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DD Is [Still] In Marseille

John Liu
4 months ago

SWMBO and I were pleasantly surprised at how smoothly our three flights from Portland to Seattle to Paris to Marseille, and then the bus from Marseille Airport into the city center, went. Nothing was delayed, overcrowded, or misplaced. We arrived in DD’s little apartment in good spirits and, as of this writing the following day, may have even adjusted to the time change with record (for us) alacrity.


Marseille is warmer than it was in December, we’re not sick, and Covid is at least temporarily in the background, so I am very hopeful that there will be less complaining in this thread than I did in the last one. Being able to eat freely in restaurants will be quite the change!


Here is breakfast, what DD says is a Turkish dish called “cilbier”. It is a bed of garlic Greek yoghurt, on which are carefully placed poached eggs (my handiwork there!), a herb butter olive oil sauce, fried garlic chips, and bread toasted in the garlic chip oil.



Here is my lunch, boeuf tartare at a little cafe close to Martine’s bike shop. This location used to used to be a slightly seedy bar, which was replaced by a more upscale cafe-brasserie, and while DD was initially suspicious of the new cafe’s pretensions she now comes here more frequently than she visited its seedy bar incarnation. Cafe La Muse has done so well it is expanding to the space next door, a Covid retail success story.



We are in Marseille for the rest of the week, which I’ll mostly spend working, fixing things around DD’s apartment, and poking around the neighborhood shops and minor sights of this part of Marseille. And, hopefully, eating interesting things.


Here’s my accomplishment today. Yes, that is a cheap plastic swivel mount that is supposed to hold DD’s hand shower up on the wall. A much-requested improvement!



We will definitely not eat here. After several months in Marseille, DD has learned that you simply don’t eat Mexican food in Marseille, not even “veritable french tacos”. They are unrecognizable and awful.



Comments (93)

  • John Liu
    Original Author
    3 months ago

    Thanks, Annie! There “might” be a chance that the job can be done mostly remotely from France during the offseason when the camp is closed, with some offseason trips back to California. That would be the dream, anyway. We’ll see!

  • yeonassky
    3 months ago

    Wonderful news for your DD! So happy for her! May the off-season remote part of the job work out. Crossing my fingers toes and everything for her.


    I miss your posts because I'm never informed as to when you write so I have to go hunting. Always glad to hear your news!

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  • Fun2BHere
    3 months ago

    I just caught up with your posts of your trip. Your writing is evocative and I loved seeing pictures of the food. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us.

  • John Liu
    Original Author
    3 months ago

    And . . . DD's French teaching contract was renewed, so she will have a visa to stay in (return to) France in the fall.


    Things are falling nicely into place for her. Only remaining thing she needs to do is nail down the renewal of her Marseille apartment lease. If I understand French landlord-tenant law, in a few weeks it will be past the time when her landlord could give her notice of non-renewal, and she's a good tenant so I can't imagine that happening anyway.


    Thanks for the comments. I like posting about travel and food!


    In July I have to go to Taiwan for two weeks - not for a fun reason, to handle my mother's estate and memorial - but hope to post some Taipei food pics! Assuming we're allowed out of the quarantine hotel . . . and assuming I can afford to eat anything fun, that trip is not going to be cheap.

  • annie1992
    3 months ago

    John, I'm sorry to hear about your Mother. Travel safely and stay healthy. I'd love to see Taipei pictures, but do not compromise safety. Plus, you could save money, LOL.


    I'm glad your DD had her contract renewed and I'll keep my fingers crossed that the remote thing all works out. Remote work is a wonderful thing!


    Annie

  • lindac92
    3 months ago

    Sounds like things are running smoothly....but for the trip to settle your mother's estate. Travel safely....but that's a few months away! Hope ther will be lots more pictures of food before then.


  • Islay Corbel
    3 months ago

    I'm sorry to hear about your Mum.

    But, great news for DD.

  • yeonassky
    3 months ago

    So sorry about your mother! Hope all things regarding her estate goes smoothly.


    Hope you can enjoy the ambiance and food despite the sad occasion.

  • John Liu
    Original Author
    3 months ago

    The Taiwan thing is so bizarre. The following isn't really food-related but when I get there and start posting food pics, you'll appreciate the tortuous path leading to those photos.


    Taiwan is tightly restricting entry, due to Covid. My sister and I contacted the Taiwan cultural office here and applied for visas on humanitarian grounds. That requires documents to prove that my mother existed, passed away in Taiwan, and was our mother. Birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates, etc. Some of these documents are 60+ years old, so we have to order copies from various state offices which takes weeks. However, you have to have plane tickets and quarantine hotel reservations to even apply, so we've bought those. Then there's the legal and tax notices we received, which we can't really decipher but seem to set deadlines for doing something about the estate. Meanwhile, the consulate is saying while we might get visas, in Taiwan our documents are inadequate to establish familial relationship. Our family in Taiwan has been trying to help, but we obviously need professional representation. Finding English speaking lawyers in Taiwan proved difficult, but I contacted my former law firm, who have an office in Taiwan, and they've connected us with a local firm. It looks like a fancy firm. In fact, it might be one of the top law firms in Taiwan. I am nervously anticipating the legal bills. In July, I may be posting pictures of the cheapest street food . . . the equivalent of French tacos.



