Tri Color Egg (A Taiwanese Specialty)

food, healthy

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I could talk for hours after hours about my love for Taiwan; from its mountains and seas to its night market and decadent dishes, there is just something so impeccable about this island. Taiwanese snack foods have become a billion dollar industry all over the world, from bubble tea, to bubble waffles, from Asian bakery bread to braised pork rice… people of all colors love Taiwanese snack food. With that being said, there’s much more to Taiwanese food than bubble tea and bread. I’m ecstatic to share a Taiwanese specialty called “Tri Color Egg”. The three colors are black, yellow, and white. As you may have guessed, yellow and egg come from an egg (of course), but what about the color black? There’s a unique oriental egg called the “century egg” which CNN and many other news outlet report as one of the most disgusting foods ever. It’s such a wonder how tastebuds differ from people to people, because I think the century egg is delightful. Perhaps growing up with the egg in my cuisine has been an advantage, but it’s really not as foul as it sounds. It looks horrid, like something the devil would produce, with its translucent black outer skin and its gooey, vomit-like yolk, but I recommend everyone to be adventurous and try it!

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century eggs

Perhaps you’ve been grossed out and don’t want to read anymore….. but tricolor egg is a beautiful dish that will WOW your friends and family. Come on, give it a try 🙂


Tri Color Egg

yield: (9 x 9 x 2 in circle or square cake pan)

Special equipment: steamer OR a large wok-like pan to steam, steamable plastic wrap, cake pan or casserole pan

Ingredients:

  • 10 eggs
  • 3 century eggs
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • 2 tbsp michiu (rice cooking wine)
  • 8 tbsp water

Directions:

  1. Line the cake pan with steamable plastic to prevent the egg from sticking.
  2. Separate the 10 egg yolks from white. In the egg whites, combine 1/2 tbsp sea salt, 1/2 tbsp sesame oil, 1 tbsp michiu, and 4 tbsp water. Whisk until combined, but do not whisk until too frothy. egg3
  3. Pour the whites into the cake pan. Cut each century egg into 8-10 long slices and line them in horizontal lines in the egg whites. Steam the egg covered on medium heat for about 10-15 minutes, or until the edges have hardened and the middle is still jiggly.
  4. While the whites are steaming, whisk the egg yolks and add 1/2 tbsp sea salt, 1/2 tbsp sesame oil, 1 tbsp michiu, and 4 tbsp water. Take a chopstick or skewer and poke small holes on the edges all around the egg whites to release some steam and  so that the egg yolk does not separate from the egg whites when poured in. Pour the egg yolk onto the egg whites and then let the eggs steam covered, on low for an additional 10-15 minutes. egg6
  5. Once complete, remove the eggs from the steamer and let it cool for an hour before serving. when slicing the eggs, you want to slice vertically or against the way the century eggs were placed. Since the century eggs were placed horizontally, cut the eggs vertically to get the bejeweled effect from the century eggs.

Tri color eggs are best eaten with rice or noodles, accompanied by vegetables and other dishes!

Matcha Buns 2 Flavors: Taro and Adzuki Beans (Vegan)

food
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Taro matcha buns

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Adzuki matcha buns

Matcha has been around in East Asian cuisine for as long as I can think of, but the superfine green tea powder has recently gained mass popularity in the United States with dishes from matcha lattes to matcha croissants! This ingredient is high in antioxidants and provides a natural bright, luscious hue to foods. From seeing matcha ice cream, mochi, to lattes, I haven’t seen matcha baozi (buns) served at any cafe or restaurant and today I decided to put a unique twist on these buns by stuffing the buns with two typical Asian flavors: adzuki beans and taro, which both have deep colors that pair well with the earthy green color from the matcha. Not to mention, this recipe is vegan!!!


 

Steamed Matcha Buns

yield: 8 buns

Ingredients:

For the dough:

  • 1 1/4 c. all purpose flour (plus more for dusting)
  • 1/2 c. lukewarm water
  • 5 tsp. white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. active yeast
  • 1 tsp. flavorless oil
  • 1 tsp. matcha powder
  • flavorless oil (for brushing)
  • red and purple food coloring for labeling the flavors(optional)

For Adzuki beans filling (yield 4; double if you want to yield 8):

  • 6 tbsp. canned adzuki beans

For taro filling, recipe can be found from my Sweet Soft Taro-Filled Flatbread recipe. However, I added 1-2 drops of purple food coloring to enhance the color so that the green bun and purple filling colors would contrast better.

