The Ending of My Fantasy Life

One more eating day left, friends. ONE.

Irish Twins summed up her grief nicely: here she was, living in a land where her kids are eating new things, finally getting into Chinese, and she doesn’t have to cook or do anything and things are magically taken care of and obviously that is not sustainable for the long haul but OH, how nice it has been.

In fact, as of this writing, we are almost done with the day and I am taking one for the team by taking the kids to their favorite indoor playspace, Leo’s Playland.

Don’t worry. We ate a super yum lunch at Shin Yeh and I made sure I had their QQ almond jello. Then I sent the family home while I went to get Yu’s Almond Tofu shaved ice by myself. I ordered one to eat there and brought one home for later. I also might get another Mango ChaCha or a more generic shaved ice in the mall by our house to make sure I get some fenguo.

I don’t know if you can tell, but I LOVE Taiwanese shaved ice.

Given the choice, I’m willing to skip a meal for ice. Mmmmmm.

Anyhow, for nostalgia’s sake (and quite frankly, before I forget because – Oh, Shiny!), let me list all the things I will miss about Taiwan. And then, to help me ease back into the Reality of my life back home, all the things I will NOT miss. (You know, to be fair and balanced. Ah, FOX NEWS, what a crock.)

So, here thusly is my list of stuff I will miss:

1) Being able to walk everywhere. 

There is something particularly nice about easy access to public transportation and a walkable city. You feel less like a contributor to an isolated and wasteful community. Things are super convenient (like food, restaurants, food, whatever).

It’s awesome to never have to think about parking or car seats.

2) The ubiquity of 7-11. 

7-11 in Taiwan is a combo of post office, convenience store, and all sorts of awesome things. You can have packages delivered there. You can add money to your cel phone plan or MRT card. I’m sure you can even manage your stock portfolio there.

They have yummy hot and cold prepared meals. Drinks. Cold desserts. And most importantly, they are EVERYWHERE.

3) The people.

Short of some busybodies, most people are very polite and courteous – especially to folks who are elderly, pregnant, injured, or with children.

I know I complained a lot on Facebook of assholes (and trust me, there’s a post coming compiling all THEIR wonderful contributions), but overall, good people in Taiwan.

4) The food, obviously. 

Not just the convenience of it. The actual tastiness.

I will especially miss shaved ice. I love Taiwanese shaved ice. Oh. Right. I mentioned this already.

5) How I totally blend in. 

I feel like the majority. (Possibly because I am the majority.)

No worries of some asshole asking me where I’m from. No. Where I’m really from. No. Before that. No. Where my parents are from.

Fuck you. Is this a fucking credit check? No? Then STFU, you asshole.

Oh wait. Tangent.

But it’s nice to be unquestioned about why you belong somewhere. Of course, this usually lasts until someone sees Hapa Papa, but even then, unless something really cues someone that I might be a foreigner, (and for some reason, no one has really looked twice at my kids this summer – thank God for small mercies), I am treated always as if I belong.

It’s not that I am treated as if I don’t belong in the US. But there are definitely spaces where I feel unwelcome and am there only on the sufferance of its members.

6) Taxis. 

Now, we haven’t really taken any taxis the last week or so because I have stuck to places we can access via MRT. But I love taxis. Super convenient.

7) So many indoor play spaces!

Because it is so friggin’ hot here, there are so many indoor play spaces. Many are free or subsidized by the city government – but just as many are exorbitantly priced.

Truly, I really do not know how the majority of Taiwanese citizens can pay for these places. I find them expensive as an American ($30-60USD depending on time, day, etc.) but I just can’t deal with outside parks in the summer. The mosquitos and being hugely pregnant are the main deterrents.

The parks are great in winter months, though. They even have lights on at night so kids can still play despite the sun setting earlier.

Alright. Those are the things I can think of off the top of my head that I will miss.

Here then, are the things I will NOT miss:

1) Garbage. 

Now granted, Taiwan, for all its dense population and stuff is remarkably clean. However. Nothing is as gross to me as garbage. And Taiwan requires you to separate your garbage.

Whether you live in an apartment that has its own garbage center or you have to chase down the garbage truck every night, it’s a complete and utterly gross pain in the ass. You have to separate paper from plastic from food containers and possibly other items, too. I am always confused.

2) People insisting on giving you receipts. 

