Taiwan Day 11: The Traditions of Paper-Making

travel

 

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

Fo Guang Shan Monastery

Before my eyes was a massive spectacle of temple after temple in a Versailles-esque setting, but you can imagine how the architecture of all differs between East and West. There weren’t intricate gardens and it wasn’t nearly as widespread as Versailles, but both gave off Christopher Nolan vibes with labyrinthine plots. This was Fo Guang Shan, the largest Buddhist monastery in Taiwan, a sacred place where monks silently strolled past visitors and minded their own business. The grand view of the monastery is looking forward to see repeated temples on both sides and a 36 meter tall golden Protection Buddha statue at the end, staring right back at you. With the right hand palm up and the open left hand rest on its knee, the towering Buddha sends a clear message of “No fear” to all guests because he wants to offer protection from delusion, fear, and anger.

Afterwards, we spent the remainder of the morning driving halfway up the country to visit the GuangXing Pulp Factory,  a quaint factory displaying the traditions of paper-making. All paper products at the factory were made by hand and we got to see the employees go through the procedures of ancient paper making which included soaking the tree pulp, drying it, weaving and pasting the mush together, and spreading and ironing out the mush on a heated metal surface. The sweltering summer air made us sweat, but the sultry atmosphere caused by steam and engines made our skin drench furthermore. I want to praise the employees because tediously forming each delicate sheet required patience and strength.

Then, we all fortunately got to experience making our own paper fans from the delicate, hand-made sheets, which turned out to be quite hellish. If you messed up one simple step, your fan was ruined altogether, and naturally as the hapless being I am, my fan turned out to be a catastrophe, but I brought it home anyways and showed it off. The process required putting your sheet on a cast iron mold, spraying some water (apparently I sprayed a bit too much), and gently patting down with a brush (apparently I didn’t pat gently enough). You then softly apply some paint and then carefully remove the sheet to transfer to a plastic fan. At this point, my sheet already looked defective, but I glued it onto the plastic fold, sealed the edges, and sobbed at my dreadful incompetence. Check out below to see the design on my sheet! I didn’t include a photo of the fan because it was a soggy, wrinkled mess. So that pretty much concludes what I did today, and it also reminds me that I should start being more competent at life.

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

A rooster mold

-Jamie

Taiwan Day 9: Aboriginal Amusement Park and Feng Chia Night Market

travel
Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

Sun Moon Lake

Today’s adventure led us to Nantou, a serene county known for its mountains and waters that are perfect for the outdoor fanatics. As our car meandered through the narrow roads, high rises gradually disappeared and all that could be seen were trees within the mist and seldom wooden homes. We arrived at the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village, a monumental amusement park amid the mountains that integrates aboriginal culture and modern thrill together into one. The park accurately depicts Taiwan’s nine principal aboriginal tribes throughout, displaying meticulously hand-carved and painted totem poles, old-style wooden homes, and hand-spun textiles. The entire experience brings you back several hundreds of years to the aboriginal era, especially since the workers are dressed in cultural garments and often put on shows of dancing, singing, and rituals.

Processed with VSCO with g3 preset

Aboriginal ritual

Surprisingly, the amusement portion had several invigorating rides not for the faint of heart. However, if you want relaxation, I highly recommend the Sun Moon Lake Ropeway, a cable car ride that carries you aloft the mountains from the bottom to the highest point of the park. A second cable car must be boarded to visit Sun Moon Lake, one of the most beautiful destinations in Taiwan with waters blue as can be and silhouettes of perpetual mountain ranges, all engulfed in heaps of clouds. The weather at the Culture Park consisted of clear skies and constant sun, but as the cable car traveled towards Sun Moon Lake, cloud mass increased and colors deepened in hue. The temperature dropped drastically and our view became slightly clouded. The ambiance was serene and all I could hear was the slight chatter from other people, who were in awe of the view as well. We were fortunate to see the sun in process of setting, which lit up the sky creating an aura of peace, as I frantically whipped out my phone to snap a panorama of the altering scene.

Processed with VSCO with g3 preset

View from the cable car

Processed with VSCO with g3 preset

cable ride

We stayed overnight at the Sun Moon Lake Youth Activity Center which had a large balcony several stories high with a perfect view of the lake. My friends and I sat on a wooden table and watched the sun set until the sky became pitch black. When there was nothing left to see, we headed out to Feng Chia Night Market, which was an hour drive away, but we were out for a good time accompanied by good food.

