Sunday, April 18, 2010

What a wonderful weekend.

Dr. Pepper's BACK!
Months ago we found Squares, an American style diner that has the most delicious burgers and DR. PEPPER - our all-time-favorite soda!! Our first visit, though wonderful, was shadowed by the fact that when we tried to order Dr. Pepper, we were informed that they did not have it because Dr. Pepper had stopped importing to Taiwan. Disappointed and "outraged" Dan wrote an e-mail to Dr. Pepper later that evening. Hoping at least to get some free Dr. Pepper out of it, we soon forgot about the e-mail and moved on. A few weeks ago, while a friend was visiting, I thought it'd be a nice place to stop for lunch. As we approached the restaurant, I saw a sign out front advertising "Dr.Pepper is back!!" I was ecstatic...while I have no idea as to how instrumental Dan's email was in reinstating said soda, I'm glad it's back! Having learned this, we passed on the message to some other American's who also have been disappointed in the lack of Dr. Pepper at Squares and made plans for a Saturday lunch date.

We also invited our friend Sherry - a former student of both Dan and I. Sherry is a sophomore in high school - but by looking at her and talking to her, you'd never know! She brought her father to lunch because he wanted to meet us - though he couldn't speak much English, it was a great time chatting with Sherry (then listening to her translate to her father!). During the meal he listed off a number of local attractions - many of which we have seen - but then offered to take us to the ones we have not been to. We accepted this offer, thinking maybe next weekend. He and Sherry discussed something in Chinese for a few minutes, then Sherry said "How about 5:00?" "Oh, tonight!?" It wasn't at all what we had planned for the day, but we were not about to turn down his generous hospitality. We parted ways for the afternoon and planned to meet at their home - which is near our apartment - later that evening.

Our next stop was to feed the fish! Dan just loves the fish in the canal that runs through downtown Hsinchu. We bought some fish food from a local vendor and sat by the canal feeding the fish...

Once we had exhausted our food sources, we headed home to meet up with Sherry and her family. Her father was taking us to Baoshan Reservoir - many people frequent this place to ride bicycles or just walk around. When we arrived, we walked across the dam to a seating area where Sherry's mother displayed the dumplings she had brought along as a snack. They were dumplings made by a former chef of Din Tai Fung - some of the most amazing soup dumplings we've ever eaten.

(Enjoying dumplings, while a stray dog - though very well behaved - begs for food!)

We enjoyed dumplings and chatting - learning a little Chinese along the way - as the sun set and the dark began to surround us. As we were cleaning up to go Sherry's father said "On to Beipu."

Oh, there's more!?! =)

We arrived 10 minutes later in the small town of Beipu, known for it's cold springs and traditional tea. Sherry and her family led us into a traditional Hakka restaurant where we were going to have some 擂茶 (lei cha) , or pounded tea. Because you shouldn't drink tea on an empty stomach, we ordered some noodles to eat first. Then they brought out the tea for us to pound.

First you start with a bowl of green tea leaves, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds. Then you begin to pound them in a large wooden mortar and pestle.

After a few minutes it starts to mix in a wonderful rainbow of colors.

We each took a turn at was quite tiring!

Until finally we had a green paste.

Last, you add hot water and make your tea!

We drank the tea out of small rice bowls - unfortunately I didn't get an photos!

The tea was wonderful with my new favorite dessert...Mochi!! It's a sticky glob of steamed gelatinous rice that you roll in ground peanut sugar. Yummy!!

Sunday, though rainy, was a great day to take in a nearby pottery town. Yingge is known to produce 70% of the tile in Taiwan and continues to be a potters paradise. We visited the Ceramics Musuem and enjoyed some famous 包子 (baozi), or meat filled steamed buns. Our day ended with a stop at our favorite Indian restaurant before heading home.

What a wonderful, unexpected weekend!