  • Gooster
    3 months ago

    So sorry about your mother and your troubles with settling the estate. A colleague had to go to Taiwan and spend the time in quarantine as well. It did not sound pleasant. In July, I expect all the tastiest finds at the night market. And even though not Taiwanese, good XLB.


    Congratulations on DD's contract renewal. I hope she gets renewed on her contract, but she seems like an ideal tenant.



  • yeonassky
    3 months ago

    Wow they are very strict there! Perhaps with good reason but it is still no fun. Glad you found somebody where your mother was to help you. Sounds like that is what you needed and oh so sorry about the cost! I hope it's much lower than you think it could be. Sending bolstering hugs over the cyber way.

    John Liu thanked yeonassky
  • John Liu
    Original Author
    last month

    Here is my first meal in Taiwan!


    I believe it is called “breakfast”. That is a thin bun with a little soggy ham and cooked tomato bits, scrambled eggs, yoghurt, and a cup of instant coffee granules dissolved in hot water.



    Oh sigh. This is a “quarantine hotel” meal. These meals are deposited outside my door. I put the containers in plastic bags to be picked up.


    I only have three days of this, but am already thinking wistfully of my last meal in Berkeley before flying here.


    That was a dinner for friends, we served them: black cod baked with garlic, scallions, herbs, and shiitake mushrooms; couscous with sauteed raspberries; green beans stir fried with mushrooms, almonds, and Amaretto; and a green salad with vinegared radish and blackberries (with berries crushed into the vinagrette dressing too).





    There may be a little wrinkle in my plans for post-quarantine fun eating. The three quarantine days confined to the hotel room is followed by four days of ”semi quarantine” when you are not allowed to use mass transit, go to restaurants, be in crowded public places, etc. The idea is that you can do your important business or visit your family etc, but are still supposed to avoid full mingling with the public.


    Upon arrival in Taipei, during the immigration process you buy a 7 day Taiwan SIM card that is put in your phone and used by the police to GPS track your location. (I brought my old iPhone to use for this, so that my main phone is un-messed-with.) They monitor to make sure you stay in the hotel room for the quarantine period, both via GPS and phone calls.


    In the semi-quarantine period, I’m not sure if going to a night market for yummy food is against the rules or if they even track your location closely enough to know, but I need to find out.

  • John Liu
    Original Author
    last month

    Lunch and dinner. The ding of the doorbell is a welcome event in my one-room existence, an interruption in th e hours of pacing around, TV in the background, trying to work and adjust to jetlag.


    The meals are okay I guess, but kind of boring / institutional. Hope you like mackerel for lunch, because that’s what it is . . . I do like mackerel but this one was rather indifferently prepared. I’m not sure what I had for dinner - seemed like poultry.


    I may try ordering something different from UberEats, tomorrow.






    Gooster, DD’s lease on her cute little Marseille studio was renewed, and a succession of her friends visiting France have been staying there, for a few days or a week at a time, over the summer.


    DD has been working in California as the camp manager. It has been very difficult and exhausting. I’ll post about that later.

  • l pinkmountain
    last month

    So you're in quarantine in Taiwan? I really enjoy reading about all your exploits and dinners and your daughter's career path! Condolences on your mother, I am sorry for your loss! And all that goes with it!

    Very interesting about living and working part time in another country. I have been thinking about it for Great Britain, maybe returning to my very far-removed ancestral home area of southern Scotland . . . I guess now with AirBnB and such I could rent out a cottage at other times . . . I'm thinking more for retirement but since a lot of my work is seasonal anyway, like 9 months, I could possibly swing that . . . and then retire more full time. Can't leave my home right now since I have to look after 90 yr. old Dad . . . sigh. Trying to make the best of it and blooming where I am planted right now . . . but bingeing on British garden shows has made me want to go back even more. Even if my culinary heart is firmly in the Mediterranean region. So sad hearing the Brits lament about the difficulties growing tomatoes . . . among other things . . . I might have to return home just for tomato season . . .

