Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Eating My Way Through Taiwan: Niu Rou Mian

Niu Rou Mian
One of my all-time favorite dishes is Niu Rou Mian (Beef Noodles). This is a delicious traditional Taiwanese meal. It’s is made with chunks of Beef, Chinese Cabbage, Mustard Greens, Scallions, spices, herbs and of course, the hand-made noodles. All of this is served in Beef stock.

In America, we may choose to serve Niu Rou Mian as a soup with a meal, but here in Taiwan it’s a meal unto itself. It is usually served in a large bowl with no other dishes. It is enough to sustain you. I like it best when the weather is cold and rainy. The hot delicious soup warms you up and takes the chill off, while the aromatic, spicy flavor clears your sinuses.

There are two varieties of Nui Rou Mian that are found in Taiwan. There is the version described above, this is the type most commonly found. But there is another type. The second version contains red pepper to make the meal spicy. The meat is sometimes stir fried in hot sauce. If you are person who likes spicy hot food, then this is the version for you. I like both types and eat both as often as possible.

Most convenience stores carry an instant version. In these, you add hot water and allow it to steep for a period of time. Both the spicy and regular versions are readily available. As with all preprocessed foods, quality is as variable as the number of brands that are available. But don’t misunderstand me; some of these are very delicious, with a flavorful soup and thick noodles. Of course, the beef in these is pretty scarce and the chunks are very small.

One of Bian Yi Liu's other tasty dishes:  Seafood Rice
There is a restaurant in Taoyuan, on Jie Shou Lu, called Bian Yi Liu. The restaurant has an interesting name. Bian is the surname of the owner’s wife. She's from Thailand. and you can see the Thai influence in salads; they serve a delicious papaya salad that is spicy and sweet at the same time. Yi Liu means first class. This small quiet restaurant is just that. They serve traditional Chinese foods in a friendly atmosphere. The owner, Martin, welcomes each guest to the restaurant and often serves you himself. If you’re an English speaker, Martin speaks English very well and will help you to decipher the menu. The restaurant’s specialty is Niu Rou Mian although they serve many tasty dishes.

I only found this restaurant because I’m a foreigner, who doesn’t read Chinese. It is located across the parking lot from a brand new building. I had seen that building many times and thought it might be a nice restaurant to take my wife for dinner. (It has that restaurant look, slanted walls, lots of greenery and large trees.)  So one night we ditched the kids and went out on our own, and I thought I’d surprise her by taking her to this beautiful new restaurant…except it wasn’t a restaurant, it was a place where they sold some new homes. They directed me across the parking lot to Bian Yi Liu, where I was delightfully surprised.

If you are around Taoyuan, you may want to check it out: Bian Yi Liu, Jie Shou Lu, 459, Taouan City, (03) 362-7968. Tell them that you saw it in The Taiwan Adventure Blog, or that Chris sent you, or better yet, email me and I'll go with you...your treat.   .By the way, I wasn't paid for this shameless plug.

Other posts you might be interested in:

Eating My Way Through Taiwan:  Buddha Jumps Over the Wall
Cultural Unawareness:  Cultural Explosions
Eating My Way Through Taiwan:  A Traditional Restaurant

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Taiwanese Spirit: Dream Rangers

Commercials are usually designed to inlfuence people to a product or a service that can be purchased.  All commercials are designed to attract as great a following for the product or service as possible.  Think about this, if you are going to invest your money in a specific advertising program, you want the largest return for your investment possible.  So in order to appeal to the largest audience commercials attempt to tap into the culture of a people. 

This commercial, I think, shows the spirit of the people of Taiwan and judging by the affect that it had on me I think it speaks to something that is universal:  Something that isn't tied to culture or upbringing or national character but is inherent in people.  It has the same broad appeal that the Nike Commercial, "Jiust Do It "  had in the US, when it was launched.

Many times when we're faced with struggle and suffering we have a tendency to give up.  We let our aches and pains get in the way of living life.  When that happens life stops being an adventure, and often becomes a burden.  Life stops being something that you want to get up for in the morning.  Sometimes we end up being ready to be buried and we're not even dead yet. 

