Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Another New Year

Collecting those red envelopes. Yes, it's Lunar New Year again, that time of year when the weather is especially gray and the food is especially bland. Each year our family goes to the same restaurant and has the same food, and each year I swear that next year I'm going to arrange somehow to have good food in a convivial atmosphere, rather than bland food in a huge cold restaurant, even if we have to make pizza at home. So I'm showing you the same pics....

The neighborhood is empty as everyone has gone south.

Inside the restaurant is an attractive pond of carp. The atmosphere is actually pretty nice in a faux Chinese kind of way. But as a rule, the quality of the food is inversely proportional to the size of the restaurant.


Unlike the US, Taiwan is sensible about having small dogs in restaurants. Not that small dogs should be permitted to exist in the first place.

In Taiwanese cusine, there are two periods: AM and BM.

Another four-legged family member.


Pork cutlets and at the rear, scallops with peppers and pea pods.

Steamed fish.

The barbecued eels, Japanese style, were good. Served on a bed of steamed shitake mushroom rice.

This was a hot pot -- an all mushroom hot pot. Served without any sauce on the side.


Shrimp dumplings.

Toasting mom and dad.

Dessert, fruit and coffee/coconut puddings.

I'll withhold a rant about local cuisine, after all, it is New Year's again. Suffice to say that somehow, weirdly, on an island full of coconuts, the Taiwanese never learned to use coconut milk in their cooking. Oh for a Sri Lankan curry!
Daily Links:
  • My friend Jacob G flipped me this link to a Simpsons episode with the Taiwan flag at the Olympics.
  • Taiwans ITRI is the leading recipient of US patents among all research institutes in the world.
  • Jamestown Briefing with a report on China's expansion into the South China Sea.
  • Once again, the common pattern: China uses a Taiwan-related event to put stress on the US Taiwan relationship by blaming it for something that has already occurred. In this case, recall the threats to dump US treasuries in the wake of the arms sale to Taiwan? Already happened prior to the announcement. The "arms sales provoke China!" whine is just like the "Chen Shui-bian provokes China!" whine -- a way to snow US commentators into taking China's side.
  • We're observing the WHA again this year. Whooppee!
  • Fish from the Taiwan Reef in the middle of Lake Malawi. Taiwan is everywhere.
  • Martin Jacques in the NY Times on what everyone is starting to recognize as the new dangerous period in US-China relations. He's also in CSM. Japan Times on similar. David Shambaugh on same topic. D'oh -- finally commentators are starting to wake up to what they are dealing with. Hello to the new dangerous world of Chinese expansion and hegemonic warfare. Of course, some people do get it.
  • My friend Sean Su pointed out the contradiction in this Ma comment at RTI: "Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou made four New Year's wishes for Taiwan Saturday night. The wishes were for economic recovery, political transparency and national and global peace." Transparency? This from the man who has relentlessly worked to keep ECFA out of democratic oversight and away from the public eye? ROFL.
  • Buddhist "mercy release" religious practice drives huge market for animals in Taiwan. Money quote: "The society said that nearly 60 percent of bird shops it interviewed for a study in 2004 admitted to catching or breeding animals to cater to the vast "mercy release" market."
  • Robert Samuelson in WaPo on Our Good Cooperation Partner, China. Money quote: "China's worldview threatens America's geopolitical and economic interests. Just recently, 19 U.S. trade associations wrote the Obama administration warning that new Chinese rules for "indigenous innovation" could "exclude a wide array of U.S. firms" from the Chinese market -- or force them to turn over advanced technology. (British firms are so incensed by "overwhelming protectionism" that some may quit China, reports the Telegraph newspaper.)"
  • Cash, cars, and hookers. Why didn't I become a baseball player in Taiwan?
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!


Anonymous said...

I think it's time that you considered moving back to the US. You're sounding more and more like a bitter old man in regards to pretty much everything except biking.

Michael Turton said...

LOL. I really like Taiwan, as you well know. I detest holidays, though.

I've often wanted to discuss the odd contrast between the fact that local food isn't really very good, and yet Taiwanese are convinced they live in a cuisine paradise. Don't have the courage yet.


Don said...

Taiwanese cooking can be world-class on the home front though, especially when someone's old ma is at the wok.

Note for Bandit censors: the ROC flag (some of it) is at 12:20 in the Simpsons.

jerome in vals said...

給這匹狗過了年嗎? !!!