  • olychick
    last month

    I'm so sorry to read about your mother and can only imagine dealing with the legal aspects in another country, as well as quarantine. I wish I had read this earlier...I have an attorney friend in Seattle who is Taiwanese and fluent. Probably not much help with the legal system but maybe deciphering forms. Sounds like you are set now, though.
    I've been making frequent trips from Olympia to Pt Townsend recently and think of you and your daughter as I pass the Hama Hama Oyster company. Had fried oysters this weekend from my friends' beach just down the canal, as well as a Dungeness crab feast with crab they caught. It appears to be a banner crab year and the oysters were plentiful, too. Hope your culinary experience improves soon.

  • John Liu
    Original Author
    last month

    Olychick, I have been thinking about Hama Hama! As you know, there wasn’t really a spring in Portland this year, just constant cold and rain, until right before SWMBO and I left for Berkeley, where SWMBO is house-sitting our favorite house and dog - both belong to our friends but for a few weeks we get to enjoy them. I hope I get back from Taiwan in time to hang out in Berkeley a little more!


    Meanwhile, back in Portland, some friends are sitting our house and cats, while summer has arrived with sunny weather that would have me headed up to Port Townsend and Hama Hama if I were there.


    lpink, I have similar culinary leanings and would rather shop, cook, and eat in (lets say) Italy than in Scotland. I’d say visit Scotland, live in warmer climes.

  • Gooster
    last month

    I hope your quarantine does not have many days left to go. It sounded terrible, from my colleague who went through that.


    I hope the rest of DD"s summer goes well. At least her friends get to explore Marseille and hopefully, the Calanques.


    lpink -- I'm with you, Mediterranean food >>> scottish. And while I know it is not all haggis, neeps and tatties but I always believe there is a reason why some food never breaks through the world stage.


    John Liu thanked Gooster
  • John Liu
    Original Author
    last month

    Gooster, I am released from “full quarantine” at midnight tonight, and intend to administer a self-test as soon as tue clock strikes twelve. Presuming its negative, I plan to go outside and walk around a little in the night, breathe fresh air, maybe get rained on.


    Then back to work, since I’m trying to work at least part of my normal hours here. US market hours are 9:30 pm to 4:00 am local time here, so I work from evening to about 2 in the morning.


    Tomorrow I get to start doing the stuff I need to do. I’ll still be in “semi-quarantine” for a few more days, which means I’m supposed to avoid restaurants, crowded places, mass transit, etc - but I can be out of this hotel room during the day as long as I return here at night.


    Quarantine has been boring, kind of depressing, rather frustrating. It will only have been three days (actually four), so that’s much better than the *twelve* days that my cousin went through a few months ago (she was here to visit her mother with terminal illness, so she did get special permission to leave the hotel for a few hours to see her mom and help her dad) and that your colleague probably went through.


    Breakfast today was more interesting.



    I ordered food from UberEats last night, but was so excited when it arrived that I forgot to take pictures. It was a bento bowl, pork ribs, and soup.


    11 hours and 13 minutes until I can go outside!




  • John Liu
    Original Author
    last month

    So, catching you up about DD’s summer. As you know, she got hired as the manager of the summer camp in Tahoe.


    DD worked remote during her last month in Marseille, ordering needed equipment and supplies, getting more staff hired, etc. Then she arrived at camp and has been working 16 hour days, with only 2 days off in the past month.


    Her staff are almost all new, with only one returning staffer (her brother) at the start of the summer, and they are short-staffed to boot. She’s had to train everyone from scratch, work alongside all her supervisors to teach them on the fly, cover meal shifts herself, build the staff culture, be on-call at all hours, deal with all kinds of issues. The only way this is feasible is because DD has worked at camp so long and knows how to do every job. A manager new to camp wouldn’t have been able to do this.


    The good thing is that it is working out. Her camp is running well, campers are having a great time, staff are working hard and developing cohesion and team spirit. By the end of the summer the camp will be on solid ground with a core of experienced staff to build on next summer.


    She’s learning a lot, building relationships, and discovering how good she is at managing people. It is making her think differently about possible careers!


  • colleenoz
    last month

    Awesome! These are all skills that are transferable to a wide range of careers 👍

    John Liu thanked colleenoz
  • Gooster
    last month
    last modified: last month

    So glad you are getting out of COVID jail. Thankfully it is not as long as the 10 to 12 days that were in place before. I don't understand the limited exposure guidance but I guess if it gets you out earlier, all the better. Those are rough hours, though. Breakfast looks delicious; breakfast in some Asian hotels can be outstanding, although it sounds like with your late hours you won't be waking up for breakfast service anytime soon. .

    Sound like DD is learning a variety of great skills that will be applicable in whatever she chooses to pursue. It sounds exhausting but also very rewarding.

    John Liu thanked Gooster
  • John Liu
    Original Author
    last month

    We (my sister and I) are starting to get out and eat, between dealing with all the stuff we have to do here in Taiwan.


