Showing posts with label jingmei. Show all posts
Showing posts with label jingmei. Show all posts

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Glue Dots



While we were in the USA, we bought the materials necessary to make our wedding album in Taiwan. We knew that similar materials would be hard to find and likely more expensive here, even though photo printing is fantastically cheaper.

It's true, too: just try finding a nice, classy photo album that doesn't have pictures of cartoon dogs and cats and stars and babies and dodgy English ("Forever My Always Friend!") and fluffy clouds made with the spray-paint effect of a mid-90s version of MS Paint. Try finding an album that doesn't force you to fit in exact rows of regulation-size 4x6 photos in little slots with no room for sizing, spacing, tableau creation, artistic scrapbook-like additions (I'm not into scrapbooking per se and can't stand the little theme stickers, but the papers are nice and some elements of it work nicely in dedicated photo albums) or any sort of classy presentation. Muji sells a few versions but they're all very plain. A few souvenir shops sell pretty Chinese-style decorated ones, but inside it's all 4x6 photo slots, not blank paper.

And just try finding acid-free photo glue, glue tape or glue dots. They exist, but are frighteningly hard to come by. It seems that in Taiwan you either buy a cheap album covered in puppies and kittens and stick your photos in there, or you get pro photos made and the photographer prints up a book for you - standard for weddings and pictures of daughters in princess costumes and occasionally over-indulged Maltese dogs. Although DIY was a big thing in Taiwan several years ago, these days people just don't make their own fancy photo albums and they certainly don't DIY their wedding albums (we ran into the same issues DIYing our wedding invitations. Apparently nobody does that) - so the materials are hard to come by.

What's my point?

Well, we go into a photo store - you know, similar to one of the Konica ones with the blue sign - which prints photos, sells camera batteries, frames and photo albums with puppies and kittens on them, and a few with roses ("The love is our special bonding") and ask about acid-free glue to make a photo album.

After getting over the initial shock of the idea that two people would make their own wedding album, they said that they did not, in fact, carry such glue.

The thing I noted was that one of the women immediately got on the phone and called not one, but three - three - other stores to find a shop that sold such glue for us. First she was sure that there was a place in Shinkong Mitsukoshi that stocked it (no). Then that there was one "around Taipei Main" (yeah, just try walking around Taipei Main asking random people "Do you know where that store is that sells acid-free glue?") and finally she found it at 誠品.

Now, in the USA it wouldn't work this way. You'd drive to Michael's in your gas guzzler, wander the football-field sized cornucopia of DIY goodies (including whatever you need to make a cornucopia), find your acid-free glue dots in the scrapbooking section, and pay for them. You might not even talk to the cashier. Then you'd hop back in your car, possibly get lunch at Panera, and drive home.

In short: zero social interaction.


In Taiwan, this stuff is harder to find, you're never sure which store or even which kind of store carries what (ask me someday about finding leaf skeletons), and half the time it's just luck or knowing someone who knows where to get it.

But then you walk into a place like this one, in some random lane off Roosevelt Road, and the clerk really helps you, and you chat with her, and she tells you how she'd like to make photo albums too but the materials are so expensive, and you pet someone's dog, and she makes a few phone calls, and the next time you come in she recognizes you and asks you if you found the glue you needed.

This is one reason why I love living in Taiwan.

It's easy to get in the car and go to Michael's, but it's infinitely more rewarding to actually talk to people. Forget real glue dots for photos - these small interactions are figurative, social glue dots that form community.

I realize you can do this in many parts of the USA, but my experience has been that it's just not that common anymore, especially with the rise of suburbs and the patterns of interaction they create between people (ie, no interaction). What I find interesting is that my experience is the opposite of what you hear many Americans saying: you always hear about friendliness and everyone knowing everyone in small towns, and the meanness of big, scary anonymous cities. My small town was OK - not too friendly, not too unfriendly. I couldn't go to the pharmacy on Main Street and have the guy behind the counter know me by sight or name. You can go out and be warmly greeted, but not because people actually know you, and rarely because they remember you. Whereas in cities where I've lived, sure, if you leave your neighborhood you're anonymous but if you are doing anything - shopping, drinking coffee, taking a walk, waiting at a bus stop - people from your neighborhood know you, recognize you and greet you. I think this has everything to do with the fact that in those neighborhoods people got in their cars (if they even had cars) a lot less.