Directions (step by step pictures down below):

  1. Pour lukewarm water into a medium-sized bowl, along with the sugar. Mix thoroughly until the sugar is dissolved.
  2. Sprinkle the yeast into the liquid and mix thoroughly until dissolved. Then add the matcha powder until the liquid is completely mixed.
  3. Pour the flour in and knead with a fork or hands for 8 minutes. Add the oil and knead for an additional minute.
  4. Pour the dough onto a floured surface and knead the dough for 5 min. Ball the dough up and cover with a bowl for 30 min. to let it rise.
  5. After 30 min, the dough should have risen a little bit. Punch the middle of the dough to release air bubbles; gently knead the dough for 30 sec. then ball it up and cover with a bowl for another 20 min.
  6. After 20 min, the dough should risen more and the dough should be soft and fluffy.
  7. Cut the dough into 8 even pieces and ball them up and place on the side.
  8. For each ball of dough, use a rolling pin to roll the dough out, making sure that the sides are thin and the middle is much thicker. The flattened dough should be about 2 1/2 in. in diameter. Place a heaping 1 1/2 tbsp. filling (taro or adzuki) in the middle and pinch the sides in, sealing tightly so that the filling does not come out.
  9. Use your hands to rotate the bun so that the top is completely smooth and the bun is perfectly round.
  10. Place in a steamer using muffin liners and brush the top of the buns with a little bit of oil.
  11. I then used a toothpick to put a tiny dot on the buns to indicate which flavor is which. I used purple food coloring for taro and red for adzuki beans.
  12. Cover the steamer with a lid and let the buns rise for at least 15 min.
  13. Place 1/2 c. water in a large wok or pot and steam the buns (covered) on high heat for 10 min.
  14. Then remove the lid and continue to steam on high heat for an additional 5 min.
  15. Remove the steamer and let the buns cool for 15 min. If you don’t cool the buns enough, the muffin liners will be difficult to remove.
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Matcha dough ball

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Cover with a bowl to let the dough rise

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I used canned adzuki beans from a Korean grocery store

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Portion dough into 8 even pieces

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Ball the dough up

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Stuff with a generous amount of adzuki beans

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Stuff with a generous amount of taro

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Seal the edges (this is the bottom of the bun)

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Place buns in the steamer

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I color coded the two flavors with food coloring

Cut open the buns carefully and mentally says “Oooh and Aaah” because the colors are just too gorgeous, and the buns taste just as good as it looks!

-Jamie

Taiwan Day 14: Taiwan-Inspired Recipe: Hujiao Bing (Pork Pepper Bun)

food, travel

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All throughout Taiwan, in obscure or conspicuous corners, some form of “bing” (bun) can be found, of either yeast-based, lard-based, or baking powder-based. The variations are infinite, where sweet or savory fillings include red bean, taro, lotus paste, daikon, pork, green onion, mochi, custard, and you’ll seldom find sweet and savory combos where sweet mochi compliments Chinese meat shreds impeccably.

I recall visiting Wen Zhou Jie Radish Pancake in Taipei, where sizable, deep-fried buns stuffed with daikon or green onion cost only 20 NT (0.66), and each bite comprised a burst of briny, earthy, flavor, with a crisp outer shell and fluffy interior, providing an oily “chapstick” covering for ones’ lips. This is a gem found only in Asia, and I wanted to emulate this style of pastry at home, so I haven’t devised an daikon recipe up to par, but I made an exceptional Pork Pepper Bun that I am thrilled to share.

These buns originated from the Fuzhou region in China, but due to its sweeping popularity in Taiwan, it is often dubbed as “Taiwanese Pepper Bun.” The bun includes a fat-free, yeast dough, filled with a meat filling, flavored with copious amounts of white pepper and as much green onions as the dough can hold. The more green onions, the better. Although a lot of white pepper goes into the meat, the bun does not taste extremely peppery, but rather has a nice subtle kick of spice. Hujiao bings also are decorated with an abundance of sesame seeds, thus a hujiao bing is not a hujiao bing without white pepper, green onions, and sesame seeds.