    Started with dumplings and XLB at a place in a SOGO department store


    There are veg dumplings


    And we had xiao long bao (soup dumplings)


    and dou jiang bao (sweet bean filling)


    The bao looks like this


  • colleenoz
    last month

    I looooooove xiao long bao!

    John Liu thanked colleenoz
  • John Liu
    Original Author
    last month

    Raohe night market is a several block long street lined with shops and eating places, with food and trinket stallsstacks up the middle, and more in the alleys off the main street.




    The green onion pancake stall caught our eyes. These are easy to make. Mix flour, oil, salt, optionally garlic, and chopped scallions, roll into a log, cut off 1” sections, roll each section out and fry it. You can add meats but I prefer the simple version. Top with spicy sauce if desired.




    It is beastly hot and humid here. Supposedly spicy food cools you down through sweating. I don’t really find being sweaty any cooler, but the spicy sauce was yummy.


    We also had some pan fried dumplings, which were delicious.



    Chinese sausage is porky, fatty, and salty-sweet, one of my favorite flavors. We got a small bag of mini-sausages and ate them while walking around.



  • John Liu
    Original Author
    last month

    Although I hadn’t eaten all day, and thought I’d really pig out, I didn’t. Eating a little bit at a time, with walking and window-shopping between, gets me filled up very quickly.


    There was a lot to look at, foodwise. You can buy food to take home.


    There are sit-down places too, of varying degrees of formality.


    Can’t pass up the fried duck heads, but somehow we did.

    The sashimi place looked good.


  • John Liu
    Original Author
    last month

    This place specialized in grilled oysters.

    This one in sweetbreads.

    There were a few baked goods places.

    This one in dried fruits and vegs.

    There are beauticians - I think this lady is having her facial hair “threaded off”.

    There are also game parlours, with county fair type games and this interesting one that involves netting little fish and putting them in the “goal” box, little kids seem to like it.

    This is a sort of hot pot cooking style, with fish balls, mushrooms, etc, except that you’re served individual portions.

    Seafood doesn’t lend itself to eating-while-walking-around, but you could take this home or eat at the counter.

    It was too hot to eat this stuff, in my opinion, but if one were acclimated to the heat the choices multiply.


  • John Liu
    Original Author
    last month

    I came back to this watermelon juice place twice.

    And we finished with some - I doingdon’t know what they are called, jelly bubbles? Flavors like lychee, honey/olive, rose, papaya.

    By now we were both totally sweaty and full. Each thing we shared cost about US $2 to $3. I guess we spent about $17 between the two of us.


    We took Ubers to our respective hotels. I took my third cold shower of the day and went to bed.



  • John Liu
    Original Author
    last month
    last modified: last month

    Obligatory selfie. I have no idea why it is upside down. Posting from my phone, I don’t know how to rotate photos. But we’re in China (Republic of) so maybe that’s why we are inverted :-)



  • Gooster
    last month

    The XLB and SJB made me hungry for some dumplings -- and it is lunchtime. Not a good combination unless I want to dash out for lunch. (I will admit I do not share your enthusiasm for duck head -- I have not eaten them but I will admit to being a bit apprehensive)


    Were the bubbles a type of giant boba, using jelly?

    John Liu thanked Gooster
  • John Liu
    Original Author
    last month

    Yes, giant bobas, that’s what they were. I forgot the word.


    To be honest, I’ve never had roast duck head. There is no little meat on a duck’s head that I don’t understand whatwhere there is to eat. Chicken neck, pig face, I get that, there is something there. I use duck head for stock. Maybe that’s what they are being sold for, but I kind of doubt it, because people don’t cook that much here.


    Anyway, I didn’t see anyone walking around munching on a duck head.


    The night market seemed less crowded than you’d expect on a Friday night. A fair number of the places on the side alleys were shuttered, and only a few of the places had any lines. The economy is doing well, so I think the slow business is because of Covid.


    After mostly keeping Covid under control for almost two years, partly by cutting off most international travel and universal masking, Taiwan had a big Covid surge (“big” by their standards, probably similar to current level in US). The country was also late getting vaccinated. They never had China-style lockdowns, didn’t have a zero-Covid policy, but life was pretty disrupted. Things are now open again with no restrictions on eating indoors, persons in elevator, etc but absolutely everyone wears masks and it isn’t optional. Masks have long been used in very urban Asian cities for air pollution reasons, so people didn’t freak out about Covid masking. My relatives here tell me crowds, traffic, retail business is coming back but not all the way yet.



  • John Liu
    Original Author
    last month

    Sorry for all the auto-suggestion typos. New phone issue? I’m posting in snatches of down time and am not editing.

  • jakkom
    last month
    last modified: last month

    John, I'm just catching up with your Taiwan photos. Those buns from the Raohe night market look like the Sheng Jian Bao, with the sprinkling of black sesame seeds - did they have the pork filling? My spouse is from Hong Kong and he loves those.

