Ate In Taiwan: My Aunt's Restaurant in Kaohsiung City, Taiwan. Shandong & Taiwanese Cuisine. A Culinary Homecoming.
Say, "chilled pig ears"!!
I left my birth country of Taiwan when I was only 2 1/2 years-old. I hadn't been back for decades. Usually it takes some kind of family emergency to get an expat (I suppose that's what I am) back home to his homeland, especially if it's as far away as Taiwan. My situation was no exception because my grandmother was very sick.
I was informed by both my mother and brother, who live in Shanghai and Kaohsiung City, that my grandmother — we call her Lau Lau — was gravely ill and had been in the hospital for some time in a sort of semi-comatose state. They danced around the issue of her physical condition and basically advised that I go to Taiwan as soon as possible before her health worsened.
I purchased a ticket and I was off to Taiwan within a couple of days. For those excruciating two days as well as the duration of the flight, I was hoping that my trip wouldn't change from a visit to Lau Lau in the hospital to attending her funeral.
I won't burden you with the personal details, but I'll tell you that the first visit to Lau Lau wasn't promising. She looked extremely weak and sick. We, all my brothers, touched her and spoke with her, attempting to make contact in anyway, thinking this may be the last time we would be with her, at least on this plane.
Two days passed and we visited again. Miraculously, she had improved. Her coloring was better. She was more alert. She even laughed and said at least one word. She seemed to recognize my younger brother and youngest brother.
As for me, however, she tried her best but just couldn't recall. She saw me last in the States when I was about 10 years-old. I've changed from a scrawny bean pole of a kid to an overweight 6 foot 3 inch food writer. I'm not easy to recognize after all these years. I don't think most of my friends from grade school would be able to.
With our spirits lifted, we said our "until we meet agains" and left the hospital. Next, we did the only sensible thing that's left to do when in Taiwan. And that's eat. A lot.
Below is the first video in a series from my first trip back to Taiwan in decades. It was a homecoming in many ways. Since I had ceaseless questions about the food in Taiwan for my mom to answer (I felt like I was 5 again asking my mom why the sky was blue and why my other friends didn't eat pig brains), I absolutely consider this a culinary homecoming as well.
Hope you enjoy the video.
Ate In Taiwan: My 2 Aunties Restaurant
Ate In Taiwan: My Aunt's Restaurant in Kaohsiung City, Taiwan. from Ed Lin on Vimeo.
You are a wise woman and a buddha.
I've been reading this blog a while; somehow I'm surprised that you hadn't been back to Taiwan in such a long time! It is the homeland of so many strange foods, after all, and the best place to get them--the night markets. Though it took a rather serious thing to get you to go back, aren't you glad you did, and was able to partake in such fabulous culinary delights?
(Also very glad to hear that your grandmother is better; the last time I went back to Taiwan was for similar reasons, and...without a happy ending.)
Despite myself being born in the US and similarly not having gone back to Taiwan for many years (a gap from the age of 3 to 21, then more frequently in recent years), I love the old home island and all it has to offer.
Love your work, and hopefully I'll actually get to meet you someday, perhaps at a book signing! Or come on down to south OC, I know a couple of places in Irvine that serves stinky tofu.
thank you, thank you, thank you for your thoughtful comment! i really appreciate it. it's nice to hear from someone who has had a similar experience that i recently had, although i'm saddened that your situation had a different ending.
hope to meet you one day as well. i'm very flattered that i have readers like you. thanks.