Finding my Cooking Niche in Taiwan

My first couple of orders for my Baked Italian chicken rolls were served on Monday and Tuesday and I am very pleased for the initial reviews.  I am very humbled, grateful and appreciative from the support of our Taichung friends. Please pass the word out to friends and family as I continue my path to happiness with my passion for cooking here in Taiwan!  Thanks! 🙏🏻💕
  1. 12/7 – 艋舺哥 “雞肉卷敲好吃的Y(^_^)Y;  真的好吃 “ “Chicken roll was very good; really good!”
  2. 12/7 – Emma Ho “真的好好吃~^^” “…was very good!”
  3. 12/8 – 劉珊妙 “好美味!艋舺哥沒騙我!我要加訂2條” “My good friend did not lie to me!  I want to order another 2!”
  4. 12/9 – Bike Wang 林畣榮 “謝謝大廚還貼心加熱,果真吃起來特別香酥可口” “Thank you Chef! it was very crispy and delicious!”
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Taking it one day at a time while living life

Patience has been the key as I continue my journey to happiness here in Taiwan.  Letting it come to me when its right.  Let the chips fall where they may.  Instead of diving in head first, we have listened to family and friends alike, tasted  the local food as well as the westernized food here.  Taiwanese taste is light because over salting and over sweetening is not necessary here due to the natural fresh ingredients.  At the same time I have been cooking all types of food with the intent of seeing what can and cannot work for me.  Lately I have started pushing samples to see what type of demand is there.  That is why I lately I have been testing donuts, pizza and now my baked chicken roll.  I have a tremendous support base full of Taiwanese friends in both Taipei and Taichung and I am very fortunate for that as word of mouth here in the Taiwan food industry will make you or break you.  Because local Taiwan news is small time, I have even seen many times on Taiwanese news channels where they report customer restaurant complaints from arguments to the quality and service of a restaurant.

 

 

A Visit from our NYC Friends

IMG_0011This weekend we had a nice reunion with our NYC Soho neighbors and friends, Tom and Annie Yuan who were visiting family here in Taichung.  Tom got to see firsthand the life I gave up in NYC and to confirm that my  life here in Taiwan is for real. lol…  I know I had some doubters as to my “survivability ” here but I know who I am and thats all that matters.  I now know I have Tom to validate my new life here when he returns to NYC.

Tom and Annie are leaving Monday for NYC and also got to bring back IMG_0009with them to NYC my baked blueberry glazed donuts.  But I doubt the donuts will make the plane ride back by then. lol

 

Private Kitchen Afternoon Lunch/Tea

As we are settling in Taichung and cooking in my new kitchen since we returned, we have made dozens of friends here with the opportunity of networking myself with my passion for cooking here.  Opening a restaurant here would go against everything that we chose for the reasons that we moved here.  We don’t want to tie ourselves down here to renting brick and mortar.  Economic slowdown has reached Taiwan within the last 12 months now and I have already seen some cafes turnover just within months of opening.

In the interim I have been showcasing different foods by entertaining friends and family while gathering their advice, suggestions and ways of doing business while being able to control our hours and also live the life we chose.  Baking donuts is one of those fun experiments while also getting the opportunity to getting to meet new people.

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Hosting Robert Liu to my right with 4 of his Toastmaster’s Club members in my private kitchen

Today marked my very first hosting of a Private Kitchen event with an afternoon lunch and tea with one of my staunch supporters of seeing my passion for food turn into something successful here in Taichung.  His name is Robert Lui.  I met Robert in the park last Spring while I was walking my dog Mina and he was jogging.  Robert stopped to say hello because he found me very interesting – the sight of this tall man walking such a tiny dog.  We began to talk and I explained to him why and what I was doing here in Taiwan.  That I had lost my job and that since my 2 children were at an age that they could be safe and financially independent, that we made a conscious decision to begin a second life in Taiwan while seeking happiness in the form of my passion for cooking.  Robert not only found my story interesting but he invited me as his guest speaker with an English speaking Club that he belongs to in Taichung, called the Toastmasters Club, which has many branches within Taiwan.  The Toastmaster’s Club is a periodic gathering where its members promote public English speaking and leadership skills.  Robert also felt it was a great  opportunity for me to be able to network myself within this club.  With the idea of somehow intertwining my passion for cooking within his network of club friends.  The idea of maybe being able  to have the opportunity to have members gather at my home while I host my private kitchen with whatever food I chose as a menu for the day.  It also gives members a chance to engage with me in English and give feedback as to their correct conversation grammar during the private kitchen meal.