HuJiao Bing

yield: 16 buns

Ingredients:

For dough:

  • 3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. yeast
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 c. 105-110 ºC water
  • 4 tbsp. 100 ºC water for yeast

For meat filling:

  • 1 1/2 c. ground pork (80% lean or a fattier meat works well)
  • 3 tsp. white pepper
  • 3 tbsp. michiu (Chinese rice wine)
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 2 1/2 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 3/4 tsp. 5 spice powder
  • 1/2 tsp. minced ginger
  • 3 1/2 c. chopped green onion

For decoration:

  • 1 egg for eggwash
  • 3 tbsp. white or black sesame seeds

Directions:

  1. Combine the 3 tbsp. water with yeast and sugar, and set aside for 10 minutes so the yeast activates.
  2. In a large bowl, pour the yeast mixture into the flour and knead with hand until a ball of dough is incorporated. On a floured surface, knead the dough for about 5 min. until it’s completely smooth and cover with a towel and place in a warm area, 85ºC-90ºC for 1 hour to let it rise. The dough will not double in size but it should rise a bit.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine all the meat filling ingredients except the green onion. With a fork, mix and mash the meat mixture for about 5 min. so that the protein in the meat breaks down a bit. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to allow it to marinade.
  4. Transfer the risen dough to a floured surface and knead for about 2 min. Cut the dough into 16 equal pieces and place the dough pieces into the large bowl with a towel over it to prevent them from drying out.
  5. Preheat the oven to 400 ºC.
  6. Working one at a time, roll the dough ball until the dough is 1/4 cm. thick. Scoop about 1 1/2 tbsp. meat mixture in and top with 2 tbsp. or more green onion. Pinch the opposite sides of the dough together and pinch the sides in the middle, working in a clockwise motion until the dough is completely sealed. Make sure it is completely sealed so the juices don’t come out while baking.
  7. Place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper or a silicon mat.
  8. When all the balls are formed, beat an egg and use a pastry brush to brush on the egg wash.
  9. Top with A LOT of sesame seeds.
  10. Place in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.

It is best to enjoy these buns while they have come right out of the oven, but it is also good to know that you should eat these with caution for the meat juices can scald your tongue!

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All the ingredients

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Portion the dough

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Roll out the dough

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Add the meat

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Add the green onions

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Seal the edges

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Egg wash

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Add the sesame seeds

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Good stuff

Enjoy!

-Jamie

Taiwan Day 13: My Luck to Visit Bayan Village (Now Closed to Outsiders)

travel
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Crisp reflection at Bayan Village

A delicate layer of stratus clouds shrouded the skies above and reflected its image on the stagnant waters beneath, as subtle smoke piped continuously from the few homes in the quiet and unassuming village. Bayan village, indisputably beautiful, was an unknown gem in the Yangmingshan territory, distinct for its terraced fields running alongside mountains and its unique natural hot springs and waterfalls that provide so-called healing elements to the human skin. When word got out of the area, the village’s popularity grew and unpleasant hordes of tourists poured in daily, overwhelming the 20 inhabitants who were once accustomed to merely the sounds of nature.  We are all too familiar with the consequences of tourism, and indeed the inhabitants agreed to prohibit visitors to their village for issues reached unacceptable levels, including destruction of crops and use of the paths as restrooms. Despite my streak of misfortune in life, I fortunately experienced Bayan village 3 months before its unforeseen closure, and when I returned to the states, I spoke non-stop of Bayan, promising my brother that I would take him soon, only to hear it had closed….