    Dim Sum places here in the San Francisco Bay Area were very slow to catch on to the SJB, although the XLB are now pretty much everywhere; albeit the Cantonese still don't make them as well as the Northern & Western China restaurants do.

    For those who have not tried Sheng Jian Bao, food blogger Dennis the Foodie did a great write-up in 2018 on a SJB taste test of four places in suburban Vancouver BC (where the Chinese community lives and offers the best Chinese food in North America). Plenty of photos so you can see the style differences:

    https://dennisthefoodie.com/2018/03/18/hot-juice-in-our-buns-sheng-jian-bao-sjb-showdown-featuring-top-shanghai-and-more/

    I'll end with a note that there is a Nepalese/Himalayan restaurant in Berkeley CA called Kathmandu which makes a steamed lamb dumpling that is clearly the forerunner of the Chinese bao, with a yeast bread dough and a chopped (NOT ground) meat filling. So far as we know they are the only restaurant in the SFBA that makes these, and does so in-house. We weren't impressed by any of the other food, but those proto-baos were impressive!

    Always interesting to see the culinary trail of a recipe as it moves up the mountains and down again, and then spreads out with traders and immigrants!

    John Liu thanked jakkom
  • John Liu
    Original Author
    last month
    last modified: last month

    Yes, the Raohe market dumplings had pork filling. So that’s called SJB? They seemed like standard dumplings, like my grandma used to make, except she steamed hers.

    The bao at the XLB place had sweet bean filling. I think I made a mistake in what I called them earlier. It’s that sweet but not sugary flavor common in Chinese food.



    I forgot to post this from the market, octopus skewers, they get dipped and deepfried. We didn’t get one because it looked like too much food, we were trying not to fill up.


    We are going to a Taiwanese restaurant tonight. That will be fun. I don’t know much (anything?) about traditional Taiwanese cuisine.

    I think I’m done with semi-quarantine, so may move to the same hotel as my sister. Our largest expense on this trip (other than lawyer fees) has been Ubers to get around, and being in the same place will save a little money.

    This trip has been pretty draining, aside from going out to eat in the evenings. We spend the days searching our mom’s hot, smelly, filthy condo for documents and anything important, the main things being her passports, hukou, accounts and bank books, and reconstructing how she was living, why she isolated herself from her family in the US and in Taipei, and what happened to her and who did it.

    It is a bad story which I won’t get much into, but the condo is the worst place I’ve been in a long time. [Edit - deleted TMI, I’m sorry]


    Jakkom, I’m flying to the Bay Area Tuesday and will spend a few days in Berkeley before returning to Portland, so I might try out the proto-bao!

  • Gooster
    last month

    I'm so sorry about your mother. I didn't realize it was such a dramatic and tragic set of events. I wish you and your family strength. And have a safe and uneventful return.


    jakkom -- those sound like momos but the use of yeast dough is interesting -- I don't think I've seen them as the momos are so much more common (and why do half the Nepalese restaurants have Kathmandu in their title?). (Although I think SJB are made with a little yeast as well)


    I had to look up the duck heads -- apparently you eat the skin, suck on them, and maybe break open the innards.

    John Liu thanked Gooster
  • John Liu
    Original Author
    last month
    last modified: last month

    To celebrate being done with the condo searching / packing, our cousin took us to his favorite Taiwanese restaurant in the Wenshan district.



    It looks old-school, because it is. The place has been around forever. The dining room walls are covered with posters of old Taiwanese movies and old Taiwanese record albums. you can date the restaurant to at least 1950, from the collection of wawas on the wall behind the cash (only) register. Wawas are cutesy plastic mascots that were sold by the post office, marked by the year.

    Here are the wawas. 1972 is missing, I wonder if that was an unlucky year. I am not sure why 1967, 1973, and 1983 are turned backwards, and will ask my cousin.


    The guy with the hat is pretty tipsy. He became our new best friend later, as we were leaving and he was being walked around by his friends. The wawas have seen it all. Except in 1972.




    We ate in the beer garden and had bottles of “Tiger“ beer, served by a pretty girl in a white dress with the ”Tiger” logo. I believe she is the rep for the beer distributor or something like that. The beer comes in a big bottle for sharing, and is served with ice cubes. The Tiger girl pours the beer into little glasses, adds a couple of ice cubes, and when your glass is low she magically appears and does it again. Since the beer is very weak (kind of like diluted Bud Light) and the night is hot, you drink a lot of iced beer. I think she gets a commission.





    The Tiger girl can also comment on menu items but she isn’t actually part of the restaurant, she just knows about Taiwanese food. We were admiring a roast chicken at an adjoining table, and she explained it was a local specialty, baked in a covered pot until very tender, then pulled to pieces at the table by the server (wearing gloves). I ran over to get a look, but photographing our neighbors’ dinner seemed a step too far.