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

Egg cakes

Parking at the night market was such an infuriating task that we almost decided to head back home, but after 20 minutes of honking and hair-pulling, we finally found a spot. The large night market was packed like sardines as I constantly had bodies up against my skin, transferring sweat from one person to another. It was insanely unhygienic, but I was craving savory and sweet goodness on my taste buds, and I luckily was able to purchase food, despite the mobs of  hangry people. I hastily munched on my gua bao (steamed bun with pork belly, fried egg, cucumbers, cilantro, and peanut hot sauce), egg cakes, grilled kebabs, and matcha snow ice with adzuki beans, as people shoved and hollered to get in line for food. Smoke from cooking shrouded the sky and the smell of fried and grilled meats filled my nostrils as I enjoyed being among the mass of food lovers.

Processed with VSCO with g3 preset

Matcha snow ice with adzuki beans

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

Selection of BBQ kebabs

Processed with VSCO with g3 preset

Pork belly bao

-Jamie

Taiwan Day 6: I Made It on the News!

travel

 

Processed with VSCO with g3 preset

Tossing the Chinese yoyo

The only time that I’ll ever be famous was the day local Miaoli reporters flocked to the elementary school with their load of technical equipment, ready to interview the principal along with its fellow volunteers, such as me. We had known the day before that the reporters would come, so we prepared a simple medley of talents for the camera. I felt composed knowing that the reporters were coming, but the moment I saw the white van roll up in the parking lot with three people hauling out massive tripods, video recorders, and a box of microphones and audio devices, my composure escaped my insides and was replaced with queasiness.

The schoolchildren upstairs had been sweeping floors and tidying up the classrooms since the first bell, when suddenly from below I heard thumping footsteps and echoes of children repeatedly hollering, ” 他們到了! 他們到了!” (They are here!) To keep all procedures organized, the principal, calm yet assertive, spoke on the intercom for all students to gather in the foyer and instantly all the schoolchildren frantically raced each other, competing who could sit down criss-crossed applesauce first. When the children had arranged themselves in columns by grade, the principal spoke with authority, “Today is the day, and we are so thankful for our volunteer teachers here. The local reporters have come and are ready to report all that has gone on in the past week at our school. We have been preparing for this for a couple of days so try your best and just have fun! All the yo-yo kids, head downstairs first and let’s attempt the “dragon”!” While the yo-yo kids set up on the grass, me and my fellow volunteer mates were approached by the reporters, who set up audio microphones on our backs and told us to write our Chinese names on a sheet of paper. Having the cameraman clip the audio box onto the back of my jeans and guide the wire to the back of my neck was tremendously awesome. I was about to be on Taiwanese News! Who would’ve imagined my first time on television would be in a foreign country?

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

Elementary schoolkids

After I was set up, I waited to be interviewed. My stomach felt empty because I didn’t know what type of questions the reporter would ask and I had to respond in Chinese, which I am quite good at, but having to spontaneously respond on the first try on camera was frightening. In my head, I predicted some simple questions she could possibly ask, so I repeatedly rehearsed my responses in my head until I was called on. The double emotions of excitement and nervousness was overwhelming, but I confidently greeted the reporter and stood in an area of good lighting. She instructed me to speak loudly and about 2 inches away from the microphone and within seconds, my two minutes of fame began.

Initially, the reporter asked me elementary questions which thankfully I had rehearsed in my head, but I was at the highest extent of nervousness that I even had to ensure I wouldn’t butcher my Chinese name. Eighteen years I have lived with this name and even such pressure could’ve caused me to forget. More advanced questions were thrown at me and the camera was fast and rolling, but surprisingly, I briskly soared past them one by one, and by the end of two minutes, I had only stuttered once. I felt proud at the moment. Public speaking was never my forte and I personally know of my low self-esteem, but the girl that would appear on the Miaoli News later tonight would be someone of full confidence.

But my fame did not end there. I eagerly moved on to the patch of grass where the children were warming up their master yo-yo skills, and boy was I an amateur among the kids, but I had picked up Chinese yo-yo quickly in the past few days so I agreed to join the yo-yo squad on camera. The first trick performed was the “dragon”, which is great for cameras because it shows teamwork, unity, the Miaoli elementary school as one. It took only the second try for the yo-yo to smoothly move down the line of ten people, from one persons string to the next, and the toss back reached great heights and was successfully caught. We all happily cheered and we, as a school, truly were one in unity. Following the “dragon”, we performed toss ups, around the leg, spider web, and throw and catch. I performed around the leg, which can be perpetual for the ultimate yo-yo guru, but as a non-guru I was currently at 21 loops, when everyone, including the reporter and cameramen, gathered around and loudly chanted the counts in unison. I had reached 40 loops when I saw my yo-yo wobble in which I tried to straighten, but once I hit 43, my yo-yo tumbled off and rolled away on the grass. Everybody joyously hollered, clapped, and laughed and I put on a broad smile because 43 was a great number for a dilettante like me.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