But I digress. I haven't felt the same warmth in the USA as I do in Taiwan, and I don't necessarily think it's just because I'm a foreigner (all those old townies and obasans who sit outside gossiping in their social circles, deeply embedded in their neighborhood community, are not foreigners). I don't think the owner of a store in the USA would be likely to call three other stores to help me find what I needed because she didn't sell it (maybe in some places they would - it just hasn't been my experience). I'm not at all sure that same owner would remember me the next time I came in (although that, in Taiwan, might well have a lot to do with my being a foreigner, especially living in a neighborhood with so few of them around).

Now, I'll end on a sad note. We're moving soon (in a month, in fact). We're not leaving Taiwan, just moving from Wenshan to Da'an, to a gorgeous refurbished apartment that we fell in love with on first viewing (wood floors! a dryer! a water filter! a bathtub! stucco walls! a tatami-floored tea alcove!). I've felt really great about changing apartments but also sad about leaving my little Jingmei enclave and saying goodbye to all the vendors, old folks, shop owners and various loiterers I greet daily. Sad about leaving my favorite night market and knowing the vendors who I buy dinner from. Sad about not occasionally waking up to the sounds of the chickens squawking from the chicken vendor one lane over.

Near my apartment is another residential building of roughly the same era (when everything that was built was ugly), with an awning and old chairs by the entrance. I used to sit outside and gossip with the old ladies who gathered there. The nexus - the glue dot - of this octogenarian (and older) clique was Old Wu, who lived on the 2nd floor and had a decrepit old dog named Mao Mao. He was killed when a scooter hit him a few years ago (I was very attached to Mao Mao and I did shed a few tears). Even if the other old ladies were out napping or taking care of grandchildren or wandering around, I would often sit outside with her, and pet Mao Mao when he was alive, and shoot the breeze. Even when that breeze was the first hint of a typhoon blowing in.

Her health was deteriorating before we left for Turkey. I noticed that the glue was coming a bit loose: the old ladies no longer met under the awning, what with Old Wu in the hospital and not there to hold court. They moved to the temple goods store (you know, gold paper lotus offerings, incense etc.) next to Ah-Xiong's shop. I joined them there a few times, but there aren't enough chairs and it's too close to the chickens, which, frankly, stink.

I knew that Old Wu didn't have long, but I didn't think I'd never see her again. I guess I figured, those ladies are pretty tough, and most of them are surprisingly ancient. Old Taiwanese ladies never die, right?

Well, she succumbed to her poor health and passed away while we were in Turkey. I only found out when we got back, and suddenly those empty old chairs were a lot sadder, now that I knew their unsat-in condition was no longer temporary. I cried a fair bit on the way back up to my apartment and was extra winded when I got to the top from doing so (another reason to move: six floor walkup in this place. No more).

Old Wu was my glue dot in Jingmei. She and her group, whose ages totaled must have topped 500, made me feel welcome, like I was part of a community. I didn't feel like a foreigner, a novelty or something strange or different. They'd seen a lot in their lives (a lot - anyone that age in Asia has) and a young foreign girl was really nothing chart-topping. They just accepted me as another part of their life experience (and also told me all about my husband's arm hair and how many kids we should have, but that's another story).

I don't believe in signs. I really don't - but if I did, a case could be made that the end of an era has come and it's time to leave Jingmei - not because Old Wu passed on (I'm not so self-centered as to believe that the universe killed an old lady just to tell me to move!) but because my old lady gossip circle is no more, and because it's just different now. I feel released, pulled off a page, and it's time to find a new glue dot and adhere somewhere else for awhile...even if that somewhere else is technically just up the road.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Three Good Restaurants in Southern Taipei


Dako


台北市大安區新生南路三段76巷10-1豪
#10-1 Lane 75, Xinsheng S. Road Sec. 3, Da'an Dist. Taipei
(02)2369-3017


Brendan with me at Dako - we ate the delicious food too quickly for it to make it into the photograph!



