Except for duck blood soup

In Bryan, Texas, there’s a Chinese/Thai restaurant called Chef Cao’s. I used to order the Mongolian beef and as many fortune cookies as they’d give me. Sometimes I’d try to be worldly and eat with chopsticks, but the ultimate way to shovel food into your mouth is with a fork, so that’s the route I’d usually take.

(I pronounce “Cao” like “cow”. I should ask the chef how he says his name, though, because the word “cow” in Taiwan is a major fire starter. Apparently it’s a very harsh way to tell someone they’re a crybaby. This is why, here, the Old MacDonald song excludes the whole bovine bit; kids think you’re cussing them out.)

Beijing is the closest I’ve ever traveled to Mongolia, and while I was there I found a restaurant serving (authentic?) Mongolian beef, but the food didn’t taste like anything I’d eaten in the States. It was delicious, and I ate every morsel. Comparing Americanized Asian food to what’s served in the Far East is like Pizza Hut versus authentic Italian pizza. Both options make hungry men drool, but they’re made completely differently and thus the dishes are incomparable.

My chopstick skills have improved drastically. I have the dexterity of a heart surgeon and could handle an ice cream cone with one hand tied behind my back. Forks are still awesome for their stabbing capabilities, but I’ve conquered the ‘sticks.

There’s a general consensus among foreigners that if you’re not careful, you’re going to gain a lot of weight living here. Between the heat keeping people indoors, the typhoons drowning the streets, and the extremely cheap alcohol, it’s easy to expand your waistline.

In central Texas, the afternoon temperatures easily hit 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius) in the summer. The temperature and humidity are not unlike Taiwan. Moreover, give me a baseball cap and some old running shoes and I actually enjoy rain runs. And it’s no secret that I’m not a big drinker; in fact, I’m known for going to a bar with a giant bottle of water and only ordering a glass of ice.

No, those aren’t my excuses. My booty booster is thanks to all the delicious food I’m chopsticking into my mouth. I can’t blame my weight gain on temperatures, rain or alcoholism; my problem is food. It tastes good, it’s cheap, and it’s everywhere.

At the restaurant that serves these dumplings, I'm a regular. I think these are filled with pork.

Freshly-pulled noodles, broth-soaked hardboiled eggs, dumplings, miso soup, sushi, caught-today-fresh seafood, beef stir-fry: these are options within walking distance from my apartment.

At the bottom of this bowl is a spicy ground beef concoction. These noodles are almost as delicious as the ones I ate in Beijing.

It’s obviously not all healthy, but Chef Cao’s wasn’t exactly known for its weight-friendly dishes, either.

I do go through phases when I cook a lot, eggs and chicken being my go-to protein options. Sometimes I hit a home run, and I’ve discovered a real love for a full spice rack and cooking to music.

It looks decent, but my pesto chicken was a bit of a failure.

That said, sometimes, no matter how valiant the effort, it just doesn’t work. That’s why we keep cheese in the fridge.

It wasn't the tastiest solution, but it saved dinner. While it doesn't look like it, the plastic wrapper has already been taken off the "cheese", though you can still see the ridges from the seal.

As my friend Mikey once told me, “You could put cheese on a steel bumper and it would be delicious.” My caveat: not so for duck blood soup. Nothing can remedy that. However, I suppose if Americans can deep fry butter, the Taiwanese can base a soup off duck blood.

4 comments

  1. i was under the impression that kao or Cow in Chinese was literally “s—”
    and if my bopomofo is correct, Cao should sound like tsao or sao with kind of a t sound also…

    I know that dumpling shop! One of the best in town-you know that you can also grab a bag of 50 dumplings frozen and boil them yourself??? like 200NT for a solid 5-10 meals. Make sure you take 2 bags of sauce every time you go so you can have some when you boil them at home!!!

    1. I used a McCormick pesto powder, and the flavor just wasn’t that great rubbed directly onto chicken. However, throw a pad of butter into a pan, then coat the chicken with McCormick’s alfredo powder on both sides, and it’s beyond delicious. I made enough for two and a half meals and ended up eating all of the chicken in one sitting.

  2. I’ve heard that, too – every time I say that I want to go to Kaohsiung, I make sure to pronounce the K like a G. But when I Googled it, all the spellings were “kao” and contradicted what I’d heard. This is where I got my info from: http://www.forumosa.com/taiwan/viewtopic.php?t=42824

    I suppose it’s time to bring a Taiwanese friend into the conversation. You know us foreigners: we can never get a story straight.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s