On the Miaoli news

After the yo-yo portion was recorded, I was approached for a second interview on how I was so talented on the Chinese yo-yo, which, umm… I honestly wasn’t, but because I am an American who had just picked up the sport, it was pretty impressive. They then moved on to the Chinese top acts, which I had no place in because I actually had zero talent in Chinese top.  An hour had passed as I watched these little town children, flawlessly execute impressive top tricks, only wishing I was as skilled as they were. Performance can be exhausting, thus when the medley concluded with one last top trick, a lunch of fried oyster mushrooms, fresh bamboo shoots with Kewpie mayonnaise, bitter melon with salted egg, and leafy vegetables was served for all the hungry performers. All plates were later emptied of their food, and classes resumed as usual.

IMG_1084

Dinner

-Jamie

Taiwan Day 3: A Long Hike Up

travel
Processed with VSCO with g3 preset

Overlook of Miaoli

Up a narrow, winding, steep road, a farmer’s pick up truck propelled vigorously with me and a few other people in the back. The back of the truck, open to the outside world, with no buckle and nothing to hold on to. It was as scary as it sounds. There were multiple times when I felt my body about to fling out the back and onto the road, but I gripped on for dear life to the tiny ledge of the truck. Exhilarating and terrifying at the same time, the ride was one thing I would never forget and I was bummed out when it came to an end once we reached the top of a mountain in Miaoli. During the ride, the lady driving hollered to us in the back, informing us that riding in the back of the truck was illegal, so immediately we tensed up a bit. However in a nonchalant tone, she calmed us down and told us not to worry because all the farmers ride in the back, and that this area of Miaoli is so rural that police officers do not care at all. No rules. No regulations. I was really enjoying life here!

As our muscles burned from trekking up steep roads and sweat beads rolled down our skin, the beauty of Miaoli took my breath away. The view was so satisfying because there was more green than concrete, not yet dominated by human greed. No engines could be heard, no car horns, and the slight flutter of butterfly wings next to my ear was soothing. Feeling lethargic, we finally reached the top, where a beautiful Buddhist temple was located. A couple monks wandered around, minding their own business as we went into the temple, scanned the complex art and architecture, and said a few words of prayer.

Processed with VSCO with g3 preset

Overlook of Miaoli

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

Sink on the roadside

The temple overlooked a big area of farms and houses all in between colossal mountains. Great gusts of wind swept through the trees around us, making a hollow, howling sound and hummingbirds zoomed past, visiting one flower to another. After a calm hour of appreciating nature’s gifts, we made the less-tedious hike down the steep roads, running speedily and holding our arms out parallel to mimic an airplane. We acted like innocent children, competing who could run down faster, and it was insanely dangerous but we were too caught up in the moment to even care about our safety. There were a few close calls when a car drove up as we charged head on to it, but in the end no one got hurt.

Processed with VSCO with g3 preset

Suspension bridge

Once we returned to the farmers truck, we plopped into the back and prepared to become jello, swaying along with the truck’s motion. On our way back, we stopped at a small food stand and 7-11 to purchase lunch items, which included a typical Chinese lunch box for around $2 and a waffle ice cream sandwich to cool ourselves down. The Chinese lunch boxes were nothing exceptional, but the simplicity of its contents was so satisfying and delicious. All it was was tasty and convenient authentic food for a low cost. Our box contained Taiwanese cabbage, preserved black beans, chicken, pickled celery, dried tofu, sausage, and a hard-boiled egg. We consumed the contents quickly and returned to the elementary school, relaxing for the rest of the day.

Processed with VSCO with p5 preset

Caramel ice cream waffle

Processed with VSCO with m3 preset

Lunchbox

-Jamie

Traditional Chinese Pork and Spring Onion Crispy Pancake

food

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

As you bite into the crispy pancake, the layers of the flaky crust crumble and cake your lips. Then you bite into succulent, savory pork that is balanced out with fresh, green spring onion and you know there is a party going on in your mouth. How does this pancake pack so much flavor and texture? It’s no secret. These traditional Chinese pancakes are a very popular street food in Asia. Although it takes a couple hours to make, it is completely worth it. Difficulty level? Easy to medium. You can make it, and you should make it right now!