Perhaps it’s my RGS (Rich Girl Syndrome) showing, but I hate paper. And I really hate receipts. Especially for things that really don’t require receipts – like the shaved ice I am eating in front of the vendor.

Also, it’s confusing because I guess you can enter your receipts into some national lottery? Or donate them? And or pickup points? I don’t know. My cousins tried to explain but it might as well have been the derivatives market. My brain totally tuned them out.

3) Plastic bags and shrink-wrapped everything. 

For all its emphasis on recycling their garbage, it would probably be better off in not packing everything from every single food item or book or seriously ANYTHING in a tiny plastic bag or shrink-wrap.

In fact, every time I see it, I think of that giant Texas sized swirl of garbage and plastic in the ocean and how Taiwan is single-handedly doubling it every day.

4) The heat, obviously. 

Winter and early spring (November through April) are far more pleasant but then, no classes for my kids to enroll in. And therefore, I cannot handle it. I would take the heat over being with my children all day in Taiwan ANY DAY.

I find this ironic since I homeschool. But at home, they have classes and their stuff and I barely have to pay attention. In Taiwan, they are just obstacles to me enjoying food and happiness and book shopping.

This clearly says something about me and my shoddy parenting.

5) The people.

Now, wait a tic! Didn’t I just say that the people are so nice and polite and friendly?

Well, yes. But OMG THERE ARE SO MANY PEOPLE!

Granted, I understand theoretically that without the population density, the convenience factor of public transit and food and etc. would be diminished greatly.

But, OMG THERE ARE SO MANY PEOPLE!

Which isn’t really a problem when I go out and about during the normal work day since most people are in school or at work. But once the weekend or rush hour hits?

PEOPLE EVERYWHERE.

I think if I didn’t have to keep track of three semi-obedient (hahahahahahahahaha – I love the semi, as if that happened often enough to qualify as a semi) children in large crowds of people, I would not mind the crush as much.

But as I do have lots of small children who sometimes forget to hold hands or walk really slowly or demand to be carried, it stresses me out and I end up yelling at my kids a lot more. Well, not yell so much in public, but nag and cajole and scold.

Also, my goodness. THE TANTRUMS. Those are a lot worse in full view of every single human being who ever lived in Taiwan ever.

6) Lack of authentic non-Asian food.

Look. Taiwan has a lot of great food. And I thoroughly enjoyed eating it all. But at some point, I cannot eat six weeks of only Taiwanese or Asian food.

The raw vegan place I got conned into going to does not count. It was not delicious. (It was not disgusting, either. But whatever. That will wait for another post.)

So, as a result, I cannot wait to eat a large Chipotle steak burrito with extra guacamole, sour cream, and cheese. And maybe more sour cream. Because I MISS AMERICAN FAT like BUTTER and CREAM.

7) Doing laundry every or every other day.

Now, it’s not because we didn’t have enough clothing with us. It is more that the washing machines have a third of the capacity of mine at home – AND – I have to hang dry everything.

So, keep in mind, we had 4-5 people. (I was doing laundry every other day until Hapa Papa showed up.) One or two days worth of dirty, sweaty, dusty clothing pretty much filled the machine. Then, I had to dry the clothes – and really, I guess I could have washed more clothes, but I would run out of space to hang the clothes to dry.

This is also why clothing in Taiwan is often made of such cheap material and people buy so many clothes. You pretty much have to wash all your clothing after one wear because the weather is so abysmally hot and as a result, your clothing eventually disintegrates.

Anyhow, I will be more than eager to go back to the land of lots of clothes and washing machine capacity and DRYERS.

Praise the Everliving God for dryers.

8) Lack of privacy.

Unless you live in the super rich mountains/hills or in the country, you really live only in condos/apartments. And even in those, there is not a lot of square footage. That is not very much privacy – both within the home itself, and amongst your neighbors.

You pretty much hear everything.

I can’t wait to go back to my home where if I judiciously close the windows, my neighbors can’t hear me screaming at my kids at full blast. (Maybe just a muffled hint of me cussing them out.)

9) Lack of garbage disposals.

I think I discussed this on Facebook, but basically, very few garbage disposals exist in the Taiwan. (Apparently, this is a common thing in NYC, too.) This is due to incorrect data on old pipes being too old to deal with garbage disposals.