Right in Gongguan near some of the coolest cafes you'll find this super cool Japanese bar and grill - but don't get any ideas from the term "bar and grill" - this is not a spacious restaurant with bustling waitstaff and endless customers. It's a tiny Japanese izakaya style place with a few tiny tables, a small grill, an impressive sake collection and some of the best Japanese snacks you'll find in Taipei, all housed in a small, low-roofed wooden house.

We had two different kinds of sake (the two cheapest options in the "cup" section) - they were served at what was deemed the appropriate temperature, meaning one came slightly warm in a small glass carafe, and the other came ice cold in a clear glass placed inside a square wooden cup, which was also filled partway with sake and from which you can drink. Both were fantastic.

We arrived late - 9:30 or so - so they were all out of many dishes, but what we did have was superlative. We ordered spicy chicken yakitori (meat on a stick), beef yakitori, shrimp "grass" yakitori, butter mushrooms and white bamboo. The chicken was truly spicy but not overpowering, the beef was juicy and rare/medium rare with a pink center as it should be, the mushrooms chock full of buttery umami (deep, good taste), bamboo cooked and seasoned to perfection and the shrimp were meaty and wonderful, and they'd cut the heads so as to be easily detached.

Besides sake, umeshu (plum wine) seems to be available (I didn't check closely), and Taiwan beer on tap comes in huge, frothy glasses. It's a tiny place so go with a small group, but definitely go. We'll be back.



Little Thailand Restaurant - 泰國小館
台北市汀州路糝段號
#219 Dingzhou Street Sec 3, Taipei
(02)2367-0739

This has to be the best Thai restaurant in Gongguan, right up there with Yangon Burmese restaurant (which is basically Thai, but "technically" Burmese). It looks like a small Southeast Asian supermarket on the outside, chock full of snacks for sale, but once you go in it's clearly a restaurant that happens to also sell packaged snacks and other items from SE Asia.

The food is really quite good - very much the same in flavor as I enjoyed during my brief excursion to Thailand years ago (I keep telling myself I'll go back, but there are so many other places to see, too!) - and they don't pull punches on the spice! The pork with green beans and papaya salad were fiery, and the other dishes were at a respectable spice level. They have the usual selection of beer, are always bustling, the walls are covered with pictures and textiles from Thailand, and I love the cheap day-market plastic clock with the picture of the King of Thailand and his many dogs ("he loves dogs and raises rescued strays," the owner told us. "Our King is so good") on the clock face.

We didn't get dessert, but they seemed to have a wider selection than is usually available.

Oh, and do get the shrimp pancake (月亮蝦餅) - it's the best I've had outside of SE Asia.


Weitzuman
台北市文山區景興路118號
#118 Jingxing Road, Wenshan, Taipei City (MRT Jingmei)

Taipei Times reviewed it before I had a chance to - although I may have mentioned it before - but we live very close to this place - maybe a ten minute walk, if that - and I have long been a devotee. It's a dirty-walled, Taiwanese-talkin', good-sake-servin' izakaya in a decidedly unpretentious neighborhood (ie, our neighborhood) with some really spectacular Japanese food and Japanese-style sunken tables.  I still have dreams about the yakitori (although the ones from Dako, above, provide good competition) and I love that this place just plain does good food, it doesn't try to be all hip, and for Japanese food it's quite affordable.