My Experience: 

Access to the village was highly challenging for it is located in a conspicuous area in Yangmingshan, with few signs indicating its location and limited parking spaces nearby. Billy parked his sedan in a desolate spot and we were prepared to cross the street when an old man with a white undershirt and blue massage sandals approached us, requesting money in exchange for the parking spot. Turned out if the villagers were to be disturbed, they might as well make a little profit. We gave the man 30 NT and walked past a couple homes with washboards in a creek, food laid out drying in the sun, and vegetables growing profusely in garden patches. There was a miniature path of stone, hand-laid out over running waters and another local man simply sitting on a boulder, collecting an entrance fee in a bowl for the terraced fields/ sky reflection view. Imposing mountains fringed our surrounding and a murky body of water situated amid was an optimum canvas for the sky’s reflection. The sight was a thing of wonder, and luckily I had come on an unpopular day and time where masses of tourists were nowhere to be found, so all was far too serene.

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Smoke from a chimney

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View

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Large boulders in the water

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Intense reflection

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Not a model at all

Nearby the exit, an elderly woman sat underneath a rickety straw roof, showing off her vegetables and fruit, freshly picked this morning and grown traditionally by hand. Billy told me that her food was phenomenal and home-y, so we strolled over and bought two steamed corn and tea eggs, both scalding hot as I juggled them between my hands. Piping hot juice splattered all over as I bit into the sweet, succulent corn, and I rapidly continued to eat because the pain was worth each decadent bite. As we nibbled on the flavorsome tea egg to prevent mouth burns, we walked along steep, zig-zagged paths, enclosed by towering bamboo stalks and shrubs on either sides that forbid any breeze. The demanding trek to the hot springs required great stamina and at the half-way point, I wondered if I’d ever make it as I slowly but surely progressed down winding and deteriorating stone steps. But then my eyes glistened at the sight of flat land ahead of us (a huge relief from the prior tedious path) that was accompanied by a behemoth fumarole, filling the atmosphere with pastel yellow, sulfuric clouds. Based on intuition, it seemed we were approaching our destination soon, and indeed there was only an additional half mile descending down a serpentine path until the hot springs.

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Within the mountains

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Smoke from underground

Very highly likely there was an easier access to the hot springs, but Billy and I entered from a threatening path as we nimbly hopped from jagged stone to stone down hill, avoiding the steaming, cloudy water beneath us. Masses of steam engorged our bodies, obscuring our view ahead, and we weren’t sure if we could withstand the fumes, but a miracle occurred when we reached the bottom and regained our sights.

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Our dangerous path to enter the springs

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Clear water from the waterfalls

I witnessed a fictitious image with varieties of different sized natural springs and melanin-rich individuals bathing in the streaming water, soaking in the sun’s and water’s nutrients. The pale blue, almost grey, hot spring water was too hot for comfort, but it came in contact with crystal clear water from a waterfall nearby to form the optimal temperature for humans to enjoy a dip. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring a swimsuit so I was semi- crestfallen, but I got to dip most of my legs into the pools and relish the setting, the people, and the sounds. And since Bayan village is no longer open, all that occurred on this day remains in my memories and in my photos. And I know I’ll read back on this blog whenever I need to recall the allure of this place.

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Cooling down next to a waterfall

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Cloudy hot spring waters

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Venturing

 

-Jamie

Taiwan Day 12: Beitou Thermal Valley and the Best Braised Pork Rice Ever

food, travel
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“Hell’s Valley”

On this day, I was handed over to my other cousin, Billy, for a weekends’ worth of excitement. The motive of me being “handed over” was so that I could reunite with every single Taiwanese cousin while they took me on memorable road trips to their favorite destinations that embodies what they love about their country.

Billy drove from Bali (in Taiwan, not Indonesia) to pick me up from Kevin’s urban apartment, and when his aging, maroon Honda pulled up I enthusiastically greeted him and dumped my luggage in the trunk. Unlike Kevin, he didn’t ask me where I wanted to go- he knew immediately where to take me, and soon we were on our way to Beitou Hot Springs. The Beitou area consists of natural hot springs that continually emits steam, and some are open to people while others reach temperatures of 100 °C and are off-limits. We first visited the Hot Springs Museum which was an original bathhouse built long ago by the Japanese in European style so the inside had Victorian columns and baths but tatami rooms as well. Because the Japanese are extremely orderly and clean, we had to remove our shoes in the museum and put on slippers to keep the interior spotless.