I thought it was a great idea and thought how lucky I was to have met Robert by accident in the park.  I humbly took Robert’s invitation as a guest speaker in his local Taichung club.  It occurred one day last April right before we left to return to NYC for the summer.   I had a 30 minute segment where I gave a little biography of myself and how the path led here to Taiwan with Sintty, and what the open road out here is in store for me.  I was very appreciative of the opportunity to speak in front of his club members.  Robert became a close friend to me and Sintty and we continued to discuss future guest speaking engagements at other local branches while seeking opportunities to host a private kitchen event.

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Fresh home made seasoned bread crumbs for the chicken cutlets diced for the baked chicken rolls
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Baked chicken rolls stuffed with mozzarella cheese and marinara sauce
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Home baked pizza

We left for NYC for the summer and when we returned to Taichung in August, Robert and I kept in contact with each other.  Robert actually just returned home to Taichung after completing a 1 month long trip around the island of Taiwan by walking and hitchhiking.  Circling the island by Taiwan is a very popular thing to do and the method of transportation can be anything from walking, hitching, bicycle or  scooter.   Today’s private kitchen afternoon lunch and tea paid event was arranged by Robert early this week with 5 of his club members.  It was also the first time seeing Robert again since last Spring.  From their feedback it was a success.  Sintty prepared the fruit and beverages while I prepared home made pizza and baked chicken rolls stuffed with marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese, and sugar glazed baked blueberry donuts for dessert.   I am IMG_9859slowly getting my feet wet here while making so many friends of which I am so grateful and blessed.  And Robert is one of them.  I don’t know where this leads to but I’m having a hell of a fun time while I’m at it.

 

 

 

Gaining Confidence in Using My Mandarin Chinese

Upon our return at the beginning of August the weather in Taiwan was in its last summer month of very hot, humid sweltering heat.  It was also typhoon season with plenty of rain.   Getting our dogs outside was very seldom and it also was very laboring for them as it was taxing their breathing in the heat.  But September was like a light switch.  Lower humidity and the change of season in the air gave way for more time spent outside with our dogs.  Sunnier and drier days are here now and are spent on most late afternoons in one of Taichung’s major city parks, called The

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Lola, Mina and Kobe sunbathing in the People’s Park

People’s Park in downtown Taichung.  It is a 10 minute scooter ride from our home.  It has a great lawn and it is very popular for letting dogs and dog owners congregate together and also popular for non dog owners for dog watching as well as allowing them to get close and personal with them.

Most of the late afternoons I am alone with the dogs as Sintty volunteers her time at Tzu Chi events.  But for the last 2 month now I have been using

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Visiting Tainan residents in the People’s Park

the opportunity and taking the dogs to the People’s Park to practice using my Mandarin Chinese.  It is very hard to strike up a conversation with someone on the street, but when I am in the park with the dogs, our dogs

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My friend who I met at the People’s Park who walks his dog daily here and became my first donut customer

are very popular and they are constantly being approached to play and inquire about them.  This have given me the conversational practice that I was seeking and it has been extremely beneficial to me.  By hearing the same type of questions about the dogs or about myself, has given me the repetition of the word sounds and the ability to quickly recognize and

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Helping local Taichung high school students with their interactive homework in Mandarin Chinese in the People’s Park.  A couple hours later they would be helping me find Lola who became lost for an hour and a half.

understand what I am being asked.  It has also slowly given me the confidence to answer and the ability to speak a little bit, and a little bit more each time than the conversation before.  I get to meet even more people every day now.  Besides local Taichung residents that I am meeting, I am also meeting other people who are visiting out of town from other areas of Taiwan as Taichung is a popular city to visit.   I am very proud when I am told that my Mandarin is not bad for having learned 6 months worth.  Being back here 4 months now and being immersed in hearing Chinese 24-7 has really helped.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pizza to Go

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Pizza literally on the go from the side of a busy main street.

