26 June 2012

Breakfast in Taipei: 阜杭豆漿

I had a fantastic breakfast last week in Taipei.  Part of it was because I had just walked 45 minutes to find the restaurant, part of it was that the food was just downright delicious of itself.  My friend Christine, who knows exactly where to go and what to order, recommended  阜杭豆漿 (fù háng dòujiāng) as a must for breakfast during my time in Taipei.  And if you haven't heard, Taiwanese breakfasts are a category of eating you have got to experience if you ever are fortunate enough to get to Taiwan!

阜杭豆漿 is known for their dòujiāng (fresh, hot soy milk), of course, but also for their other breakfast items, from rolled egg-omelet-type dishes (蛋餅, dànbǐng)  to條 (yóu​tiáo, long fried pieces of dough that are broken up and dropped into salty, fresh hot soymilk called 鹹豆漿, xiándòujiāng).  I ordered 厚餅夾蛋 (hòu bǐng jiā dàn), a thick bǐng, or griddle bread, that is folded to sandwich scrambled egg and green onion and then brushed with a lightly sweet glaze and sprinkled with sesame seeds.  To go with this, I ordered sweet 豆漿 (dòujiāng), which came hot and steaming in a bowl with a spoon.  The soymilk was absolutely delicious, sweetened with some sugar, and as it cooled, a milky skin formed on the surface, which was a lot of fun to spoon up and eat.  With hungry bites I ate up that hòu bǐng and drank all my dòujiāng, then headed back to the hotel (this time by subway) for a day of work.  Christine, thanks so much for the awesome breakfast tip!

I loved my week in Taipei...the land of cute take-out boxes closed with rubber bands and handed to you in little plastic bags, 牛肉麵 (beef noodle soup), and  Taipei 101 (speaking of cute little take-out boxes....).  I'll be popping around Asia for the rest of the summer on business, and I look forward to sharing more of my food adventures with you!

If you're interested in checking out 阜杭豆漿 (fù háng dòujiāng)--and if you're in Taipei, I think you should!--put the address, 北市忠孝東路一段108號2樓之28 (華山市場2樓), into Google maps and go.  It's located next to the Shandao Temple Subway Station, and it has a second floor location.  Go up a few steps to enter a street-level, indoor market (during the morning most of the individual market stalls will be closed), then head right and up the stairs.  At the top of the stairs, turn right and you'll enter into the restaurant space.  Hours are 5:30 ~ 10:30am.  I went around 8:30am on a weekday and had no wait time at all, even though they were doing lively business, but Christine says the lines are insane on the weekends.


You'll order (sorry, no English menu), pick up your order, and pay at the counter up front, then carry your tray off and look for a table.  Bus your own tray when you're done at stations located throughout the restaurant.  For a great blog post and pictures of the exterior and other dishes available, check out this blog post (in Chinese): http://yukiblog.tw/read-1097.html .

19 June 2012

Cherry picking and a life coming to fruition

I've long wanted to go cherry-picking here in the Bay area, and finally, this past weekend, I was able to go with a small group of friends.  We had a blast, despite the sky-rocketing temperatures, gathering pounds and pounds of fruit and enjoying the sweet, juicy cherries in the shade of the trees.  And these trees, as I think about it, have been marking out the twists and turns that my life has taken in the past season.

Not quite three months ago, I drove past these cherry trees in breathtaking bloom on my way up from Santa Barbara.  I was on a trip, an exploratory trip to the Bay Area, doing some legwork and networking to launch my job search into high gear.  Driving through Gilroy, I was stunned by the drifts of pink and white blooms alongside the freeway.  As many times as I'd made the trip along the 101 when I was an undergrad at Stanford, I don't think I ever caught the cherry orchards at the right time of year to see the gorgeous display.  The beauty of it all this past March made my heart sing and filled me with hope that that particular trip would be a success.

It was not--at least, not as far as I could tell.  Returning south a week later, I was feeling discouraged.  Discouraged not only because it seemed like all my leads had fizzled out, but also because I felt there was no possible way I could find a job that would bring together all the disparate bits and pieces of me and my dreams in a unified whole.  After a week of conversations and job hunting, I was uncertain what I should do next and whether I even had the emotional energy to keep pouring myself into the search for a job that I didn't think could exist.

About a month later, I drove through Gilroy again, this time on my way to San Francisco for an interview.  My sister's encouragement to keep looking and a serendipitous internet search had led me to a job posting for a position that was such a perfect fit for me, it seemed too good to be true.  A position that would require international cultural fluency.  That would require my science and education background.  That would give me an opportunity to share with medical staff around the world about a revolutionary, hope-giving cancer therapy that is just starting to get noticed in oncology circles.  That would make a beautiful difference in people's lives.  In Gilroy, the cherry blooms were gone, but little fresh green leaves were just budding out.  We Germans would say that "die Bäume schlagen aus."  Hope was springing up again!

The interview went well, but I entered into a time of limbo, not knowing what would happen next, whether I would be chosen as the candidate.  A few weeks and a second interview later, the word was in: I had been offered the job!  And on my last drive up from Santa Barbara to officially take up the new job responsibilities, the trees were loaded with ripe, plump, and beautifully red fruit.  Indeed, mirroring nature, my own search for a job had reached fruition.

Today, I arrived in Taipei.  Yes, this San Francisco-based job has sent me to one of my favorite places on earth.  After a few days here (with jaunts to Tainan for meetings), I head to Seoul and after that to Busan.  And then here and there and back and forth.  I'm humbled and thankful for this gift of a job.  Right now my language-learning-loving brain is thrilled at seeing all the signs in Chinese characters, hearing the familiar cadence of Mandarin, and recognizing that I understand a LOT more than I did last year.  For my first meal here, I found an awesome Buddhist vegetarian restaurant (古彿素食) around the corner from my hotel, and it was such bliss getting to dig into my beloved purple five-grain rice (五穀飯) again!

Yes indeed, the harvest is being pulled in, and my heart wells over with gratitude.

Simply delicious, simply healthy:
Fage 0% Total Greek yogurt with freshly-picked cherries