Michael Turton said...

I think some home cooking is good within the local cuisine framework.

Here's something even more provocative that many of us have privately discussed: food was better when I came than now. An acquaintance theorized that it is because in those days the mainland exiles were still alive and carrying on the food traditions, but now they are dead and things have become homogenized. But I'd sure love to get some input on the whole food issue from long-termers.


Gerd said...

How could Ma "wish" for transparency? He is the president and should ensure transparency! Unless he sees himself as a regional administrator who wishes for transparency in the mainland....?

BIT said...

I miss my mom's 粽子。 She made the best 粽子I've ever had. Now I lived in the U.S. I could never test anything like her's. Then again, even when I visit Taiwan, I doubt I can find anything like her's.

Eugene said...

Re: your "some people do get it" link. The author is ignorant, from small mistakes ("senator Clinton") to fundamental misunderstanding of international relations (Soviet Union and China were mortal enemies, not "strongest communist allies"). I love your blog Michael, but linking to ignoramuses doesn't add credibility to you.

Anonymous said...

Unless you are a weirdo, your taste buds are probably severely dulled by all that MSG you eat in Taiwan all the time. MSG strongly stimulates your taste buds, and you very likely aren't even capable of tasting nuanced shades of flavor anymore.

(Since you are Italian, I will point out on the side that very interestingly, Italian cuisine is very similar in that the non-sweet stuff is all centered around MSG as well--tomato sauce (mild MSG) and parmesan cheese (strong MSG). The typical Italian style sausages are totally stuffed with the straight artificial MSG as well.)

Fili said...

Foodporn indeed. Looks terrific.

Happy Chinese New Year...

Anonymous said...

re: Taiwan Food, right on the money MT. Of course, a Taiwanese will never admit this fact of life. They will give you the weak "America doesn't have any food except McDonalds" line of nonsense.

It odd to watch a well dressed, fashionable Taiwanese woman walk down the street then stop at a street vendor to buy some pig guts, chicken butts or duck tongues.

I think this food mentality goes back to the time when many Taiwanese were dirt poor and would eat anything. Rice with sweet potatoes mixed in was the staple so any funky chitlins part were a delicacy.

Likewise, its interesting to see that the Taiwanese still enjoy their shaved iced with beans. Its funny because, you know, real ice cream is here, yet they still prefer their cheapo ice desert.

Another observation, has anyone else noticed that the food choices at Welcome Supermarket haven't really changed in 20 years? (One isle of instant noodles, one isle of corn, one isle of.... jeez. bland, bland, bland, bland.... I know part of this is because most homes do not have ovens so they are limited in their food prep methods.

Lastly, here is another video to add to your collection: Squarepants Bob in China

Jane Lessinger Liu said...

Yes, oh my god, totally agree with the monosodium glutamate! Taiwan has a lot of very fresh and interesting raw food materials (tons of stuff are organic, fresh, seasonal). There are like 10 kinds of common leafy vegetables, none of which you can get in the US, mountain vegetables (bad for environment, but wonders on my taste buds), and my total fav chewy hand made noodles everywhere!! And mangos!

Awesome breakfast options in Tainan City include: Fruit salad breakfast with flan, Shrimp rice, Lamb soup, Milkfish belly fried or in soup.

Banquet food is for show, not for taste (although usually stuff like crab sticky rice is pretty good). I'm surprised you don't know more as I've been here less time and like you, I'm married to a Taiwanese. I'm sorry, but if you don't know how to eat after having been here 10+ years, you are pretty hopeless :)

irwinc said...

I was just about to send you a note about last week's episode of Simpsons but looks like you've already been tipped off!

Michael Turton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael Turton said...

Jane, of course you can get all those veggies in the US. But the issue isn't what's fresh to start off with, but what comes out at the end.

I'll be down in Tainan a lot this semester. Let's do breakfast.


Thoth Harris said...

This is why I stay at home and just shop at A-Mart, etc., rather than trying to suffer through various stages of repetitive eating which is more work than work. At home, I can get whatever polyglot cuisine I desire. However, I hope not too many people will read my comment here and flock to A-Mart; supplies for interesting food are scarce here, after all!
One food I love without reservation is that found in Hakka seafood restaurants. Mountain fish cooked to exquisite tenderness, combined with the right texture of soft tofu, and who can forget the steamed squash salved complemented with a mild taste of herb.... I absolutely recommend it! Delightful!