A Reminder What is a Bit Different About Taiwan

I was back in Taiwan for CNY down south in Pingtung. A part of my normal routing is stuffing myself to catch-up on a years worth of lost good eating, (China is better than HKG, but no where near Taiwan). Typically my wife and I will get on my mother-in-law’s old scooter and putter into town to have some tripe soup, (with fresh basil and a hot dipping sauce), after afterwards some shaved ice and sliced, fresh, green tomatoes with a wonderful dipping sauce made from ground new ginger, oyster sauce with powdered confectioners sugar on top that you can mix in to your taste. It’s sweet, savory and has a great crunch, (it’s called ga ma bei or something). These are some of my favorite foods.

Anyway…I’ve been eating at this same ice shop since I was a teenager, some 17+ years or so, same store, same laoban; a tall heavy-set guy a little older than me. I possibly go to the place once or twice a year now that I no longer live in Taiwan, and even when I did… But, I 'm a bit of a creature of habit, so each time I go, I order the same thing - a tomato plate and dao shao bing with passion fruit and crunchy peanuts, (If you haven’t tried that combination, I suggest you do so immediately; it’s the best). Mind you, neither the laoban nor myself have changed, other than we’ve just gotten a bit older. That said, I think if I added up our total conversation in the total of those 17+ years, including order taking and settling the bill, it would barely fill a paragraph.

Well, this time on the way into town, my wife and I were sort of taking stock of what had changed and what hadn’t to the town and the surrounding farms. I remarked to my wife over my shoulder about how after 17+ years, the ice shop laoban should recognize us. I was even a bit indignant. I mean, how could this be? How many foreigners roll up to his place at least a couple times a year for 17+ years, (an mind you who speaks Mandarin fluently! Plus some Taiwanese!), and orders the same thing every time? I even ride the same damn scooter. He certainly should know us by now. You think he’d might have recognized that fact after all this time.

So par usual we drive up, park the bike and walk in – but this time before I’ve even opened my mouth to order, the lao ban turns to me and says, “Eh!, Today we don’t have any crunchy peanuts – do you want ye guo instead?.

Nothing else was said other than the usually ordering and settling the tab. My wife and I sat eating in quietly, as we usually do, watching the news on the TV overhead, with the kids playing the video games bing-bonging in the corner. But, I can’t tell you what a warm feeling that was…

Gave me a smile. Thanks for sharing.

Awesome post.

I think a lot of us can relate to your experience. When I first got here I used to go XimenDing every weekend. I spent many of my weekends watching two or three movies on Saturdays or Sundays and sometimes both days.

Anyway, I would watch one movie and go eat lunch at MeiLeYuan. I always ate the same thing - chicken curry with a large draft beer. The beer was somewhat watered down but came in the huge glasses that take two hands to pick up. The curry was a bland Japanese style. But they had pictures on the wall and some of the staff could speak Japanese so I could actually order something.

The owner was always at the second floor cash register and due to my inability to speak Chinese or his shyness we always just smiled at each other when I paid my bill.

After lunch I would go back to watch another movie.

This went on for about a year before I had made some good friends and I picked up some Chinese. I didn’t go very often after that (probably 1 or two times a year).

Fast forward until last year when I opened a store in XimenDing. One night some friends came to see me and we went to eat dinner. Seeing the MeiLeYuan storefront I suggested we go there. Like a lot of Taipei-ers they hadn’t been there since they were little kids. We walked up to the second floor and lo and behold there is the same owner at the cash register still looking very much the same.

As I got to the top of the stairs he looked up from counting the money and with a smile said “curry and a large beer”? I hadn’t been there for about 10 years.

Thanks for the great stories, Elegua and elektronisk.

That’s a great story. It’s something so simple, mundane yet full of meaning. If anyone said anything more the moment would be destroyed.

What is your store in Ximending? (I’m moving to Wanhua soon and am very interested in learning more about the the area – although I know it pretty well already.)

A clothing store on the first and second floor and a private lounge for private parties in B1.

PM me if you want directions to stop by.

That place is called MeiGuanYuan, which I also frequented during my early years here. Great place to grab a bite before a movie. Loved their cold beer on tap. Haven’t been there in a couple of years now, a very nostalgic place indeed. And one should never confuse it with their fake twin across the street.

Nice stories. I have a similiar one. I had been living in the same area in Tainan east for almost six years when I got married. My wife and I also rented an apartment in the same area. Before I got married I used to buy tea at a little family owned tea shop in an alley near my house. It’s always one of two sisters (both in their late 30s or early 40s) working at the store. At first I used to go there because they seemed to be the only tea shop that could understand my Chinese. The it just became a habit and when I rolled up they’d just ask, “Lucha, ma?”
Then after I got married my schedule changed abit and I went there less often, but one Sunday afternoon I walked past with my wife and we ordered some tea. A few weeks later I went there again to get some tea for my wife and I (alone this time), but couldn’t remember the Chinese for my wife’s tea (the tea with the bubbly balls in the bottom). So I stood there at a loss, and said I’m not sure what my wife drinks. She just said, “Ah, wo zhidao…” She made the tea and when I got home wifey was very impressed that I’d been able to remember what she drank…

We’ve since moved to another area, but I miss the people in the east more than just the place itself. I really felt at home there. Plan on buying a house in that area as soon as I can afford it.

Thats why I like going to the same places because you know what its going to be like and you know what you are going to get !!

Nice stories.
Thanks - you made me smile.

I have a taxi driver who waits for me outside my apartment every night. He’s such a sweet kid. Last time I went on an overseas excursion he presented me with two bottles of freshly squeezed coconut milk as a going-away present. Conviscated by the customs officials. Bastards. :raspberry:

Elegua, Classic Post.
Reminded me of how well-crafted your and 'tron’s posts can be … gems they are.

YES YOU ARE CORRECT!!! I screwed the name. And double on the fake, According to the original owner they bought the name but the quality is not the same. Thank you Incubus. :notworthy:

Look for the date above the door that says 1947/45? or close to it in red letters for the real store. It will be on your right from the MRT or left if you are coming from a movie.

I learned the hard way when I went to the wrong place once and had the runs after I ingested their food. Never went back there again! :raspberry:

[quote=“elektronisk”] It will be on your right from the MRT or left if you are coming from a movie.[/quote]Not if you’re coming from the Majestic (the art house) right outside MRT Exit 6, in which case the real deal will be on your right, or the north side of the street.

Pingtung night market is awesome. That ice place is great, one of my favorites. Must not drool on keyboard.