When we lived in Taipei for a few months, I learned where the stores and open markets were to be able to buy ingredients, then cook food that we were used to. It was fun to go out to restaurants about once a week (a lot of the local neighborhood establishments were inexpensive), but it is strangely emotionally draining to eat unfamiliar food all the time! When we have visited Taipei, and I am stuck in a hotel without a kitchen, every meal can be an adventure, both finding it and eating it.
You can always find a Starbucks or a McDonalds, but that only works for me about one time during the week. Besides, the food there is not actually as familiar as you would think. The businesses there are, don’t forget, mostly selling to a Taiwanese crowd with Taiwanese tastes. And I don’t eat at those places more than once every few years in the USA.
Fortunately, I developed a taste for red bean paste years ago. I could eat steamed dumplings filled with red bean paste every day, although I only had them 3 times while in Taipei this time. The first time was in a little shop in the maze of shops at Taipei Main Station. When my husband told me about the King Ping Tea Restaurant near the hotel, I was very hopeful.
The next evening, while dear hubby was at a business dinner, I went over to King Ping for my own dinner. In an effort to have a well rounded meal, I had one order (2 dumplings) of vegetable-pork dumplings and one order of red bean paste dumplings. I was stuffed after 3 of them. They were delicious.
A couple of evenings later, I knew I needed to eat something in the evening, but didn’t want much. I also was not in the mood to sit by myself in the restaurant. I would rather go back to my room and work on photos or write. I had seen someone else order “to go” the first time I went, so I thought I’d give it a try.
It ended up being much more fun than sitting at a normal table. While I waited for my order, the gentleman in charge, a very debonair middle aged man, invited me to sit at the entryway table, where he made the restaurant’s tea and made sure each customer was promptly attended to. I got the impression he was at least the manager. I can’t remember who spoke first, but I think he asked if I was American. He encouraged my efforts to speak in Chinese, and even helped the cashier to understand me when she tried to talk to me.
I asked if I could take pictures of the dumpling makers behind the glass window and was given an definite okay. They were working very fast. Even though they were obviously on show behind the glass, they seemed to think it odd that I wanted to stand and watch. They also gave me the impression that one photo should have been enough, but I was having trouble with reflections off of the glass. I was probably blinding them with my flash, now that I think of it.
That 15-20 minutes of waiting for my dumplings was much more fun than a whole hour of sitting at a table by myself had been previously. I was almost sad when the dumplings were ready. I was having fun!
Back in the hotel room, I cut open one of the dumplings with the chopsticks to let it cool, like my Taiwanese friends had taught me. I had been served tea liberally while waiting, so water was all I needed for a beverage. The red bean paste dumplings were just as good this time around. I think I will have to do some research and figure out if I can make some of my own here at home.