come straight outta the field to attend the wedding.) There was lots of paper napkins used, bones and scraps on the table and tea tossed on the ground.

Couple interesting points:

    *You don't bring gifts; you bring the Chinese "red envelope" with money for the bride and groom. I like the idea: take the money and use it for what you need, not fancy plates and silverware.

    • There was no noticeable ceremony. Show up, eat, the wedding party appears and comes around the tables, after dessert everyone takes off. Eat, eat eat: my kinda party.
    • It's local election time and I guess it's totally ok for candidates to come by weddings and give out flyers and campaign a bit. Strange to me, but hey, maybe they brought the bride and groom some money?
    • You get doggy bags to take leftovers home!

All in all, a good time. Glad that I went and stuffed myself silly with seafood.

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The (pink) aftermath.

More pics on Flickr.

Posted by hsustyle 19:58 Archived in Taiwan Comments (0)

One of my favorite things: local open markets!

Nothing quite like the smell of vegetables, salty snacks and raw meat all mixed up together.

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View all the pics on flickr.

Posted by hsustyle 07:08 Archived in Taiwan Comments (0)

Flowers all over the back of the house

These orange flowers coat the roofs of the bathroom, water heating room and the storage at the back of the house

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The back of the house is where all the work is/used to be done. The bathroom is separate from the house and adjacent to the water heating room. It's not used much anymore, but we used to stoke fires every evening to heat a huge tank of water so that everyone could wash themselves with warm water. The smell of wood fires makes me think of it. Now we have a water heater, so we don't get to encourage our inner pyromaniac anymore. The clothes used to be washed by the women every morning outside the water heating room, but then we got a washing machine. One thing is still the same, all the vegetables are washed out here. Phew, change can only happen so fast, I suppose.

More pics on Flickr.

Posted by hsustyle 06:54 Archived in Taiwan Comments (0)

The island, the garden

Taiwan is a tropical island where anything grows, so the garden at the house is green, green, green.

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More pics on Flickr.

Posted by hsustyle 22:49 Archived in Taiwan Comments (0)

Return to the Motherland

Grandmotherland, that is.

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Left LA around 1130pm, arrived Taipei at 630am. Malaysia Air, about 13 hr flight. I haven't taken a flight that long in quite a while, but it wasn't too bad. I came prepared with earplugs and an eye mask, got about 8 hrs of sleep. And had some decent airplane food. There's always two options: Western style or local (of the airline) style. Go with the local option. Guaranteed to be better.

M dad ordered a shuttle bus for my mom and I so we quickly zipped out of the city and into the boonies. My gramma lives closer to the middle of the island, so it took us about two hours. It's nice to be back. I haven't been here for about 3 yrs. I grew up coming here once a year and my gramma has lived here for 60 yrs now. My grandpa used to have a pig farm and the surrounding land was all rice fields. Now the pig pens are empty and there are more factories and houses than I remember. My gramma keeps quite an impressive vegetable and fruit garden, while my dad maintains the rest of the garden and builds ponds and fountains. Oh and the weather is really nice now.

Got welcomed in with fresh corn, then tangerines and then lunch. For being 86, my gramma can still cook up a storm. There was fried fish, greens, tofu, thousand-year eggs, homemade pork meatballs, oyster soup... Unpacked and took a nap in the afternoon, then ate some more. Gramma made two of my favorites: ginger-clam soup and kong ba, slow cooked fatty pork with Chinese five spice. Oh, did I mention that this may turn into a food blog? I considered naming the blog, Travel to Eat.

Tomorrow, more relatives come to visit and I guess we're crashing a wedding across the field? Sounds like fun!

Posted by hsustyle 04:40 Archived in Taiwan Comments (0)

And so it begins...

Cathy's Odyssey Around the World

I forget all the details of the Odyssey, but I feel like I'm embarking on a similar journey. Across several lands and not quite sure what I'll come across. Well, I do know that I'm meeting old family and friends at each destination (with the exception of Thailand). But I hope that there are not too many one-eyed creatures, singing temptresses or multi-headed monsters on the way. We shall see...

Most likely, there will be an abundance of adventurous good eating and much loosely-guided wandering and exploring. I will try to document the most interesting bits for your perusal. Enjoy!

(Ok, I have just read the synopsis of the Odyssey. My trip really has very little similarity to it. I have not escaped being a goddess's lover on a distant island to return to my wife and child back home... there is just a lot of traveling involved. Ah well. I am futilely grasping at literary analogy -- apologies, apologies.)

Posted by hsustyle 03:35 Comments (0)

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