Simple Kaffa: a Tiramisu Forumla

One of the things that I missed the most on my six-weeks visit in Taiwan was good coffee. Yes, I did mention that there are a plethora of cafes in basically every single block of any Taipei streets. However, there are very few that I saw that could provide a quaint environment in the same way that Kean Coffee does for me in Tustin, CA.

My opinions changed when I went to Simple Kaffa, a quaint cafe hidden in a small, open air yet somewhat underground courtyard that offers wonderful coffee and desserts.

It is a popular place: so popular that they named their tiramisu “sometimes available” since it often runs out (my first visit being one of those times).

It is also so popular that no one noticed when my mother, sister and I accidentally walked out of the place without paying, since somehow, we were all too tired from house chores and too accustomed to the waitress/waiter bringing the bill instead of having to go to the counter before we leave.

We did not notice our mistake until that night, when my mom immediately called and apologized for our forgetfulness. Surprisingly, the clerk also apologized profusely, thanking us for our honesty. Though we made sure for the next day’s schedule to include our second visit at the cafe to pay our forgotten bill.

This was when we tried their “beer coffee,” a cold, non-alcoholic drink that was basically a bubbling cold brew.

This was also when we finally got the tiramisu that ran out the day before.

It was a great reminder to my usually pessimistic mind that both honesty and understanding are just like tiramisu at Simple Kaffa, a heavenly combination of great ingredients that are “sometimes available.”

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Matcha Heaven

I thought that my relationship with matcha was forever upset by the presence of chocolate. However, Taiwan was here to prove me wrong.

At Myowa Japanese Cafe, there are a lot of forms of matcha that offers an ultimate (pricey) matcha experience: crepes, sizzling plates (which I had a video of, but cannot post here because I am not a premium member :D), lava cake, tiramisu, sundaes, along with a side of mochi, pudding, soft-served ice cream and teas.

This was yet another example of Taiwan’s culinary finesse along with its deep connections with Japan as a result of being put under the latter’s rule during the period of Japanese Imperialistic expansion before WWII.

Also, since Japan had been one of the most economically successful countries in East Asia, it was only natural for Taiwan to copy/learn heavily from that culture.

Well, I certainly am glad that matcha became one of the prospects of cultural diffusion.

Taiwanese Father’s Day

August 8th is the Taiwanese Father’s Day since it sounds like the Mandarin words for dad (which is roughly pronounced as “ba ba”). And, I was inspired by my father to write a letter, which was deemed too poignant for him to actually read. So, I thought I might as well post it in both Mandarin and English since I already spent so much effort writing it.

*******

八八節的來臨使我想要跟您,我的父親,感謝您教我的一切。

 

我的父親教我如何沮喪

以我那從小到大會去打或罵一些欺負女生的男生的個性,我的心裡還是希望我自己的父親至少會支持女人的基本獨立。性別歧視的話語,讓我為女性而感到絕望。

我的父親教我如何演戲

五歲的我每晚必須裝可愛,深怕我的父親今天工作又有甚麼不愉快,而對媽媽和姊姊發脾氣。

我的父親教我如何諒解

數年來,媽媽嘴邊都是掛著同句話:"他很愛你們,只是他不了解你們喜歡的方式而已。"不知道為什麼,我竟然靠著這個想法忍受了十幾年。

我的父親教我如何忌妒

不管我的表現,我的個性,我的長相,我一定樣樣不比其他家裡的小孩。難道他不知道我的”成熟”是母親的教育加上他那(揠苗助長)的忽略?

我的父親教我如何對我的身分錯亂

我不知道要怎麼當他的女兒,因為這十七年來,我對他而言似乎只是一個擺在玻璃櫃裡的獎牌。

我的父親教我自私的意義

因為我每個暑假,永遠都有一些他給的功課:買這個,給那個,一天到晚就是要幫他辦事。儘管我的母親盡量扛起所有的責任,我還是必須為我們的假期打報不平。(一個月後,他就會在Skype上嘆息:”你們這次回來,帳單多了很多。” 難道他不知道有一半是他自己的開銷嗎?)