Ingredients

For the dough:

  • 1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
  • 1/2 c. + 1 tbsp. water
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • For oil paste: 3 tbsp. oil and 3 tbsp. flour
  • 2 tbsp. sesame seeds (optional)

For the filling:

  • 1/2 lb. ground pork (a less lean % is preferable for this recipe. This is NOT a healthy recipe)
  • 1/2 c. chopped spring onion
  • 1 tsp. five spice powder
  • salt and white pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Combine 1 1/2 c. all purpose flour, water, and 1 tbsp. oil in a bowl and knead with hands until there are no lumps. Do not over knead. Cover with a damp paper towel and place on the side for an hour.
  2. Combine all the pork filling ingredients and set aside for a minimum of 1 hour to marinade. You can prepare the meat filling as early as you want because the longer the meat marinades, the more flavor there will be.
  3. In a pan on medium heat, heat 3 tbsp. all purpose flour until slightly brown and then add the oil until a paste forms. Set aside.
  4. Roll out the dough onto a floured surface into a rectangle that is 1/2 cm. thick. Spread all of the oil-flour paste onto the dough, covering all of the dough. Roll up the rectangular dough, rolling so that the dough is horizontally longer. Once the dough is rolled, cut the dough into 8 even parts.
  5. For each dough ball, flatten and roll flat into a circular shape, about 1/2 cm. thick. Try to roll so that very little to none of the oil flour paste spills out. Scoop about 1 1/2 tablespoon meat mixture in the middle and bring all sides of the dough to the middle. Pinch the middle so the meat mixture is completely sealed inside.
  6. Roll out the ball of dough into a flat oval so the dough is 1/4 cm. thick. Do this step carefully so the dough does not tear.
  7. Sprinkle sesame seeds on the dough and press  into dough w/ fingers or rolling pin.                              IMG_8592
  8. In a nonstick pan on medium low heat without oil, place the pancakes inside. I fit 3 or 4 in my pan so I made 2 batches.Cook for about 10-15 min. or until the bottom is golden and you begin to see the layers of the crust. Flip to the other side and cook for about 10-15 min. Once both sides are cooked, repeatedly flip back and forth about every 2 min to ensure the pancake is fully cooked. The whole cooking process should take about 35 min.
  9. Place pancakes on a cooling rack for 3 min. and eat the pancakes when they’re hot.                           IMG_8597

Wow… yes that’s a lot of steps, but the entire process is quite fun if you love working with dough. The steps seem tedious but they are actually simple to follow and you end up with a lovely pancake that you can use to serve, and surprise your friends and family!

-Jamie

 

 

Broke College Student #6: 4 Ingredient Vegan Overnight Oats

Broke College Student, food, healthy

My intention for going to Target was to purchase party supplies for my friend’s birthday, but damn does Target know how to do business. I immediately walked and saw to my left their extremely aesthetic dollar section filled with pastel colors, gold calligraphy words, and vintage looking items, all for $5 or less. I always ignore the snacks or little toys, but there was a section of mason jars and glass spice containers that caught my attention, and they were only $3. How do I even pass on such a deal? Deciding that mason jars are too large for my food portions, I selected the pack of 4 small spice jars for $3 with the idea of testing overnight oats. Several years ago I made overnight oats and thought it was the grossest thing ever, until after self-reflection I realized I made “48 hour oats” rather than “overnight oats”. I despised the mushiness of the oats as I wondered why overnight oats were even a thing, like do people like eating mush? But that was my mistake. Do NOT soak your oats for over 7-9 hours, it’ll be disgusting.

Eagerly ripping over the package of 4 glass jars, I improv’d with a simple dorm-friendly, 4 ingredient overnight oats recipe. I am not certain what the measurement are since I eyeball’ed so all measurements are estimates.

4 Ingredient overnight oats (yields 1 jar):

Ingredients

  • 1/2 c. microwaveable instant oats
  • 1 tbsp. nut butter, I used peanut butter in 2 jars and almond butter in the other 2
  • 1 tsp. chia seeds
  • 4 tbsp. almond/soy milk

Instructions:

  1. add all ingredients into a jar and mix
  2. place in the fridge for 7-9 hours and enjoy

Tip: since I bought 4 jars, I prepped each jar with the recipe above except the addition of the milk. I recommend to add the dry ingredients and add milk only if you will be eating the oats 7-9 hours after to prevent oversoaking and mushiness.

Note: Do not eat if it hasn’t soaked for 6 hours. I tasted my first jar after only 3 hours and I got a major stomachache.

-Jamie