This commercial is a reminder of what makes life worth living.  It is a reminder of what makes the human spirit such a powerful force.  In the face of world events, especially the tsunami in Japan, this commercial reminds us that circumstances cannot limit the human spirit...UNLESS WE LET IT.  I believe the people of Japan will rise from this crisis. 

Thanks to drifter091 for the use of this video.  He's changed the music, but it's even better than the original
here's a link to his Youtube channel http://www.youtube.com/user/drifter091.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Taiwan Travelogue: The Revolutionary Martyr's Shrine

The National Revolutionary Martyrs’ Shrine located in Taipei City has been built to honor the war dead of the Republic of China. What makes this interesting is that many of the people honored are not Taiwanese. Many of them are from Mainland China.

The Shrine was built to honor those killed in the establishment of the Republic of China. From 1912 until 1949, the Republic of China was the government of Mainland China. After the defeat of nationalist forces by the communists, the Republic of China government established itself on the island of Taiwan.

This shrine honors those who died during the Xinhai Revolution, [see Taiwanese History:  Double Tenth Day 10/2102010] The Northern Expedition, the Second Sino-Japanese War, the Chinese Civil War and both of the Taiwan Strait Crises. The shrine is an important historical site and sees many hundreds of visitors from Taiwan every month, as well as many tourists from Mainland China.

The Shrine was built in 1969 on the slopes of the Qing Mountain, overlooking the Keelung River near the Grand Hotel. It is surrounded 33,000 square meters of grassland. The shrine is a beautiful place. It has been designed with architecture similar to the Imperial palace in Beijing. The architecture represents a brave spirit.

Tablets that name the 330,000 people who died establishing the Republic of China are laid into the four walls of the main building. On September 3 of each year the President of the Republic of China leads the men and women of the Five Yuans or circles. (Which are the five branches of the Taiwanese government) to worship the men who are honored here. There are Revolutionary Martyrs' Shrines throughout Taiwan.  The Reoublic of China wants to remind its citizens of the sacrifice that created the nation.

Finally there is a changing of the guard approximately once an hour, that is similar to the changing of the guard at the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall. The Honor Guard marches with precision, drills with their rifles. The Honor Guard is trained to stand motionless and expressionless, with complete disregard for the actions of the visitors to the shrine.

The following video is a lengthy 9:55  but shows the guard change in its entirety at the main entrance station.  In addition to the changing of the guard, the video gives you a glimpse of changeable weather that is regularly found in Taiwan.

Still Photos by Brenda Banducci
You Tube Video by californiaengineer

Other posts you may be interested in:

Taiwanese History:  The Chiang Kai Shek Mausoleum
Taiwanese History:  Double Tenth Day
Taiwanese History:  The 2/28 Massacre

Monday, March 14, 2011

Scootering in Taiwan: New Helmet Technology

I’ve been riding a scooter in Taiwan now for a little over a year. Riding a scooter is the best way to get around town. Generally, parking isn’t a huge issue, especially if you have a scooter designed for disabled people, like I do. I have parked in a place where a lot of other scooters were parked, albeit, illegally to see all the scooters, except mine, towed away and their license number written on the street in chalk. The towing guys are a bit more compassionate about disabled scooters than they are about the regular scooters. As for me, I can live with the special treatment, in this one case.

For all the time I’ve been riding I have been using the helmet that the Yamaha dealer gave me. It’s a standard round-headed helmet. In fact it makes my shadow look like Charlie Brown’s. Sometimes I like it well enough. I know it’s a safe helmet and will protect my head, but it has its disadvantages.

First because of its construction it whistles as I ride. The way the faceplate is attached restricts airflow and there is a constant whistle. I ride with the faceplate up it catches the wind and tries to fly.. I feel the helmet getting lighter on my head and I have to reach up and pull the mask down a little so the wind hits across the plate and it loses lift. Finally, it just isn’t cool looking. I see all these Taiwanese kids with cool helmets and I think, “Hey, I want to be cool, too.” Then I see my shadow and well, I look like that other famous blockhead…Charlie Brown. So after all this time I decided I needed…I know what you’re thinking…I NEEDED not WANTED. I’m sticking to that story…a new helmet.