I’m sorry. This is disgusting. Rotting food in garbage cans is gross. Especially in a country that has HUGE cockroaches. No matter how clean you keep your apartment, ROTTING FOOD WILL ATTRACT COCKROACHES.

This thus leads to my first point of my hatred of separating garbage. Because that shit has to go SOMEWHERE.

10) False sense of luxury due to spending Monopoly money.

I mean, yes, I get the general gist of money conversion in my head due to memorizing some basic equivalencies. (eg: 30NT is ~$1USD; 100NT is ~$3USD; 300NT is ~$10USD; 1,000NT is ~$30USD; 10,000NT is ~$300USD)

But STILL. It’s not the currency of my life – so it STILL seems like it’s fake money and we’re not spending anything real. And since everything is in the hundreds already, I don’t register when something is actually expensive in the US.

11) Easy and cheap access to fruit.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Taiwan does have a lot of fruit. But it isn’t cheap. (And it just occurred to me that I forgot to eat any lychees or dragon eyes or their equivalences! FAIL!)

And in the fact that my children are picky assholes and will only eat certain types of expensive imported American fruit staples (like apples, bananas, strawberries, any berries, and grapes), it gets expensive. (I mean, let’s be real. My kids did not get ANY strawberries or berries in Taiwan because OMG!!!)

So, I am glad to be going back to California, where apparently every fruit known to man is grown and in season and fresh.

Alright. I really should sleep. I’m about 99% packed (except for our PJs and Gamera’s hair thingies), we’re set to go with our 3 large suitcases, 3 boxes of books, and 4 small carryons. I’m really worried about schlepping those boxes, but oh well. Only a problem for short spurts of time. But man, it will be a pain in the ass.

Wish us luck!

We will be coming back from the future and arrive before we left. MAGIC!

Taiwanese Eats

Ok. It has been about five weeks since we’ve been back from Taiwan and I am still dreaming of the food. Mmmm…. Many of you have asked for a list of the places we ate and I am FINALLY getting around to it. I have tried to arrange by neighborhood/area so you can hit up a bunch of them but it’s been five weeks and my memory may be blurry. I guess I’ll just have to force myself to go back in January in order to refresh my mind. The things I do for my readers. Nothing but sacrifice.

So, in no particular order (other than neighborhood), I give you the majority of places we ate. I am not really a great food blogger or describer of food so please don’t expect anything of that sort. I will just list the restaurants and perhaps tell you which dishes we thought stood out.

All photo credits belong to Fleur.

 

1) Miscellaneous Restaurants

a) 鼎泰豐(Din Tai Fung)
(multiple locations such as Xin Yi, Yong Kang Jie, Alley 216)

I was a big fan of the pickled cabbage, wood ears, pork xiao long baos, squash and shrimp xiao long bao, mini sesame buns, and their white wood ear/long yan soup for dessert. I forget what it’s called in English. But it is awesome and delicious and YUM. Pretty much everything here is delicious. You really can’t go wrong.

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(top) pickled cabbage|wood ear|pork xiao long bao (middle) veggies|fish dumpling|veggie dumpling (bottom) white wood ear dessert|steamed taro dumpling|sesame buns

b) 永和豆漿大王 (Yong He Dou Jiang Da Wang / Soy Milk King)
(Multiple Locations)

A yummy Taiwanese breakfast place. Super cheap and tasty. I am a big fan of then 燒餅油條 (Shao bing and Chinese Donut) along with the meat and veggie bao. The sweetened soy milk is a MUST of course.

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(top left) Shao bing, salty soy milk, chinese donut, veggie/meat bao, cold sweet soy milk

c) 欣葉 (Shin Yeh)
(multiple locations)
Address: 8F, No. 9, Songshou Rd., Xinyi Dist., Taipei City (A9 of Shin Kong Mitsukoshi Xinyi Place Branch, 8F

My favorites were: pork liver, marinated chicken with scallions, fried oysters, filet cubes, and of course, the almond jelly. Too bad Glow Worm is allergic to almonds so I couldn’t have any – but it is SO DELICIOUS. They are also famous for their sweet potato congee.