  • John Liu
    Original Author
    last month
    last modified: last month

    I was delighted to see an old style floor toilet. These (and the simpler open pipe into the floor) are all there were here when I visited in the 70s, but hardly exist anymore, in Taipei anyway - in rural areas, they might still be around. Even this restaurant has installed a modern toilet next to the venerable trough.

    In the Bar O’Thierry, by DD’s apartment in Marseille, there are also the French version of these floor toilets. They are a sign that *“this establishment gives no hoots about modernity! if you don’t like it then slip and fall in the pee trench”.*



    Outside the toilet rooms, you can admire the posters for decades-old movies while washing your hands. The water is cool and refreshing on a hot humid night, so I found reason to wash my hands a few times during our visit.





  • John Liu
    Original Author
    last month
    last modified: last month

    Okay - wawas, beer, posters, icky toilet - he doesn’t seem to want to talk about the food, it was that bad?

    Au contraire, we are just going chronologically. You arrive, get beer, order, check the place out, realize how much hotter the beer garden is than the inside room, have more iced beer, and the food arrives after a certain delay, helpfully for the Tiger girl.

    First to arrive was a spicy beef soup. I had decided to try the concept of eating hot food to cool down, so I didn’t try to avoid the little bits of dried red chili pepper - the bigger pieces are lethal, you have to avoid those. The beef was tender, the broth was roaring hot in both senses, I was soon sweating and panting and gulping iced beer. The Tiger girl smiled as she brought more beer. She had kindly recommended the soup.



    Next was clams, that we’d seen another table getting. It always helps to try what the regulars are getting.



    This is chicken, marinated in soy sauce, Xiaoshing wine, and something else, then roasted. Sort of like red cooking but not simmered.



    We also had some boiled cabbage and fried rice. It was a simple, inexpensive meal in a quirky-humble neighborhood eatery, and I’d go back every night if I could.






  • annie1992
    last month

    John, it seems that your daughter is developing a skill set that could be useful in a lot of her career choices.


    The food is interesting, the dumplings look delicious, but I'd pass on the duck heads, I'm certainly not that adventurous. You may have all of my portion of the tripe, too, but I'd take pretty much any of that seafood, even octopus on a stick!


    I'm sorry to hear that your Mother had such problems at the end of her life, and that you are having to sort it all out. Good luck to you, and your sister during such a difficult time.


    Annie

    John Liu thanked annie1992
  • John Liu
    Original Author
    last month

    Here are some other interesting things I ate in the last few days of my Taiwan trip. In no particular order.


    This is tender thin sliced beef wrapped around sweet cooked figs. I’m going to copy this idea.


    Pretty aspic things at a sushi restaurant. These were not particularly delicious, but they sure looked nice.


    An excellent steamed fish - in a shopping mall food court, of all places!


    Beef noodle soup - this is local comfort food


    Congee breakfast at the hotel


    Cooked tofu skins


    Fish and a steamed dumpling with sweet bean filling


    A pretty green fish soup



  • annie1992
    last month

    OK, I give up. How do you skin a tofu? Is it from the feral tofutti beast? LOL


    The beef and figs look good and the aspic is pretty, although I dislike jello/gelatinous textures. What makes the fish soup green?


    Annie

  • John Liu
    Original Author
    last month

    I think “tofu skin” is made by skimming the layer of cogulated whatever on the surface of boiled soy milk. You don’t actually have to capture and skin wild tofu, that would be inhumane. There was a filling of some sort, I’ve forgotten - this was one dish of many during the after-funeral banquet.


    The soup is green from some sort of veg at a really fantastic sushi restaurant. My favorite part of which was actually the bathroom sink!



  • colleenoz
    last month

    I learned to use squat toilets in Viet Nam. It's a a skill...and one you can't really ask a local to demonstrate LOL. I even managed to use one on a moving train. Couldn't do it now, knees don't squat.

    Are you supposed to use that bathroom sink, or just admire it?

    John Liu thanked colleenoz
  • annie1992
    last month

    John, I agree, it would be inhumane and I believe that tofu are rare in the wild, possibly protected. (grin)


    That IS a beautiful sink, very unique.


    Annie

    John Liu thanked annie1992
  • John Liu
    Original Author
    last month
    last modified: last month

    Sunday July 12 was a “lucky day” in Taiwan, a numerologically auspicious date to start eternally resting, and the recent Covid surge has added to the large backlog of persons awaiting their eternities.

    There was a long wait at the funeral home for the crowds of families to greet their departed, say their last words, close the lid, and escort the casket through the courtyard to a waiting hearse. Most of the groups were larger, in yellow robes, and others in the courtyard turned their backs in respect as the families passed. Eventually it was the turn of our small group, in black suits and dresses, to say our last words and file behind the only white casket with a cross. Most Taiwanese are Buddhist, others Daoist, with less than 10% of the Christian faith, like our departed had been.