The Taipei Times said it better than I could, so I'll leave it there, but this place gets my stamp of approval!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Asian Facial


So I got my 2nd facial in Taiwan last night with a friend and my skin feels great! For NT$500 (about $15 US - not bad!) they do threading to get stray hairs off your face, put on an astringent gel, then put one of those tightening pore-cleaning masks, like Biore nose strips but for your whole face, on you for awhile. Then they go over your face with a vibrating scraper thing to get dead gunk off. Then more gel and a neck and shoulder rub, then a mud mask that burns a bit, then they take that off, get a scary looking tool and pop all your zits, including ones you didn't know you had. Then another gel and some tea-tree oil based zit-clearing goo and you're on your way.

Emily getting a big green facial.

I go to a place in Jingmei Night Market (景美夜市), on the southern end. It's just north of the part of the market that turns into food stands. It's a tiny place, divided half into massage/manicure (I think they do massage anyway) and half into beauty treatments - threading, facials, eyebrow shaping, permed eyelash curling etc.. They have a hilarious sign in English done up by their Indonesian friend with everything they offer. There are three chairs inside and three ladies on plastic benches with little carts. There's a curtain with two beds behind it, as well.

Yesterday's was quite a bit of fun - they threaded my peach fuzz 'stache which is a lot more painful than the usual threading I get on my neck - my friend was trying not to laugh with her peely-off mask still drying as I cried out...several creatively-worded phrases.

The little old lady doing it, of course, had no idea what I was saying and just smiled through the whole thing.

She then got to the sides of my face, where I have quite a bit of fuzz, and with no warning tore out a huge tract of it with the thread.

Me: OWWWWW
Her: "Hm. Good!"
First lady: "Foreigners have so much hair. That one always comes in for threading. Her facial hair is amazing."
Second lady: "Oooooh."

(Side note: I am in the middle of laser treatment for chin and neck hairs, because I'm part Armenian and Armenian women get whiskers).

I heard a buzzing sound and looked over at my friend.

From General Area of Friend: Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
Lady: "Mmm. So many blackheads. Where do foreigners get these blackheads? So, so many blackheads."

Another woman comes into the shop, which is in a market so we relax to sounds of the arcade games in the next shopfront jangling horrendous Japanese techno, and asks where the two women are.

Third woman: "They're in back, giving facials to these two foreigners."
Customer: "Foreigners? How cute!"

(she pulls back the curtain to see the two traumatized foreigners)

"Oh look! Foreign girls! They're so white! Adorable!"

Another shop lady comes in: "Oh, foreigners! Are they teachers?"

First lady: "This one is. That one is a BRIDE."

Second and third ladies and customer: "OOOOOH!!! A BRIDE!!!!"

Me, weakly: "Well, I work in Taiwan."

Ladies: "BRIDE!!" "Where is the wedding? Is he Taiwanese? When are you having babies?"

Me: "Uhhhh...USA, he's American too, not sure about having ba - bleeheheh"

(as a mud mask gets glommed onto my face)

Second lady: "So I guess they don't need the whitening treatment?"
First lady: "Nah. They're white enough. See?" (she then lifts the shirt of my friend to show off her pale English belly) "Totally white!"
Second lady: "Wow. That's really white."

New customer: "There are white girls in here?"

Friend, to me: "Did she just say I have a fat belly?"
Me: "No, she said you're really white. Like all over."
Friend: "OK, fair enough."

Ladies: "Yes! One of them's a BRIDE!"

Customer, opening curtain: "A BRIDE! Where's the wedding? Is he Taiwanese? When are you having babies? How old are you? Foreigners are so cute!"

Me: "Uhhh"

(second lady comes over with a torture device, like pliers or tweezers but much scarier and starts popping zits)

I have to say I love this country - none of the above is really rude in Taiwanese culture, at least among older women, so I don't feel like I was treated rudely. It's just...what is. We had a good laugh over it, especially the one woman clucking approval as she yanked out huge swaths of facial fuzz. So don't take this as a bitch about anything - it's not!

...and my skin is cleaner than it's ever been, with two facials in three weeks. They do a good job, those sadistic old Asian ladies!