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sweet potato congee|fried oysters|peanut mochi|pan fried pork liver|marinated chicken|almond jelly|bamboo shoots

d) 林東芳 (Lin Dong Fang)
274 Bade Road, Section 2, Jhongshan District, Taipei City
台北市中山区八德路二段272號

Famous for their beef noodle soup and their spicy beef butter. It sounds disgusting but it was tasty. I preferred Old Chang’s soup and meat, but the noodles were more QQ (Taiwanese for springy and chewy and yummy). It is tiny and has two additional small rooms where you can eat.

veggies, beef butter

veggies, beef butter

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Before the beef butter melts

Before the beef butter melts

 

e) 金峰滷肉飯 (Jin Feng Lu Rou Fan)
10 Roosevelt Road Section 1, Taipei
台北市羅斯福路1段10號

This is a famous braised pork rice place and braised/stewed egg. The kids loved it. It was very delicious. Unfortunately, when we went, we found an unexpected guest in Fleur’s rice plate. So, I think it will be some time before I go back. shudder

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f) 阜杭豆漿 (Fu Hang Dou Jiang)
2/F Hua Shan Market, 108 Zhongxiao East Road, Section 1, Taipei City
忠孝東路一段108號2F

This is a Taiwanese breakfast place and closed on Mondays. Also, expect at least a 15-30 minute wait as the line winds down the stairs and out around the corner of the street. It is quite yummy. There are thick shao bings, thin ones, soy milk, Chinese donuts, Chinese donuts wrapped in shao bings, sugar bings, all sorts. The menu is only in Chinese. I would help more but my brain is useless this far out. Just randomly point. It’s all good.

salty soy milk, sweet soy milk, thick shao bing Chinese donut wrap, rice tuan

salty soy milk, sweet soy milk, thick shao bing Chinese donut wrap, rice tuan

g) Ippudo (一風堂)
台北市大安區敦化南路一段165號1樓
1F, No.165, Section 1, Dunhua South Road, Da’an District, Taipei, Taiwan

Beware: there is a line! So, go right at the open (which is 11:30am). Yummy ramen and lots of refreshing iced tea. I would skip the ox tongue. Bleh. I was very disappointed. But the bao and the ramen were delicious.

Bao, Spicy ramen, ramen, ox tongue

Bao, Spicy ramen, ramen, ox tongue

 

2) Alley 216 Area

Already mentioned the Din Tai Fung. Here are some other food places near there.

a) 東區粉圓(Dong Qu Fen Yuan / Eastern Ice House)

No. 38, Alley 216, Section 4 Zhongxiao East Road, Daan District, Taipei
台北市大安區忠孝東路4段216巷38號

They are famous for their 粉圓 (Fen yuan/tapioca ball) and basically, it’s a bunch of toppings in ice. Yummy and refreshing, but I prefer shaved ice/snow.

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fen yuan, fen guo, tang yuan

fen yuan, fen guo, tang yuan

b) Ice Monster
106, Taiwan, 台北市大安區忠孝東路四段297號
Zhongxiao East Road, Taipei 297, Sec No.297, Sec. 4, Zhongxiao E. Rd. Taipei, Taiwan

Ice Monster is famous for their shaved ice. It is super delicious. Our favorites were the mango and the lime shaved snows. There is only one snow that has Fen Guo on it, but you can ask for it on the side and promise to pay extra. (They are not big on customization here in Taiwan.)

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Mung bean snow with fen guo and grass jelly

 

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(top to bottom clockwise) Latte snow, melon sorbet, mango avalanche, lime snow

 

c) 度小月 (Tu Hsiao Yueh/Slack Season Noodles)
No. 12, Alley 8, Lane 216, ZhongXiao E. Rd, Sec. 4
台北市忠孝東路四段216巷8弄12號

This place is famous for their noodles but I just found them alright. They weren’t bad, just not amazing. What was amazing was the tofu. It was SO GOOD that we promptly ordered another plate. It is crispy on the outside, but tastes like 蒸蛋 (zheng dan/steamed egg custard) and chicken brothy on the inside. So tender and juicy and BLERGH. This was my favorite dish of the entire trip.

(from the top left) drunken goose, fried oysters, pumpkin ice cream, fernlike veggie, noodles, fried shrimp roll, long yan jello, fried taro, tofu

(from the top left) drunken goose, fried oysters, pumpkin ice cream, fernlike veggie, noodles, fried shrimp roll, long yan jello, fried taro, tofu

 

3) 大安區 (Da An District) by 台大 (Tai Da/National Taiwan University)

a) 臺一牛奶大王 (Taiyi Milk King Ice)
No.82, Sec. 3, Xinsheng S. Rd., Da’an Dist., Taipei City 106, Taiwan
106, Taiwan, 台北市大安區新生南路三段82號

Fleur and I ate here at least once a day. There is almost always a line through the door but don’t worry – it moves quickly.