我的父親教我矛盾的意義

他說他唯一顧及著我跟我姊姊的快樂,但是不管我們要去哪裡,他沒事打來的電話或是他的事情,必定是優先。

我的父親教我如何跟大人建立相似父女的關係

我的校刊導師,一些教會的大人,似乎比我的生父來的更想要知道我的小想法。

我的父親教我如何使用寫作來洗清痛恨

我每一個故事都是繞著一個太多想法的女孩,試著平衡一個瘋狂的世界。

 

我用了一個我已經不熟悉的語言來跟您解釋我今天不高興的原因,也只是希望您能諒解我的措辭跟憤怒:昨晚說的話語也只是壓死駱駝的最後一根稻草罷了。

 

Father’s Day prompted me to want to thank you, my father, for everything that you have done for me.

 

My father taught me disillusionment

For a girl who fights boys physically and verbally since her youth, my heart wishes for my father to at least understand the basic rights of woman. Sexist rhetorics naturally kills me within.

My father taught me how to act

I remember those long nights when I was but five, waiting to try my best to act silly so you would smile in fear that some minor annoyances at work made you upset at my mother and sister.

My father taught me understanding

My mother always told me that he “loves you guys very much, but simply does not understand how to love you guys in the way that you guys want.” For some reason, I used that to endure for over a decade.

My father taught me jealousy

No matter how good I perform, how well-behaved I am, how beautiful I try to present myself, I am always after others’ children. Does he not know that my supposed “maturity” is but a product of my mother’s teachings along with his negligence?

My father taught me how to be confused about my identity

I don’t know how to be his daughter: for the past seventeen years, he treated me like an award in a glass display shelf, coincidentally made out of the same material as the ceiling preventing women from equal pay.

My father taught me selfishness

Every summer it was always dotted with running his errands. Even though my mother tries her best to hoist the entire responsibility upon her shoulders, I still mourn the death of our vacation. (One month later he would say accusingly on Skype, “The bills skyrocketed when you guys came back.” Does he not know that half of those expenses included him in the center?)

My father taught me contradiction

Despite his claims for his sole purpose being that of ensuring his children’s happiness, his calls always come first. It doesn’t matter what type of church gathering we are planning to go, it doesn’t matter what hiking plans we have. His business comes first.

My father taught me how to find good father-figures

My newspaper advisor…adults at church…how come they all seem to be more concerned about what goes on in this brain of mine?

My father taught me how to wash away hatred with writing

Every single story I write evolves around a girl occupied with thought, attempting to balance a crazy world.

Feminist Insight from a Taiwanese Steakhouse

There is a certain steakhouse that my sister and I are bound to dine at every time we come back to Taiwan: it was more than just the delicious escargot or the ribeye steaks or the warm crepes with tri-layered ice cream. It was a memory of the distant weekends when the family and other family friends crowded around the checkered tables, laughing and talking in the dimmed lights while I demanded my share of lobster without really understanding the price.

As you can see, the food is really excellent. Though, what really struck me was the touch of home: despite the high-class atmosphere, the waiters still spoke Taiwanese and beamed with a distinctive homely air (as supposed to the formal Mandarin Chinese like most high-end restaurants).

Another thing was that, right before we left our seats to pay (most Taiwanese restaurants do not bring the bill to the table after the meal. You have to walk to the front counter to pay), the restaurant owner, an old woman around her 60s claimed our attention as she recognized us as one of the older regulars that she had not seen for a long time. After commenting on how much my sister and I grew (to look exactly like our mother), she went on an unexpected episode.

“You know, it’s really different now,” She was addressing our mom as she learned that my mother had my sister when she was in her 30s. “Back in the agrarian times, we all had children in our early 20s, and all we thought we are supposed to do when we grow up was to marry.” With an exasperated expression she added, “It’s all different now: you two,” she gazed upon my sister and I with her patient eyes, “You two have got to remember that you can only marry if you find someone that is worthy. You don’t even need to get married: it’s more free that way!”

While leaning back into her chair to give laugh, she decided to give us a specials for our meal, taking 20% off for oldtimes sake while I left feeling a little happier seeing in person for the first time a Taiwanese woman from the older generation that is not helplessly conservative and busy telling me how horrible it is for me to be so tan.

The Metaphorical and Actual Warmth of Tainan

Over the weekend before my sister’s birthday, our family decided to go visit my father’s old home in Tainan, which was a four hour drive (or around 300 km/187.5 miles) away from our current dwelling in New Taipei City. While I was thoroughly overjoyed by the idea of staying at a five-star hotel for only 3300 NT (or 110 USD) per room along with a complimentary buffet breakfast, I was more excited about the cuisine. Even though there are already a bunch of great desserts and foods in Taipei, nothing beats the hundred-years-old traditional foods that fill the streets in Tainan. Here are some examples.