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Hot Springs Museum

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A tatami in the museum

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We then headed out towards the Geothermal Valley, also dubbed “Hell’s Valley”, a bright emerald-colored body of water that is 90 °C, so very little life sustains in the water. The weather was already hot enough, but once near the edge of the Valley, the sweltering heat reached my skin and I began to sweat all over, especially on my neck where my long hair dangled freely. I felt audacious standing so near, knowing that a slight mishap could result in my death, but the uncanny Valley was quite mystical as subtle clouds of opaque steam arose and idled marginally above the still, emerald water. We wandered past other hot springs in the human-tolerable range, but all were rather empty because who would be in their right mind to step in a hot springs in tropical, Taiwanese, Summer weather?

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An eerie Geothermal Valley

It was around noon when Billy told me of a fantastic “restaurant” that specializes in  braised pork rice (lu rou fan) and I was so down because braised pork rice is the perfect combination of carbs, fat, and salt, and I never turn down a braised pork rice offer. There was one minor issue with which he wasn’t exactly sure where and what the place was called, so we scoured around the Beitou area, driving through random roads as he tried to recall of the place in his head. We then arrived at a random, dingy and dilapidated building with a variety of food stands, clothing stores, and medicine shops on the inside. The interior had little electricity (and certainly no A/C), and was mostly lit up by windows on the walls and ceilings for sunlight to enter. Peculiarly, the place was congested with people mostly eating lunch or buying fresh fruits, meats, or seafood from the tiny vendors scattered across each floor. On a side note, the scene was chaotic, unsanitary, and dismal, but a scene like this is very typical of Taiwan so it didn’t bother me for I was accustomed to it. Billy and I sauntered around each floor, past multiple butchers, scanning from corner to corner to find The “restaurant”, but his frustrated complexion indicated that it was nowhere nearby. Eventually, he gave up and we sat down at another braised pork rice restaurant which he described as “not as good”. He wandered off to see what people were eating, when he ran back exuberantly and yelled “I found it!!” I stood up so abruptly that I experienced a minor whiplash, but proceeded on to follow Billy, who was now very much ahead of me.

The restaurant (a food stand really), called 矮仔財滷肉飯  was in a relatively depressing corner, however the food stand was not depressing at all. The chefs frantically sauteed and washed dishes as a line of forty something people waiting to order watched and an additional forty something people sat eating. I headed to the back of the line, which spiraled down a staircase where the food stand unfortunately was no longer in sight. Thirty five minutes had passed until we got to the front of the line, where Billy ordered several dishes but sadly had to switch a few orders since many of their dishes were sold out. But no worries because whatever we ordered turned out to be SOME OF THE BEST FOOD I HAVE EVER PUT IN MY MOUTH. I seriously don’t even know how to explain how scrumptious the food was, like does a 1000/10 tell you how tasty the food was? or the term “better than sex?” (whatttt) Yes, it was THAT amazing.

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Braised pork rice

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Very traditional Taiwanese meal

We ordered two bowls of braised pork rice which on top of the meat, the chef had additionally included ample amounts of gelatinous skin and fat, and I think that was the wow factor of the dish. I’ve had hundreds of braised pork rice bowls in my life and I’ve never tasted a memorable one until this one. We also got 2.) a tofu chunk braised in the pork juices, so if the tofu is tasting like the braised pork, it’s got to be great, 3.) kongxincai (water spinach), sauteed and drenched in the pork marinade with meat chunks (Oh my lord so good), 4.) pork and winter melon soup (perhaps the best soup I’ve ever had. It was meaty but not oily at all- how do you do that?), and 5.) fatty pork slices with red sauce. The rice, tofu, and water spinach dishes all had the braised pork sauce, but they all had their own distinct flavors, which stumps me. And the soup, oh my, do not even get me started on the soup; it tasted nothing like the braised pork sauce, it had a special flavor that I cannot fathom either. As a food fanatic, I believe that a restaurant’s food is good when you can’t decipher what the ingredients are because you can’t imitate it at home. Thus, you’ll keep coming back to the restaurant to eat it. I now know that in the future anytime I visit Taiwan, I will ask to come back here to eat. I encourage you all to put this restaurant “矮仔財滷肉飯” on your bucket list!!

-Jamie

Taiwan Day 11: The Traditions of Paper-Making

travel

 

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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.

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A rooster mold

-Jamie