So, female expats and readers - I do recommend that if you want squeaky clean skin and don't mind all the hilarity that you head down to one of these places (they're not a chain or anything but there's usually one in every night market) for a treat. It's not even expensive, plus you'll have a great story to tell your friends. It's especially useful in Taiwan where the humidity, sweat, sun and pollution can do a number on your skin.

*most of the dialogue here was in Chinese or Taiwanese, I put it in English for your benefit

Friday, May 1, 2009

Reason #6 to Love (?) Taiwan

Happy Labor Day, everyone!

Today I only had Chinese class, which meant I could wear jeans and a t-shirt covered in Engrish ("Hot Space Station Justice") and ride my bike to Shi-da at my leisure instead of donning work clothes and taking the bus or MRT. I tried an alternate route and took the riverside park trail up to Guting, then rode up Tong An street to Heping Road, which I took over to Shida. I didn't like hauling my bike up the ramp, though, so I took my usual route home (Wenzhou Street - NTU - lanes to the west of Roosevelt Road - Jingmei).

The weather was also unbelievably gorgeous. Clear skies, light wind, warm sun, I even got a bit of a sunburn on my arms. It was so nice that on my way back, I decided that I couldn't possibly just disembark at home and go inside. So I turned my bike around and went out exploring the lanes and back-alleys in my neighborhood.

That's what brings me to my next "reason to love Taipei". While the reason isn't Jingmei specifically, it is neighborhoods and backstreets in general. Mine are Jingmei, but I mean your neighborhood and your backstreets.

I love how riding or walking from a major road into a lane-filled neighborhood brings about a palpable difference in sound levels. Once you make that turn you leave behind most of the cars and other noise, and it's replaced mostly by silence on weekdays, especially in late morning and mid-afternoon. That silence isn't diminished by the sounds that punctuate it - if anything, it's augmented. Quiet, except for someone dumping out a bucket of water, or a restaurant laoban chopping up pig parts, or a housewife hanging up wet clothes on a balcony, or one lone scooter meandering along.

South of Keelung Road, the lanes leading down to Jingmei are blessed with lengths of long, tree-lined parks. Starting south from the Broadway movie theater, I ride past the Shi-da branch and turn into the lane (past one of my favorite Hakka noodle joints and a place called Eco Coffee which I haven't tried yet). Greeting me immediately is the faint whoosh of leaves in the breeze, as large old gnarlies with Spanish moss hanging from the branches sway back and forth. The only people I generally encounter down there are the occasional children with parents, or pensioners with dogs.

After enjoying a leisurely ride home past the parks - I think there are three in all and all of them are very long and narrow - I kept going past my own door and stopped to talk to Auntie Wu.

My post earlier in the week on obasan was modeled somewhat on Auntie Wu and her...uh...group? Posse? Crew? Gaggle? Homeys? Sistahs? Social Club? She lives on the second floor of an old-style apartment building with her ancient dog, Mao Mao ("Fur-fur"), who has more fur than he has body mass and who is covered in several benign tumors...so I guess his name is appropriate. There are five or six old chairs in the covered area in front of the apartment, and at any given time Auntie Wu is sitting there with Mao Mao and up to five other women of equally advanced age. They've sort of welcomed me into their gang, with the initiation rites being when Mao Mao decided he liked me. Not as much as the beef noodle laoban next door who gives him leftover cow chunks, mind you, but he likes me well enough even though I don't come bearing hunks of fatty beef for him to eat. The ladies are kind enough to speak Chinese when I am around, but it's obvious that they are more comfortable in the more expressive twangs of Taiwanese. Auntie Wu also used to speak Japanese (having been educated in it - she's that old) and Hakka (from having a family relation who is Hakka, though she herself is not), but says she's since forgotten both.