More importantly, it really surprised me how…warm Tainan is. Yep, just when I was praising God for giving Taipei rain for nearly every day that I had been here, the rains stopped and the heat returned to boil me alive. Plus, Tainan being the south of Taipei made it a lot warmer than the northern city.

But humidity is not my focus today: I was pleasantly surprised by the warmth of the people here. When we first dropped by a store for some dried fruits and almond snaps, the store owner immediately struck up conversation as though we were old friends. It wasn’t in the same way that Americans politely smile or say “good morning”s to each other when they walk by, nor was it the same as a good sales person trying to get on your good side. It was as though he was willing to actually make a connection, leaving a positive imprint as our lives collided against each other by chance for the briefest second.

Not only did I gain a bunch of delicious jars of crackers wrapped in calligraphed paper bags from this little store (along with free, iced black/barley/homemade tea as he said that it was a miracle people like us from Taipei didn’t evaporate in the Tainan heat), I was also reminded of my footprints on the path of life since each deliberate step could have made a world of differences for others as it did for me.

Lunch at Hana

It was only a couple days after I came back to Taiwan when my father decided to finally listen to me on my theory of food and jetlag; it goes as follows, “Awesome food is the best cure for jet lag.” So we went to Hana, one of the best teppanyaki places in Taipei. Here is some proof.

One of the best things about this place is the fact that everything happens in such a proximity to you: the food is cooked within an arm’s length to you, while the chef himself, a friend of my father, always engages us in conversation to reveal some things that sound awfully familiar.

“I started doing this more than thirty years ago,” He sprinkled a handful of spices upon the fish with an artistic flourish as a humble acknowledgment to my parents’ compliments. “It’s interesting to see the shift of the industry.”

“Kids these days are lazy, huh?” My father already began assuming.

“No, not just that,” Chef T said (I use this for the sake of anonymity). “It’s more like…our generation conditioned the kids today to be lazy. I don’t get as many apprentices as before, and yes, many of them just come here to ‘intern’ after actually getting a diploma from a culinary school…”

There are too many things that you cannot learn in a culinary school.

His statement made me wander long after I walked out of the restaurant: it’s not really just culinary school, but rather, school in general. Yet, there are also so many things that you cannot learn outside of an academic setting. Taiwan is no stranger to constantly fluctuating education policies, not unlike the US’s new SATs, common core and etc. Traditional Taiwanese schools are now leaning towards even more westernization as a system that originally hinges upon entrance exams as the sole determination for high schools and colleges changes to include extracurriculars and interviews in the application.

Can this really change the trend that Chef T described? Possibly. Perhaps it is the circle that I live in in the US, but it does appear to me that there are less people that plan to live the rest of their lives on their parents’ allowances among my US friends compared to my acquaintances in Taiwan.

The thought that I might have contemplated such a lifestyle plausible simply had I stayed in Taiwan made my full stomach lurch a little. But, for the most part, I was, once again, amazed by Hana in both food and inspiration.

Starbucks: Another Example to Taiwan’s Economically-driven Rapid Changes

In the spirit of innovation (and commercialization), Taiwan is also riddled with Starbucks. The white outline of a mermaid often catches me off guard since the exterior and interior design often nullify my understandings of Starbucks. Yes, they still have the free wifi, the frappucinos, and the tall, grande, and venti, but in Irvine, there’s never a green tea jelly frappuccino, heated croissant sandwiches or french toast sandwiches.

Also there are never this many design mugs.

Also there are never these breakfast combos.

…All in all, the competitiveness of Taiwan’s market drove all the plethora of cafes to innovate, give more varieties, upgrade. In the span of two years, stores and signs already swapped places profusely to make me feel like a tourist.

It’s almost like physics: just when I feel like I understand a concept by finally getting all the examples right, a new chapter comes and pulls out the rug out of my feet in a failed demonstration of inertia. Since, just like physics, a surface understanding is hardly enough for one to appreciate Taiwan.

One must learn the bigger picture, seeing the volatility and changeability and variety that is part of the Taiwanese culture. No, it is not exactly a lack of individuality to me since I have hardly know another place that changes nearly as fast as this little cosmopolitan city, Taipei. This tendency for constant change is a double edged sword labeled innovation and fickle.

Oh, and my cappuccino got cold….