    I should mention that the funeral home was mostly open-air temple courtyards, with no air conditioning, except for the no-longer-living, and that it was very hot.

    In addition to my mother’s passing some months ago, my family recently lost my older cousin. On this lucky day we were beginning of the all-day process of welcoming cousin J____ to her resting place.

    After some hours at the funeral home, we got back into the vans and drove across Taipei to the crematorium. About 80% of Taiwanese are cremated, everyone wants to do it on a lucky day, and it takes about two hours to say the actual last words, perform the cremation, and do the bone ritual thing, while saying the really last words, so we were there for a considerable time.

    I must comment that the crematorium was not air conditioned, and that it was even hotter now. The vans had been air conditioned, and I had just about dried out during the drive from the funeral home, but by the time we boarded the vans my shirt was again a sodden mess under my damp suit.

    Southeast Asia is having a heat wave. In Taipei, it was 97 F and humid that, according to my weather app, it “felt like” 117 F. Even locals were commenting on the suffocating heat. On previous, cooler days, I’d already been very hot in the evenings, wearing shorts and a T-shirt. In this day’s midday sun, in my sagging, sticking suit, tie tightly knotted around my neck, I was dizzy with heat as I did my best to copy the steps of the ceremony, remember some Chinese, and not drop any bones.

    After the urn was ready, we got in the vans for an hour’s drive to the mausoleum. It was a beautiful drive through lush mountains, and I managed to dry off while molding the ends of my shirtsleeves into something resembling cuffs. The mausoleum had an expansive view over a verdant ridge that resembled a Phoenix or a dragon, I didn't quite catch which, a deep valley, and a tranquil lake. J____ was destined for a prime spot, a locker at the door, looking over the valley, right by my mother. Unfortunately, the urn had taken a left instead of a right at the last mountain, gotten lost, and was stuck in traffic an hour away.



    I am compelled to observe that the mausoleum was also not air-conditioned. Or, rather, it had central air conditioning, but no-one thought to turn it on during our unscheduled vigil, until right when it was finally time to assemble on the sweltering patio to greet the urn and say the definitely last words between the correct number of bows, performed in turn by each family member in order of descending age, at each point in the urn’s journey from beflowered arrival table to its gilded locker. By the time we closed the locker door and got back in the vans, we’d been at it for some six hours.



    After the post-funeral banquet, and taking care of a few estate-related things the next day, I flew back to the SF Bay Area where SWMBO and I are dog-and-house-sitting for friends for another week.

    It has been a long time since I visited Taiwan, or anywhere in Asia. The reason for the trip wasn’t a happy one, and quarantine was frustrating, but I got to see my relatives, visit my mother’s resting place, attend cousin J___’s ceremony, and eat quite a lot of interesting food, which I wanted to show you. The heat and humidity is difficult to take, for wussy me at least, but I’d like to do an actual vacation trip someday. Maybe to Japan and Taiwan.

  • Islay Corbel
    last month

    Instead of a hug, I'm sending you a virtual fan for future visits. Thank you for telling us all about this. It has been so wonderful to have a look into another culture. My your heart be at peace now.

    John Liu thanked Islay Corbel
  • John Liu
    Original Author
    last month

    Thanks, Islay. I found something I wrote about Taipei when SWMBO and I visited with baby DD, some twenty five years ago. Most of it remains true. Taipei looks considerably more prosperous today - definitely no chicken feet vendor within a block of a fancy SOGO department store now. But there are still plenty of chicken feet vendors around.


    http://web.archive.org/web/20061216090930/http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/johnliu/taiwan.htm


    Just to give a little more flavor of the place, here are a few pics of local streets around my first hotel, which was in a humdrum outskirt part of the city.





    I don’t have many photos of the super fancy area where my second hotel was. The area was impressive, but not as interesting to me as the alleys and little shops elsewhere.


    I did take this random snap while standing next to the hotel, because I saw the famous Taipei 101 building (the skyscraper on the right) next to the new pointy skyscraper (on the left) where our lawyers’ office is. It’s a magnificent building, the kind that gives you a sinking, hollow, empty-wallet feeling as you ascend the gleaming escalator through the three story lobby and think, yes, the hourly fee I’m paying all makes sense now.


    Oh, one thing I forgot to mention. Since I was last in Taipei, the city has developed quite a coffee culture. There are lots of cafes, La Marzzoco espresso machines, lattes and Americanos. Our cousin N_____, whose wife J_____ had passed away, took us to one of his favorite cafes.


    The ”Americano” here is actually drip coffee, made a serving at a time with what appears to be an elaborate Japanese chemistry set.