Besides being a lovely older woman to chat with, a way to get to know the goings-on in my neighborhood (old women know everything - if you haven't already figured this out you don't belong in Asia), and a way to improve my Chinese, Auntie Wu is also one of a dying breed. Sadly, I mean that just as literally as I do metaphorically. There aren't too many people left who remember the Japanese colonial years well enough to have been educated in Japanese, and they are a trove of stories and first-person history that Taiwan is slowly, inevitably losing. She remembers years where most women wore kimonos and nobody spoke Mandarin. She remembers the tumultuous decades between the Japanese ceding Taiwan and the economic miracle, when she was afraid for her life under the White Terror. She remembers when Jingmei's name didn't mean "Scenery Beautiful" but was Taiwanese - Ging Mbi - for "End of the River" and was its own little self-contained settlement, though technically a part of Taipei by that time.

Aside from genuinely being her friend, I feel grateful to have this chance to learn about the history of my neighborhood from someone who saw it with her own eyes, and someone who, frankly speaking, won't be around much longer...and neither will her friends, who flock - well, who walk slowly - to the chairs under her awning each day.

You can still see the shadow - the vague charcoal tracing - of Ging Mbi if you look closely enough. Don't stare at the front of the buildings you pass, look at the sides. Old brick or cement building lines - the kind you still see at the edges of the Old Streets of more touristy areas, are still there. Old walls with capstones on either side of the roof. Curved corner buildings reminiscent of earlier times. Two-level shophouses obscured now by advertisements and store signs. Most people who drive through never notice, but if you turn into the lanes you can still see plenty of century-old brick walls traditional tiled roofs. There are even a few farmhouse-type buildings still around, tucked into corners, surviving because the families who built them still have descendants who live there. There's one with a small but distinct courtyard just north of Sanfu Street and another hidden by low trees on the edge of the hard-to-find Wanqing Park. Look more closely at some of the stores and it'll become quickly clear that many of them have been around a lot longer than their present incarnations give away, from a time when Ging Mbi had its own little 'downtown'.

At about 5:30pm Auntie Wu decided to retire for the evening ("I've also got to pee," she said in her mix of Taiwanese-Chinese , before heading up) and I hopped on my bike to explore some new areas.

I rode down past the Wellcome and to the area where Jingfu Street hits the elevated highway. Stopping at Wanqing Park, I noticed for the first time that the little old house on the edge of it also attracts its own group of old folks who sit outside and chat. One of them had a daschund who crawled into my lap and napped there while I sat.

"You're that girl who spends time with Old Wu and her group, aren't you?"
"That's me. I didn't know you knew Auntie Wu."
"Everyone knows Old Wu. She's been here for longer than many of us have been alive. She has seven kids, you know."
"I know. Her daughter brings her to the doctor and I know she has at least two sons living up by Xingnan Street."
"I know you know Old Wu because Dou Dou" (the aforementioned daschund, whose name translates into 'Bean-bean' or 'Pimple') "can smell Mao Mao very clearly. He's so nice to you because he can tell you were petting Mao Mao."

As the sun began to set I bade the new group of retirees farewell and set off towards a temple roof I'd seen in the distance, which I believe I'd seen from Jingfu Street before but had never been able to get to. Starting from Wanqing Park, I finally found out where the entrance was after weaving through a little colony of single-story houses with old brick walls out front.

The temple was a good metaphor for Jingmei itself. The building was clearly new, with the signature ugly metal awning out front and bathroom tiles on the inside. My guess was that it had been built in the '80s. Looking inside, however, the artifacts within weren't immediately apparent to the eye but once noted, were clearly far older. The temple was to Qingshui Zhuce, whose name I can pronounce but can't spell in Pinyin, and whom I can only remember because it sounds like "Clearwater Registration" in Chinese. There were several da sen - tal god costumes - and quite a few shorter costumes with odd faces. I found one of the only female 'tall gods' that I've ever seen, and she looks like a transvestite. Don't worry, I'll come back and post photos. The bathroom-tile walls were punctuated by strips of wooden sculpture that were clearly over a century old and the shrines themselves were carved in the old Fujian style, dark wood (these were painted) with lots of dragons and such. I asked the Temple Guy (every temple has one) what the deal was, and found that the temple had been on its current site for at least 200 years, but the building was deemed too small and was expanded in the '80s, as I'd guessed.

