Eating Beef Noodle Soup, After Arriving in Taiwan’s Zhubei County

It’s safe to say that eating beef no longer scares me. When Leah and I began exploring our new neighborhood in Zhubei’s Hsinchu county today, we didn’t expect to get blown away by the deliciousness of a classic Taiwanese dish – beef noodles soaked in hot broth dashed with green herbs.  Leah is the dear friend from New York who will also be teaching in Taiwan with me for the next twelve months. Ironically this isn’t the first time neither of us has used chopsticks or ‘kuai zi‘.

When Leah and I began exploring our new neighborhood in Zhubei’s Hsinchu county today, we didn’t expect to get blown away by the deliciousness of a classic Taiwanese dish – noodles soaked in hot broth dashed with chives, shredded carrot, and tender pieces of reddish-brown beef. Leah is a dear friend from New York who will also be teaching in Taiwan with me for the next twelve months. Ironically this isn’t the first time neither of us has used chopsticks or ‘kuai zi’ the name in Mandarin Chinese for the utensil we have all seen, at one point or another, in Asian restaurants or countries. It felt humbling to eat a meal with a friend rather spontaneously with a friend who, like me, is just as hopeful and grateful to be living in the Far East. Moving to Taiwan happened rather suddenly. I didn’t know I would be leaving China to return to New York City for the better part of the summer and then relocating to Asia again, this time on an island with a population of roughly 23 million people. Eager to have a close friend whilst being away from family, I think I have made the right decision in coming here. The air feels stiff, as expected. The town of Zhubei, an hour drive from Taipei where we landed around 5: 30 a.m. yesterday morning has a lot more eateries and government buildings and institutions than I expected to find.

It felt humbling to eat a meal with a friend rather spontaneously with a friend who, like me, is just as hopeful and grateful to be living in the Far East. Moving to Taiwan happened rather suddenly. I didn’t know I would be leaving China to return to New York City for the better part of the summer and then relocating to Asia again, this time on an island with a population of roughly 23 million people. Eager to have a close friend whilst being away from family, I think I have made the right decision in coming here. The air feels stiff, as expected. The town of Zhubei, an hour drive from Taipei where we landed around 5: 30 a.m. yesterday morning has a lot more eateries and government buildings and institutions than expected.

 

image1 (2)
Leah and I eat the famed beef noodle soup in Zhubei, Hsinchu County, a city of fewer than 200,000 residents on August 18, 2016. Neither of us read Mandarin, and therefore did not note the name of the restaurant we dined in. Photo credit: Ariam Alula 

 

We first began exploring the area desperately trying to remain awake. (Jet lag caught up with me eventually.) Some of the restaurants we spotted include a 711 convenience store, which looks similar to what we have in the States, and a few more places that sell expected foods: dumplings, steamed buns, yogurt of all kinds (they seem to be commonplace in Asian countries) but nothing to our liking. After circulating the area, walking up and down in the thick of the muggy heat, we settled on eating at a shop with a wooden exterior. I asked a lady wearing a blue, cotton dress: “Ni yo jiaozi ma?” meaning “Do you have steamed dumplings?” to which she responded yes in Mandarin.

We never ate those dumplings despite my requests three times. Instead, we were offered to taste a well-known beef stew by the same woman who greeted us when we walked into the empty restaurant.

Food is a means of connection. It compels full attention and if consumed mindfully, food can bridge cultures and connect people who would otherwise have not known one another.

We devoured our meals in shade and peace.

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