There’re a lot of different helmets you can get. There’s one that looks like a strawberry, it even has some felt leaves up on the top. I might get one of those for Emily. There are some with cool pictures on them. Some of them look like a hardhat with a chinstrap. I’ve even seen some with a Mohawk. Some have words misspelled on them, though, I don’t think that’s intentional. Of course, Hello Kitty and a lot of other cute girly stuff are available, but I wansn’t in the market for that. One thing that’s interesting is that I see a lot of tough looking bin lang chewing guys wearing pink helmets and rain gear, but I’ll save that for another post. .

I finally chose one. I found it at Costco. It’s Glossy black but it isn’t a Charlie Browner, it’s kind of space age looking. I’ve seen this type around but I didn’t realize what it all meant. On the top are two raised areas. They look like airfoils. In fact, that’s exactly what they are.

I didn’t know that when I bought it. It said what they were on the box, but I can’t read a lot of Chinese so I didn’t know. But when I put it on and went for my maiden voyage, I felt an odd sensation on the top of my head. It was cool. My hair, what’s left of it, ruffled slightly in the breeze. It felt cool and nice, and stimulated my somewhat lonely follicles. The helmet has vents in the front that scoop air into the helmet and it runs through and escapes out the exhaust vents in the back. Your head has a nice breeze while being protected.  The vents even run cool air down the inside of the faceplate, so your face can be cool.

But, you might think, what about when it’s cold and you want your head to stay warm? What if you don’t want cold air and rainwater rushing through your helmet stimulating all those follicles? There are two little switches on the helmet that when you switch them they shut off the vents and your head stays warm and toasty, although your follicles are constantly, by this time, crying out for more stimulation.

This is a great design in a place like Taiwan, where the weather can change in a matter of minutes. The summer has a tendency to be hot and humid and this ventilation will be a welcome addition to my scootering experience.

Other Posts you may be interested in:

Traveling With M13:  Custom Scooters of Taiwan
Random Asianess:  Valentino Rossi...Baby
Cultural Unawareness:  Ticked Off in Taiwan

Monday, March 7, 2011

Taiwan Travelogue: The National Palace Museum

A Brief History of the National Palace Museum:

Thirteen years after the founding of the Republic of China [Taiwanese History: Double Tenth Day: October 21, 2010] the last emperor Pu Ying was exiled from the Forbidden City. All cultural artifacts within the palace became the basis for the National Palace Museum in the Forbidden City. The Museum was inaugurated on October 10, 1925. The mission of the National Palace Museum was to preserve the artifacts and make them available to be seen by all citizens of the Republic of China.

In 1931 the decision was made to crate all of the objects to make them ready to move in order to protect them from falling into Japan's hands as during the Japanese Invasion of Northeast China.

In 1948, the civil war between nationalist troops and communist troops took a turn for the worst for the Republic of China and all artifacts were evacuated to Taiwan to preserve them.

In 1965 The National Palace Museum opened in Taipei, Taiwan where it remains today. The National Palace Museum has one of the largest collections of Ancient Chinese Art in the world. It’s a world-class museum and ranks as one of the finest in the world. There are many notable pieces from the Song (960–1279), Yuan (1279-1368), Ming (1368-1644), and Qing (1644-1912) Dynasties.

Notable Artifacts

The Jadeite Cabbage

The Jadeite Cabbage was made during the Qing Dynasty as a gift for the emperor. The White and green coloring of the Jadeite was used to make this carving look like a Chinese White Cabbage. Hidden in he leaves of the cabbage are crickets. The detail of this piece is amazing, when looking closely at the cricket you can see the ridges that make the cricket’s sound on the back of the legs. The crickets represented the wish for children for the emperor. The Jadeite had a number of flaws; the artist incorporated the flaws into the design hiding them.

The Carved Olive Boat

This is small carved boat. It is the size of a small walnut and has been graved by hand in approximately 1737. If you look at the boat you can see doors that open and people who have been carved into the interior of the work. The people all have different expressions on their face. There is a text of more than 300 Chinese characters carved into the bottom of the boat.

