Sunday, November 12, 2006

It's Been a FOOD Week

I've eaten far too much this week, oh yes. It all started on Tuesday, when Guoxi invited me to go with him, his mother, and his younger sister to Jia An Village in Taoyuan County to eat lunch. I couldn't figure out why we were driving an hour just for lunch, but it turned out that Taoyuan was where the family lived until Guoxi was about 15 or so, and his mother just loves one restaurant there. The speciality of this restaurant is 活魚, live fish.

We arrived at the restaurant around noon, and we were the only customers. The first thing we did was walk to the rear of the restaurant to the pool where the fish are kept. These are not tiny fish. I'd say they averaged three to four feet in length! Guoxi's mom told the guy which size she wanted, and he snared it up in a net. Then he flopped the monster onto the ground and dispatched it with a few flicks of a very sharp knife. I missed this part, as I was in the bathroom, but I got a play-by-play from Guoxi. Then we all stood there watching as the guy cleaned the fish and scraped the scales off. Mrs. Zhang gave her order, listing six different ways she wanted the fish cooked, and then we all sat down at a large round table to wait.

The fish dishes appeared one by one - a deep-fried tail portion drenched with a tangy sauce that may have had citrus in it, a garlic-laden dish that smelled heavenly and tasted even better, a deep-fried middle section accompanied by a tasty dipping sauce, hot and spicy tofu with fish, a dish covered with dark sauce and full of some unindentified round things that looked like hazelnuts but weren't, and finally a huge pot of soup made with the fish head. Well, they certainly didn't waste any of this fishy. Along with the fish dishes we had some shrimp balls and stir-fried greens called 空心菜. The entire time we were eating, the owners' dog was frisking around the restaurant. Not a small dog, a large one. Once in awhile he'd come over to the table hoping for a handout, and sometimes his friend dog would join him inside, or he'd go outside for a romp with his buddy.

There was so much food we could have easily fed at least five more people. Every bit of what was left was packed up to go, even the soup because Mrs. Zhang had wisely brought along a metal pot to put it in. I was completely stuffed and mananged to turn down all offers of giving me some of the leftovers. It was extremely tasty, but the fish was loaded with bones, and I really don't like bony fish, because I'm afraid I'll get one stuck in my throat. So, the lunch was enough for me, no need to repeat the experience.

Friday afternoon I went to Tamkang University to take my placement test for the upcoming classes. I did a lousy job, because 1) I've forgotten a lot of what I learned and 2) I cannot write Chinese characters from memory. However, the teacher who was giving the test was very nice, and she accepted oral answers rather than written ones. She was satisfied that I read Chinese quite well and really did understand almost 100% of what was on the test, even though I couldn't write the answers in Chinese (I gave her some pinyin, though!). We decided that I should start out in the class that's using the book I've already finished studying, so that I can concentrate on improving my writing rather than trying to learn new stuff. This will also give me some review of what I've forgotten, which is much needed. Not to mention that homework will be a snap! hehe If I find that too boring, I can switch to the advanced class, which is using the book I had just started studying when CLD fell from the government's good graces.

Friday night after our class Kitty took me to a local steakhouse. You can order various cuts of steak, and there's a small salad bar that has, in addition to "normal" salad stuff, Taiwanese snacks like dry tofu, boiled egg halves, fried tofu, tiny stir-fried eggplant, french fries, chicken nuggets, and some of the best melon I've had, not sure what it was. Looked a bit like cantaloupe on the inside, but the outside wasn't cantaloupe-ish. They had papaya and kiwi, too.

After seeing the folks next to us get their orders of steaks smothered in sauce, I asked for mine to be plain, without sauce. Kitty was shocked. She said she'd been extremely pissed off in America when the steak she ordered at Denny's came without sauce. I told her that American's prefer to taste the meat itself when eating steak. I'd ordered the sirloin, and it came on top of some spiral noodles that had an insipid sort of red sauce on them, some frozen mixed veggies, and a fried egg. Hm. I took my steak off the sizzling metal plate and placed it onto my salad plate. This was not easy to do since my fork didn't seem to be able to actually pierce the meat. Trying to cut the first piece off was exhausting work. I don't believe I've ever run into a steak that was quite this tough. I should have spent a bit more money and gotten one of the more tender cuts (if they actually exist). Let us say that I don't think I'll bother with any Taiwan steakhouses again. If I feel the need for steak, I'll go to one of the Western-style steakhouses and pay an exhorbitant price for the real deal. At least the salad bar part was enjoyable, and it only cost me $7.50US, so what the hell.