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Shaved ice with mango, 愛玉 (nature jelly), mung bean, large tapioca

b) 妙媽媽 (Miao Ma Ma)
H/T to Marian Wu for finding the address!

台灣台北市大安區新生南路三段68-2號
No. 2, Alley 68, Sec. 3, Xinsheng S. Rd., Da’an Dist., Taipei

We ate here several times. These are Taiwan Small Dishes and I enjoyed them very much. Just ask the lady to give you recommendations. That’s what I did each time.

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(top) garlic fish, ginger chicken, hong tao, veggies, spicy tofu and pork, chicken hearts

c) 藍家割包 (Lan Jia Gua Bao)
No. 3, Alley 8, Lane 316, Section 3, Luosifu Rd
100, Taiwan, 台北市中正區羅斯福路三段316巷8弄3號

This mostly just a stand/cart on the corner next to a Family Mart (or something like that). Be aware that they have peanut shavings/powder in an open container next to the meat that they usually put on the gua bao. I did not let Cookie Monster eat this even though I didn’t add peanut shavings. It was pretty likely for cross contamination. They have fatty meat, lean meat, and 50/50. Go with the fatty. It is 100x better than the lean.

fatty Gua Bao (Taiwanese hamburger)

fatty Gua Bao (Taiwanese hamburger)

 

4) 永康街 (Yong Kang St)

There is also a Din Tai Fung here. Worth eating wherever you happen to be.

a) 大隱酒食 (James Kitchen)
65 Yongkang Street, Da’an District, Taipei
台北市大安區永康街65號
Hours: 11:00am~2:00pm, 5:30pm~12:00am

This place is very old school and I wasn’t a huge fan of their food. It was pretty good, but it could be a factor of me ordering the wrong things. I just asked the waitress and she recommended a lot of pricey stuff. The best was the fried oysters and Chinese donut dish. Such a weird but tasty combination. The chicken was good, too.

(top) fried oyster and Chinese donut, pig knuckles, squid with special sauce, chicken and scallioons, veggies

(top) fried oyster and Chinese donut, pig knuckles, squid with special sauce, chicken and scallioons, veggies

b) 老張牛肉麵店 (Lao Zhang Niu Roh Mien/Old Chang’s Beef Noodle Soup)
105 Aiguo East Road, Da’an District, Taipei
106, Taiwan, 台北市大安區愛國東路105號

SO TASTY!! The beef tendon noodle soup is so yummy. I am sure the other foods are good (they have pretty good side dishes) but I pretty much came here to eat the beef noodle soup. The beef is shot through with tendon and yumminess. YUM!! Did I mention, YUM??!

pork short ribs and sweet potato, spicy and regular beef tendon noodle soup

pork short ribs and sweet potato, spicy and regular beef tendon noodle soup

c) Smoothie House (思慕昔)
(multiple locations at Yong Kang St – just keep walking)
台北市大安區永康街9號
No. 9 Yong Kang St, Da’an District, Taipei

Even though Ice Monster has Fen Guo, I still preferred Smoothie House. Mostly because the music is 90s hip hop and R&B and reminds me of college. Plus, it’s atmosphere is nightclub-esque. Makes me feel cool (pun intended). I pretty much always get the mango avalanche, but we have also gotten smoothies as well.

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珍珠觀音拿鐵雪花冰(Tapioca latté snow)|mango avalanche

 

Alright. All done. Dear Lord, that was a lot of effort. To thank me, please eat as much as possible and enjoy. I won’t even mind if you comment and rub it in while I’m stuck back in the US.

For further reference, these were the articles Fleur and I used to find stuff we wanted to eat.

45 Taiwanese Foods We Can’t Live Without

A Hungry Girls’ Guide to Taipei

28 Reasons to Love Taipei

10 Things Taiwan Does Better Than Anyone Else

I’m sure there were more but quite frankly, I’m exhausted. It was definitely more fun to eat at these places than compile them! Happy Eating!