There'll be a processional with their own tall gods - including the transvestite one - on the 15th day of the 4th lunar month (that's Saturday, May 9) if anyone wishes to go.

On the way home, I took a spin back through the riverside park - the road from the temple heads straight to one of the entrances - and stopped at a bakery I like. The owner and I got into a discussion about the large shrine above the cash register and she explained to me in some detail how one can go about getting those idols - just like the kind in temples - carved for your personal shrine. There are still people, one of whom is in Jingmei, who do that for a living, and next time she goes to get one made, she promised, she'd give me a call so I could arrange to watch some of the carving. Awesome!

Anyway, I hope this post has made you think about your own neighborhood and backstreets, who lives there, what's hidden in the corners and in the faded outlines of streetscapes and how you can better understand its history. I feel privileged to live here as more than a passing traveler, to learn more about one tiny corner of a city beyond how to get from a hotel room to a point on a map, to chat with people as more than just a passing acquaintance and to know that when (if) I ever leave, I'll miss it as though it were my own home town, even though where I was really born is about as far from Ging Mbi as one can get.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Mother Goose Goose Meat (and other Taiwanese treats)

I love the name.

E
Mama E Rou has terrific goosemeat - succulent and fresh, lilting and savory.

You can locate it at Jingmei Night Market - take Jingmei MRT Exit 1 and when you exit, turn away from Roosevelt Road, instead heading left along the lane that takes you to the night market. Across from Cafe 85 is another lane that bisects Jingmei Street (the night market main drag) which is laden with good options. The "stuff on sticks" guy to the right is also quite good.

Anyway, walk in a bit, and it's right near the little shrine on the left. It's a basic Taiwanese 'joint' - not a restaurant, not an eatery, not a cafe, but a joint - where you get goosemeat, white or dark. it comes with bones and skin, sliced onto a plate with two dipping sauces the way cold chicken does (but the sauces are different). You can order noodles to go with it, made with a velvety goose broth, as well as xiao chi and seasonal vegetables.

It's really, really good. They do an excellent job with high-quality meat, the way any little joint should.

Sorry that I'm lazy about typing in Chinese; I would really prefer Pinyin input - sorry, I know, evil Communist Pinyin - and it takes too long to do the bopomofo. I am practicing though. I'm trying to do more reviews of Taiwanese restaurants as opposed to foreign food. It is easy to get reviews of foreign food in Taipei online (I subscribe to Hungry Girl, so I know) but really hard to get info on the little places - the joints - that serve the best local food and snacks.

Someday I'll write an epic post on the myriad kinds of onion pancake and where to get the best ones, I swear.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Xiao Lu Niu Fandian

I'm not sure why they're a "fandian" when that means hotel, but whatever. They're good.

This place does beef noodles and some other stuff, but forget the other stuff and just get the beef noodles. I'm not in the habit of recommending beef noodle joints (although this is the second time I've done so) because they're all over the city and they're all so, so wonderful.

But this place deserves a mention because their beef noodles approach what for me is perfection. The meat is not as good as Zhang Mama but the big sell here is that the noodles are homemade. They're barely noodles at all - they're the floppy, doughy kind that are almost like long gnocci. I love those!

The broth is also deep and thick, resounding with flavory and iron-y goodness.

A great place to grab a warming bowl on a cold day.

It largely goes unnoticed because it looks just like every other beef noodle joint - woman out front in an apron, card tables and plastic chairs inside, menus on clipboards, a fat little chihuahua named "Lucky" (I call him "Xiao Pangzi" or "Little Fattie"). It's also right next to the famous Jingmei Night Market, so most people who come and aren't from the neighborhood would rather eat in the market.

That's fine - more homemade noodles for me!

Xiao Lu Niu Fandian is located in Wenshan District, Jingzhong Street #21. Basically take the MRT to Jingmei, get off at Exit 2 and walk straight ahead past the Family Mart, Come Buy and string of small shops and it's right in front of the bus stop for #74 and #284 on the lefthand side of the street.