Yesterday was the Wu Bai & China Blue Airwaves concert over by Taipei 101, so the gang met for lunch at Niko Niko, a California Roll sushi place that is owned by the company that Nat and Charlene work for. We were me, Nat, Charlene, Ah Ci, Shun, Xiao Niu, and PJ (who is one of the chefs there and was on duty) to start out, then Kennie (whose birthday it happened to be) and her boyfriend arrived very late. I let Nat take care of most of the ordering, except for making sure that I got a spicy roll. Everything we had was delicious, and I think I could have forced myself to eat even more than I did. Nat ordered a large plate of sashimi, but I don't really like plain raw fish, so I didn't have any of that. I stuck to the various rolls we got, plus a bit of the salad (boy, that was good, despite the ubiquitous canned corn that was tossed in). Eight of us ate until stuffed and the total was only $840NT (about $26US) because of the huge discount we got because Nat, Char, and PJ work there. I gave Nat $200, which is probably more than my fair share, but I consider it to be pretty cheap for what I got.

We headed over to the concert shortly before it began, not worrying about being in the back because the venue was so small. It just didn't seem worth it to try to arrive early enough to stand right in front this time. The show was loads of fun, but pretty much the same as the shows at The Partyroom, nothing new. Doesn't seem to matter how many times we see the same thing, though, it's always a high to be at a concert. Wu Bai was looking quite handsome and sexy, and all the guys seemed to be having a great time. Well, maybe Dino wasn't so happy, it's hard to say. He did one very odd thing, coming out to the front during one song that has no drums, no bass, and tossing drumsticks into the crowd. The look Wu Bai gave him was half irritation, half puzzlement. We're not sure what that was all about.

So, after the show we started off to San Zhi to visit Carrie. She'd invited Nat, Charlene, and I go her place to sit about and bullshit and do a little drinking. We had to stop off at my house first (it's on the way) to pick up the beer I'd bought the day before, and we stopped at a roadside vendor to get food and more snacks and beer at the convenience store. Carrie met us there so we could follow her up to her place.

Her house is really cool, older with concrete walls that she has decorated with some lips and flowers that she's painted onto them. The kitchen is in the basement, along with a bathroom, and there are some rooms upstairs from the living/dining area. We sat around her dining table and stuffed ourselves on the stuff that Nat bought - fried chicken, fried squid, fish balls, pig skin (not me, uh uh), tofu, enoki mushrooms - and the potato chips and Ritz cheese crackers I'd bought. Nat and Charlene started on the red wine, while Carrie and I had beer. She had wine afterwards, but I stuck with my beer, downing four of them. At about 10:45 Nat said it was time to go. Carrie said we were all welcome to stay there, but only Charlene chose to stay. I was a little worried about DZ, because she'd been acting strange when I got home to pick up the beer, not coming to the door to greet me, just staying on the bed in the spare room. I guess she was just faking it, though, because she was fine when I got home, wanting to play and keeping me up until 12:30 a.m.

So, I have one week before I start school again, and I'll be trying to do a lot of review so I'm prepared. I got the same class time as I had before, 10:00-12:00, but I have a little farther to go now, so I'll have to leave the house by 8:30 a.m. every day. After I get to Guting Station, I have a fifteen-minute walk to the school. Riding the MRT at that time means I probably won't have a seat, which sucks. I used to catch the 9:00 one, and that was perfect. But I don't want the 1:00 class, because then I'd never be able to have lunch with my friends, and the 3:00 class doesn't cover what I need to study. And no way am I choosing the 8:00 a.m. class!

Time to start cleaning my filthy apartment before the landlady comes by for her mail. Don't want to give the woman a heart attack :)

1 comment:

Romita said...

How exciting! You're attending university in Taiwan. I'm so proud of you living your dream.

One more thing, I'm glad I had a late dinner before reading this entry. It all sounds so yummy!