    I had possibly the best drip coffee of my life from one of these contraptions in a different Taipei coffee shop, and want to figure out what the heck it is and where to get one.



  • jakkom
    26 days ago
    last modified: 26 days ago

    Oops, sorry, John - I just checked and looks like Kathmandu restaurant closed up during the lockdown! There was a big attrition rate for the smaller independent places over the last year; things are better now but many restaurateurs just couldn't hold out any longer.

    But still many places to eat on the Berkeley/Albany/Richmond side of Alameda County, not to fear!

    If you have access to a car, I think you'd enjoy Pomella in Oakland's Lake Merritt area. The owner does Israeli/Mediterranean cuisine, very plant-forward. Her hummus is amazing - she rinses the beans 7x or 8x, so they are more digestible and don't cause gas. It is the smoothest and creamiest hummus we've ever had, and I love hummus so I've tried it everywhere. Her chicken tagine with mixed grain pilaf was wonderful.

    Easy to reach from Berkeley - avoid the congested 80 freeway and take either San Pablo Ave. south, or the parallel and less-crowded Sacramento St. which runs into Market St. Both cross MacArthur Blvd., where you turn left (eastwards) to cross Piedmont Ave. There's a LH turn lane from MacArthur onto Piedmont, and Pomella is in the little enclave of a couple of restaurants immediately to your right, at the corner of Yosemite Ave.

    https://www.pomellaoakland.com/

    There's a parking lot for the restaurant, but it's tiny. Street parking can be easy or hard, depending on the time of day. Sneaky people go up Howe St. instead of Piedmont Ave. and park in the Kaiser parking garage, since the cost is minimal (and on some days it's free) and nobody checks to see if you're a Kaiser member, LOL. If you look at a Google map you'll see an unmarked alleyway that's for pedestrians to take a shortcut from Howe St. to Piedmont Ave.

    Since you have a kitchen, you may also want to visit this place, which is literally in the middle of nowhere. If you take Market St. to visit Pomella, you'll pass by it on the right, but note they are open ONLY Wed-Sat., 11-6p. Artisanal housemade tofu and creative ban chan:

    Joodooboo, which describes itself as “a California BanChan shop for freshly made DooBoo and hyper-seasonal vegetable preparations that are inspired by Korean flavors and ingredients.”

    4201 Market St, Oakland

    https://www.joodooboo.com

    The Yelp photos are helpful also: https://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/joodooboo-oakland-3?tab=food

    And of course, don't forget Monterey Market, Tokyo Fish Market, and Berkeley Bowl! BB has a second location near Ashby Ave., BB West. Smaller but just as crowded, LOL.

    Those lovely little Tokyo turnips are showing up in markets. If you haven't tried the Cape Gooseberry (Physalis Peruviana) yet, there's a company marketing them in various specialty markets under the trade name "Goldenberries". Sweet-tart and really delicious!

    John Liu thanked jakkom
  • Olychick
    25 days ago

    Trader Joes is selling goldenberries! I didn't know what they were, so didn't try them, but will now thanks to this!

  • John Liu
    Original Author
    25 days ago

    jakkom, when we were in Berkeley last week I did almost all my shopping at Monterey Market and the fish, cheese, etc shops next door. Love that area!


    SWMBO used to go to Berkeley Bowl when we lived in Berkeley, as it is by where the kids went to school (Ecole Bilingue). I’d go to Tokyo Fish - BB always kind of overwhelmed me with its size and crowds.


    Speaking of fish, one of the meals

    we had in Berkeley last week was cooked by our friend’s daughter’s boyfriend, who is a prolific fisherman and hunter. He caught a halibut from his kayak in the bay, and made us a fish & chips dinner. This is halibut, fries, etc.



    There is a restaurant called “Katmandu” on Solano Ave in Albany - it probably doesn’t have any connection with the one that closed.


    I’ll check out the Oakland place when I’m next in the East Bay - maybe next month. Thanks for the tip!


    Back in Portland, working hard and trying not to eat much - the last few weeks have been a little excessive.

  • annie1992
    23 days ago

    THat Pointy Building where the lawyer works is very interesting, it looks almost like a very tall pyramid.


    Welcome home. I wish your trip could have been happier, although I'm glad for you that you got to visit some family members and had at least some good coffee.


    The device looks like a siphon/vacuum type pot, I keep threatening to try one as they aren't very expensive.


    Halibut is one of my favorite fish, and that looks like maybe swiss chard with it, with the colored stems.


    Olychick, goldenberries are sold here too, they kind of remind me of a sweeter tomatillo with all the little seeds. That makes sense, they are a relative of tomatillo. I like them, but I once put them in a fruit salad and everyone thought they were cherry tomatoes, LOL.


    Annie

    John Liu thanked annie1992
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