Taipei Chronicles Part 3

Sun., Sept. 11: Getting a little lost and HIKING!

Ever since B brought over Cantonese-style congee (soft rice porridge) for breakfast one day, I’ve been kind of obsessed with it. I kind of had my heart set on congee breakfasts in Taipei, but it turns out that congee is not considered breakfast food so much as bar food. Or hangover food. Not many places carry it, the way not many places carry oatmeal in the US. It’s too easy and basic – I mean, really, who goes out for oatmeal?

Nevertheless, B dutifully searched online until he found a supposedly 24-hour congee place, and we set out in search of savory, broth-flavored goodness.

No luck.

Despite the somewhat detailed directions we had printed out from Google, we  ended up wandering for an hour or so down various alleys in the neighborhood where Google insisted there was a congee place.

I was enjoying the mini-adventure of being lost. Previous experiences in Russia had conditioned me to expect that I would get lost more often than I would get to my destination when traveling. I learned to expect these unanticipated explorations to produce interesting adventures. B, on the other hand, was navigating a city he’d been to numerous times, was putting pressure on himself to be a good guide/host, and was getting frustrated that our directions didn’t work. This was the closest we came to discord the whole week. We didn’t fight – instead we stopped in at the place that had all their signs in English to ask if they knew where we could get congee.

The English-advertised restaurant was called Rabbit Rabbit, and despite the English signage, nobody there actually spoke English. Even so, we made ourselves understood, and the spritely host went out of his way to walk us all the way down the street, point down the intersection, and show us the congee place.

Which was closed for the holiday weekend (the Autumn Moon Festival).

So we resigned ourselves to the burgers and brunch menu offered by Rabbit Rabbit.

A note here about eating Western-style food abroad. Again from my previous experiences in Russia, I generally expect very little of Western-style food when traveling outside North America. And why should one eat Western food when traveling anyway? Why fly halfway around the world if you’re going to eat McDonald’s? When I am really jonesing for familiarity, however, I find that I can reliably predict the quality of a Western-style restaurant by the quality of their ketchup. If they have some watery local tomato concoction, move on. Or suffer through cardboard-flavored imitation food and french fries crowned with giant scoops of dill. Or some other exotic interpretation of Western food. A restaurant serious about reproducing Western tastes will get the ketchup right.

Rabbit Rabbit had Heinz. Angus beef and real Heinz ketchup. They had about 4 pages of burger choices listed, some of them very creative (Peanut Butter Burger, anyone?). I had the Mashed Potato Burger, which is exactly as it sounds – a burger with a scoop of mashed potatoes on top. I never would have thought of it myself, but it was delicious, and cooked to a perfect medium-rare.

They had advertised in the menu that there was a rabbit mask in the back which you could request for taking pictures. When have I ever passed up a chance to play dress-up?! Our spritely host gave me a funny look when I requested it, but he brought it dutifully out. It was a full-headed rubber mask. It was a little like wearing a heavy-duty balloon with eye slits. I probably wouldn’t do it again; it was a little musty. But it was totally worth it once. B took my pic wearing the rabbit mask. B still has the picture of me in the rabbit mask, hence it won’t be published here. At least not yet.

– The burgers were extremely filling, but we were glad for the extra calories when we started our next adventure. B had found some hiking trails within walking distance of the subway station. 4+ km round trip, including 1 full km straight up the mountainside. Temples, tombs, giant spiders, and a bridge. Check out the 5-minute video summary below. We earned our dinner!

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