The Peach Vase

This vase made in the Qing Dynasty is made of ceramic clay. There is beautiful artwork in glaze on the sides of the vase. It is a branch of Peach Tree containing four peaches and peach blossoms.

The museum is located at No.221 Sec.2 Zhisan Road, Taipei. It can easily be found using Taipei’s system of public transportation. The Hours of the museum are 8:30 am to 6:30 pm. General admission is $160 NTD however, disabled people and one attendant can enter for free. The museum has wheelchairs available for disabled guests. Food and souvenirs can be purchased at the museum.

Other posts you may be interested in:

Taiwan Travelogue:  The Revolutionary Martyrs' Shrine
Taiwan Travelogue:  The Taipei 101
Taiwan Travelogue:  The Taipei 101 (Part 2)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Taiwanese History: The 2/28 Massacre

Taiwanese Flag flies at half-mast over the National Palace Museum 2/28/2011,
Yesterday, Taiwan commemorated the 228 Incident. It is also referred to as the 228 Massacre. The incident is called that because it took place on February 28, 1947. As recently as 1995, this incident, which was officially taboo, for many years, became the catalyst for the Anti-Chiang Kai Shek sentiment in Taiwan. Chiang Kai Shek was the leader of the Kou Ming Tang party and president of the Republic of China in 1947. This was prior to the communists under Mao Tze Tung defeating Kou Ming Tang troops and the subsequent removal of the Republic of China to the island of Taiwan.

Taiwan has a somewhat complicated history. A number of countries have controlled Taiwan in the past, such as Portugal (when the island was called Formosa) and most recently, by the Japanese. prior to the Republic of China’s rule It was at the end of the Japanese rule that the events were set for this event.

At the end of the Sino-Japanese war in 1895, China turned control of Taiwan over to Japanese leadership. By the twenties, Japan had put down all armed resistance to their rule and began to build the economy and raised the standard of living for the Taiwanese people. Many Taiwanese people of that time spoke both Taiwanese and Japanese.

After World War 2, the defeat of Japan necessitated that Taiwan come under the rule of the Republic of China in order to provide stability in the vacuum created by the defeat of the Japanese Empire. The Governor-general of Taiwan arrived October 24, 1945 and the Japanese governor of the island signed the surrender papers and turned the island over the the Republic of China. However, Japan did not renounce its sovereignty over the island until 1952. Many Taiwanese viewed the Japanese rule favorably, because of the economic benefit to the citizens and harbored anti-Chinese sentiment, because they considered the Chinese government to be backwards and corrupt. China's economic mismanagement led to a huge black-market, runaway inflation and food shortages in Taiwan. In addition, Republic of China soldiers were undisciplined and participated in looting, and stealing.
These were the conditions that the people of Taiwan were enduring on February 27, 1947, when the Tobacco Monopoly Board sent armed officers to confiscate contraband tobacco products being sold by a widow named, Lin Jiang-mai. In addition to the contraband, the agents also confiscated her life savings.  As she begged for her savings, a tobacco agent cracked her skull with a pistol. The bystanders rose up and chased the agents from the scene. The crowd already frustrated with Chinese rule, complained to Police and received no response; violence flared. The protest moved to the Governor-general's office where troops opened fire on the unarmed demonstrators killing several.

On March 29, 1947, The New York Times reported that Republic of China troops arrived in Taiwan, on March 7, under orders of the president of the Republic of China, Chiang Kai Shek, and indulged in three days of killing and looting. The New York Times reporter said that everyone on the street was shot at and that the streets were littered with dead. They reported beheadings, mutilation of bodies and women raped. According to the New York Times 10,000 people were killed.*

Formosa killings are put at 10,000". New York Times, March 29, 1947. http://www.taiwandc.org/hst-1947.htm

Other posts you may be interested in: 

Taiwanese History:  The Chiang Kai Shek Mausoleum
Taiwanese History:  Double Tenth Day
Taiwanese Travelogue:  The Revolutionary Martyr's Shrine