Sunday, September 27, 2009

Tasting My Way Through a Night Market & Visiting a Buddhist Temple

Taking the advice of another Thoreau quotation, “Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each" my Saturday night was spent tasting, breathing, and experiencing.

So Saturday night my Vietnamese/Polish classmate (my long lost sister according to our classmates) called me to tell me to meet her and her boyfriend for an evening in one of the oldest districts in Taipei. She texted me the MRT directions and I set off for what would become an epic night of tasting Taiwanese traditional snacks/foods.

Upon arrival at the Longshan MRT station, I was taken to a little restaurant near the night market for an oyster omelet. The best way to describe this dish is that it's fishy, chewy, has sporadic bites of a green lettuce-like vegetable hiding in it, and is covered with a sweetish red sauce that tastes kind of like a mixture of ketchup & mayonnaise. It's practically impossible to eat without a spoon and definitely don't attempt it with the slippery plastic chopsticks of a slightly more established restaurant. This installment of Yum v. Yuck would be closer to "Yum" side of the scale, but I'm not that big of a fan of it won't be added to the list of things I eat routinely. Rest assured, it's really not a bad dish to try- I'd say it's actually one of the safer Taiwanese foods to adventure with.

After eating, we wandered around the touristic night market and watched various snake shows. Virtually, this gave new meaning to dinner & a show...what would happen is that the snakes would put on a show and then become dinner! If ever you wish to eat snake, just let me know and I'll take you to the night market and subject you to a rather traumatic show! I did not add snake snacks to my evening and I don't plan on having a Yum v. Yuck experience with them either!

We then went wandering through the outside portion of the night market and snacked on delicious biscuit-like Hello Kitty & Pokemon shapes. They were semisweet and tasted like what would happen if a waffle and ice cream cone ever got together.

We made a quick run through the Indigenous Market and tried White Pine juice...this is one of those things that normally wouldn't be consumed, but here, it's fair game. I had mentioned a while back that Starbucks provides a taste of home that I indulge in once in a while as needed...I must confess that I'm really looking forward to the weather cooling down here and getting to drink some fallish/Christmas flavored drinks. White Pine juice kind of has the same effect as Starbucks & its fallish/Christmas drinks, however, it recalls the Christmas season, but not in a good way. Instead of having a taste of Christmas in a cup, it's more like having a taste of a Christmas tree in a cup! I really would suggest skipping that flavor!

As if my taste buds weren't overwhelmed enough, it was decided that I would try Stinky Tofu. The Stinky Tofu experience is worthy of its own entry, so I'll write about that in a later post, but that by far was the hardest Yum v. Yuck I've done!

After the stinky tofu experience, we went to Longshan Temple. Longshan Temple was built in 1738 by settlers from the Fujian province in China (one of the southern provinces) and has had a rocky history as it has been destroyed in part or full multiple times. At one point during World War II, it was bombed by the Americans who claimed the Japanese were hiding weapons inside it!

Having never visited a Buddhist temple before, I was particularly impressed by the craftsmanship and intricate carvings that covered the temple. I think what was unique about this experience was the fact that to anyone there, I looked like just another Asian, but this Asian grew up in the West and was seeing things through Westernized eyes.

Up until the temple experience, it seemed like though the West and East were different, they weren't THAT different. This was my first real experience with such a stark ideological difference. I mean Islam and Christianity have similarities, but Buddhism and Taoism are rather different from Westernized Christianity. For someone who is neither Buddhist nor Taoist, and yet is Asian, the experience was one that left me feeling rather alien.

That's it for now...stay tuned for the most epic Yum v. Yuck experience ever!


Sue said...

Hmmmm. You are definitely my own sweet child.... Love you!

Rachel said...

your bravery in the face of oysters and stinky tofu is inspiring. :-) I dunno if i could do it!