Food trucks are sort of a grey area here in Taiwan.  They are illegal but you see food trucks or food carts dotted along some busy street.  We’ve been told the police will ticket them on occasion and fines can range anywhere between $940-1,250 NTD or $30-40 US.  We have seen a couple of pizza food trucks since we have been here.  Pizza in general in Taiwan is very light.  They are a very thin crust crusted almost saltine cracker like.  Almost like eating a diet pizza.  A 10 inch pizza is the largest and they are not sold in slices. There are commercial delivery pizza here like Pizza Hut and Dominos.  And there is also pizza at the dining facility in COSTCO.  Pizza Hut has the same texture as in the U.S. but less salty.

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The pizza ought quality was not bad you can see here how thin the dougg is rolled out. They were using a very heavy thick rolling pin.

The pizza food trucks here are small flatbed trucks with a custom brick wood oven mounted on a metal platform on the back of a small flatbed truck.  It will take up half the space and the other half is the prep area.  A 10 inch pizza will average between $220-320 NTD or $7-10 US depending on the topping.  This truck had a 3 people.  One taking orders, one prepping the pizza and one managing the oven.

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The guy manning the oven was using a peeler at first then the longest tongs I’ve seen to help rotate the pizza.

On our ride home from the park we decided to try this particular pizza truck.  We ordered just a cheese pie and waited about 20 minutes as their were 5 people ahead of us.  Pies were being made one at a time.  By the time our pizza was done it was already dark out as we ate the pie from the side of the street.   It didn’t have the saltine cracker texture we have had at sit down restaurants here but more of a very, very lighter version of the brick oven pizza found in the U.S.  This pizza was probably the best one I’ve had to date here.

The mindset in making any type of western food here in Taiwan is it has to be altered to custom to local Taiwanese taste here.  Which is less salt, less sweet and very light on the thickness of dough with breads and cakes.  I will stick to making my own pizza at home for now.

 

 

Taichung Tzu Chi Indoctrination

Today Sintty was officially indoctrinated as a full fledged member of the Tzu Chi Foundation, a Taiwan based international humanitarian relief
IMG_8455organization based on Buddhist principles with international branches in over 47 countries around the world.  We both have volunteered our time with the NYC Tzu Chi branch the last 2 years.  I am very proud of Sintty’s IMG_8490.JPGefforts and commitment to a life of care and compassion to those in need.

 

Fall in Taichung

We just passed our 1st year anniversary here in Taiwan.  No regrets.  My fears were alleviated the minute we stepped foot in Taiwan a year ago.  Its been everything I envisioned and more.  We spent our first August summer in Taiwan and it was humid hot.  Your mind adapts to the weather so the whining about humidity and sweat gets replaced by adjusting your way of life.  I perspire more than the average person.  So I bought over a dozen face towels that I have on hand and I always bring one with me when I go out.

IMG_8570It is Fall here and it is in the high 80’s and the humidity is gone.  The weather now in Taichung is just simply beautiful.  This will continue to the beginning of the year here in Taichung then will gradually get to the mid to high 50’s in the dead of winter months.

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I carry my Taiwan flag with me on bike rides for occasions like this
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Meeting Emma at the GIANT bicycle factory located 42 miles northwest of Taichung
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On our return trip to Taichung we rode part of the way with the Women’s bike tour sponsored by GIANT on there way south

This past Sunday’s bike ride led us on a 85 mile round trip trek to GIANT’s Manufacturing Bicycle factory located in the Dajia District northwest of Taiwan.  This was the second weekend in a row that the ride was more of a sightseeing trek vs our normal

GIANT's followup tour van
GIANT’s followup tour van

mountainous destinations.  But it was also to meet our friend and fellow bike rider, Emma Ho who was participating in GIANT’ S company appreciation sponsored 9 day women’s bike tour for store operators of the entire island of Taiwan.  It began ob Saturday in Taipei and we were to meet her and her fellow riders as the GIANT Manufacturing factory was part of their 2nd say tour stop as they head south the southernmost city of Kaohsiung.

