Friday, October 21, 2011

Random Asianess: Steak in Taiwan

I've written before, about American Fast Food in Taiwan.  But there’s something else that I haven’t written about and that’s Taiwanese restaurants that serve American Style food.  This is different than American food being served in an American restaurant in Taiwan.

In the US beef is by far the most popular meat that we eat.  But in Taiwan, Pork seems to be the most popular.  Why you may ask?  Almost all the beef that’s sold in stores here is imported from the US, New Zealand or Australia.  There are some dairy farms here, and I would suppose that they have some beef steers, although, I have to admit that I’ve never seen one in Taiwan.

So the reason it is difficult to find an American style steak in Taiwan is that people just don’t eat it all that much.  You can find a steak in American restaurants like TGI Fridays or Outback but rarely will you find steak like that in a Taiwanese restaurant.

My wife grew up on a farm in Ohio and they raised their own steers for food.  In fact, my wife would raise a steer for the county fair and she could be seen taking her steer for a walk through downtown Ridgeville Corners.  I don’t know how much weight they gained or if they won prizes at the fair, but they were happy steers, treated like the family pet.  Well, except we don’t usually eat the family pet.  But that’s another story.

There are a number of restaurants that serve steak in Taiwan.  But it is prepared differently and isn’t what we Americans are really referring to when we talk about steak.  As an American the definition of steak is a flat cut of beef.  New York, Sirloin, Tenderloin, Rib eye, Filet Mignon, you get the drift.  If you’re in the US you can ask your butcher, he knows all about steak and the different cuts.  But if you go to the butcher here and ask for a Ribeye, with the exception of Costco, or Carrefour they will have no idea what you’re talking about.  Because in Taiwan they just don’t cut meat like that.

One restaurant that is famous for serving steak is called Tasty. Tasty has a reputation for fantastic customer service, and the reputation is well deserved.  The service is impeccable, polite, responsive, attentive (without being obnoxiously attentive), and the prices are reasonable.  We had a 7 course set meal for $450.00 NTD (about $15.00 USD).  Salad, appetizers, antipasto, dessert, it was wonderful but the Steak just didn't look or feel like a steak.  It was cooked in what is called a speed cooker.  A speed cooker is basically a steamer.  So the steak was steamed.  It was also a different cut than the steaks we are used to in the US.  But it was delicious served with a nice pepper sauce.  There is a Tasty restaurant in Taoyuan City near the corner of Junghua Rd and Nanhua St, on Nanhua. (No.66 Nanhua Street, Taoyuan City) It is well worth trying, but not if you’re looking for a good ol’ American Steak.

There is a Taiwanese restaurant called My Home Steak at Chunri Rd near Chengong Rd.that serves steaks in cuts that Americans are used to, sort of.  The restaurant has an all you can eat Salad bar that comes with the meal.  And the meat is served with pasta and two eggs Sunny Side Up.  The salad bar serves a nice green salad, with Thousand Islands dressing or you can load up on Taiwanese foods like shrimp, fish balls, and other things like that.  A Sirloin Steak at this restaurant sells for about $280.00 NTD ($10.00 USD) which isn’t a bad price.  After your meal you can get a dish of frozen yogurt or ice cream. 

That same pepper sauce is available to put on your steak if you want.  All in all it’s a decent meal and it looks familiar.  But if you’re a real steak person, like you grew up on a farm and had a pet steer, that you eventually had to eat, you probably won’t be entirely satisfied.

Steak and other courses at Tasty

Sirloin Steak at My Home Steak

My Home Steak Chunri Road, Taoyuan City

Other Posts you maybe interested in:

Photo credits: (For Tasty sign and Steak and other Courses)
Chris and Brenda Banducci

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Cultural Unawareness: Just Love Hug Rally 2011

"Just Love Hug" rally September 24, 2001

Last week, for reasons that lie completely outside of my area of control, I found myself propelled into an extremely unlikely set of circumstances.  By unlikely, I don’t mean that the circumstances themselves were unlikely.  These things happen all the time.  By unlikely, I’m referring to my actual presence in the place where these circumstances existed.  My being in the same zip code with an event like I attended last week are about as likely as the spontaneous generation of cold fusion in my kitchen sink.  In fact, Evolutionary Biology playing itself out in my refrigerator is one hundred times more probable than me willingly attending something like this.  But I had no choice, well, in all actuality I guess that I could have refused to even go near the place, but it really came down to making a choice between offending people who have made it possible for me to remain in Taiwan, and me being a little uncomfortable for a few minutes. So after hours of serious deliberation, I decided that I would prefer a little discomfort to actually being on a plane headed back to California.

The Premier of Taiwan,  Wu Den Yi exhorts the crowd.
Where, you might ask, did I find myself?  At the Zhongli “Just Love Hug” rally.  I have to tell you, I like people, I love to talk to them, I like to spend time with them, I even look forward to spending time with people, I’m just not a big hugger.  I can’t help it.  It’s probably some psychological flaw, some hang-up left over from some moment of embarrassment or discomfort I experienced as a child.  Some Freudian interpreter might blame it my mother, although my mom is one of the few people that I actually don’t mind hugging.  It’s odd because I’m not a distant, cool, unapproachable type, but in reality, I only hug my immediate family and maybe my sisters, and a few close friends who expect it because of our Hippie days.  But that’s really about it.  I have always felt that hello, goodbye and a nice handshake were perfectly adequate forms of greeting and farewell.  In the late eighties I took a class where, at then end of the three day seminar, I was required to hug each of the seventy other participants in the class and about halfway through I was ready to run screaming for the door.  I was sweaty, rumpled and smelling like a combination of aftershaves, perfumes, colognes and body odor.  I was pretty well done with mass hug-a-thons at that point.  The idea of a mass hug with ten thousand strangers was more than I could bear.  But there I was with nine thousand nine hundred ninety-nine others listening to them countdown from fifty to the great hug moment. 

Counting down to the big moment
I was frantically trying to figure out how I could gracefully avoid embracing some well meaning person, intent on increasing the good feelings of mankind, bringing us all a little closer and demonstrating the love of humanity.  I mean really, I don’t want to hurt someone like that.  I really feel those are lofty and worthwhile goals, but how about looking into each other’s eyes and affirming our value as human beings, or a group smile, or maybe a little affectionate punch on the shoulder... but come on, not a hug!  Meanwhile, as I’m working all of this out in my mind, the countdown was plummeting toward the moment.  It was too late to excuse myself and go to the bathroom.  It was too late to pretend to be intent on tying my shoes.  It was too late feign a heart attack.  The count had reached zero.

Nothing happened.  Even those on stage, who were exhorting us toward this moment, were kind of shifting around uncomfortably until the moment passed.  Then it was over, I didn’t see a single hug exchanged except between lovers in the entire place.

The Hug-a-thon
Taiwanese people are warm, friendly and loving people, but they’re not real big on hugging strangers, either.  It was a little bit easier for me to identify with them, and relate to them after that moment.  I felt closer to the Taiwanese people after that then I ever had before.  In fact, I had good feelings toward mankind in general, I felt closer as a human being to others than I had before.  I even felt a deeper love of humanity.  Hey, maybe this stuff works.

Other posts you may be interested in:

Photos for the Taiwan Adventure by guest photographer, Wayne Pelren