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In the bowels of Taichung’s oldest sugar cane factory

On the way we also stopped and visited IMG_8539Taichung’s oldest sugar cane factory which is now closed but is a popular tourist attraction.  I like these kind of bike rides as it breaks up the routine and it increases my knowledge of the local area.  These bike rides although are not climbing mountains they are long in endurance and its been great on my cardio and my continued strength on building up my legs.  My legs are getting stronger and I can see my thigh muscles are visually increasing.

Pre-Thanksgiving Turkey…

IMG_8257Turkeys are another uncommon meat in Taiwan.  Instead of depending on IMG_8286Costco seasonal turkeys to arrive we
have a friend who has a poultry farm with some IMG_8282turkeys.  Celebrating Thanksgiving here is a novelty so to have a freshly home cooked turkey to share with our friends IMG_8292is really a special occasion.   In anticipation of Thanksgiving we ordered a small 10lb turkey from our friend’s farm for me to test cook it in my convection oven.  I wanted to have a pre turkey in advance to try with a couple friends so that I could correct IMG_8285what needed to be adjusted and do it again for real and celebrate with a party on Thanksgiving.
I made the usual accompianant with the Turkey.  A stuffing from home
made sausage and home made seasoned bread crumbs, mashed potatoes, fresh corn and asparagus,fresh IMG_8253turkey gravy and baked glazed blueberry doughnuts for dessert.

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After the Fire, the Fire Still Burns…

Last night I was contacted by an old classmate, teammate and friend.  I haven’t heard from him in over 33 years.  My best childhood memories were from my hometown friends where I learned laughter, camaraderie and loyalty.

FullSizeRenderToday’s workout included a song heard from Roger Daltrey entitled, “After the Fire”.   When you think of being free, born again, uncaged; this version of Roger Daltrey with The Chieftains from Carnegie Hall is off the chart motivational.  You take the hand that is dealt and you make the best out of the situation.  Excuses are given by the limited, answers are delivered by the inspirational.  This song is for you my old friend Bill Villafranco

After the fire, the fire still burns
The heart grows older but never ever learns
The memories smolder and the soul always yearns
After the fire, the fire still burns

I heard a voice asking what happens after the fire
And then the sound of a breaking window
And the scream of a tire

And then the sound of a distant gun
And the cry of a hungry child
The night is hot but nothing is gonna stop
This gang going wild

After the fire, the fire still burns
The heart grows older but never ever learns
The memories smolder but the soul always yearns
After the fire, the fire still burns

I saw Matt Dillon in black and white
There ain’t no color in memories
He rode his brother’s Harley across the TV
While I was laughing at Dom De Luise

Now I’m cycling all my video tapes
And I’m crying and I’m joking
I’ve gotta stop drinking, I’ve gotta stop thinking
I’ve gotta stop smoking

After the fire, the fire still burns
The heart grows older but never ever learns
The memories smolder and the soul always yearns
After the fire, the fire still burns

Raging through the pain
Blackening the promises the tears and the rain
The fire sill burn till the wind begins to turn
And it all begins again

After the fire, the fire still burns
The heart grows older but never ever learns
The memories smolder and the soul always yearns
After the fire, the fire still burns, the fire still burns

After the fire, the fire still burns
The heart grows older but never ever learns
The memories smolder and the soul always yearns
After the fire, the fire still burns

After the fire, the fire still burns
After the fire, the fire still burns
After the fire, the fire still burns
After the fire

       Roger Daltrey

Read more:  Roger Daltrey – After The Fire Lyrics | MetroLyrics