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Wednesday, April 29, 2009


In Huan Hsu tries to find out why Chinese people have English names. The article is pretty fun and insightful. I agree with Hsu that having an English name fits with traditional Chinese naming practices.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

255,0,0 or 0, 255, 0

Red is an auspicious color in Chinese culture. Therefore, when the stock market goes up, the numbers are displayed in red. When the market goes down, red's complementary color green is used. This seems logical except the western world operates in the exact opposite manner - green is used when the market goes up and red is used when the market goes down.

When I do a quick check of stock prices on the computer I often have to keep track of what language I am using or which site I am searching. This is because the same information is presented differently.

While I wish the world can agree on the use of colors, such as the ones for the traffic lights, it is unlikely colors can ever be disassociated from cultures. I just have to learn to be careful in discerning information with colors and be happy when I see red or green in the right context.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


The Kansai Airport designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop and Arup opened in 1994. Since then I have seen many photographs and drawings of the project but never had the chance to visit in person. I have been fascinated by the airport, not just the design of the building, but the idea of constructing an island to build the airport.

Whenever someone mentions Kansai Airport, I am always reminded of Piano's story about his visit to the site. Before entering the design competition for the airport, Piano had asked to visit the site. The Japanese client was too polite to refuse and took Piano and his associates on a boat trip. After spending some time sailing in the ocean Piano asked "Where is the site?" The client said "Here". They were in the open sea as the island had not been constructed yet.

Recently I took a trip to Osaka and finally fulfilled the wish to see the airport in person. In short, the airport is very beautiful, just like the photographs. After about 15 years the building and the design still look very fresh.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


I cannot remember exactly the first time I ate a cannelé. I can only guess it was at Gordon Ramsay's restaurant in New York, where cannelé was offered on the bon bon trolley with coffee at the end of the meal. It was love at first bite and ever since then I want to make this little cake from the Bordeaux area of France. Cannelé is typically made with a tin lined copper mold and requires the use of beeswax to line the mold to create the glossy dark crust. Since I am not a professional baker, don't have the budget to buy copper molds, and lack the patience to melt beeswax, I need some alternative method.

Luckily Jacques Pepin has a recipe for cannelé in his book Chez Jacques. Pepin's recipe is relatively simple - essentially a crêpe batter with a lot of sugar. The only drawback is the batter requires refrigeration overnight, which means I cannot bake them at the spur of the moment. Pepin suggests using a silicone mold which makes the production much easier. The downside with the silicone mold is it doesn't produce a dark crust on the sides of the cannelé. Nevertheless the result is still quite good. I used to bake cannelés to serve as a petit four for my dinner parties. For some unknown reason cannelés are very addictive. Most of my friends and I can easily eat three or four very quickly.

Recently I walked by Pozzo Bakery at San Want Hotel on Zhong Xiao East Road, and to my surprise found cannelés for sale. I couldn't resist and bought a few; they were not bad. However at the price of NT$45 for one, it was an expensive snack. Therefore, I dug out my cannelé mold and started baking them again.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the re-opening ceremony of Futai Street Mansion (撫臺街洋樓). The two-story building is located at 延平南路26號, near the old North Gate of Taipei.

The building was originally constructed in 1910 as a free-standing store by the Japanese and in 1997 it was designated as a landmark. In 2002 a fire destroyed the building almost completely. While the city of Taipei rebuilt the structure and restored many of the architectural details of the building, the management of the building is done by the private sector, under the direction of 陳國慈. This is the second historic building that is under her care - she is also the director of Taipei Story House (台北故事館).

The building now functions as a mini-museum and currently has a exhibition on the history of the city of Taipei. There is also a little tea house at the ground floor.

I am glad to see that preservation is becoming more prominent in Taipei. While Taipei may not be a city with a relatively long history, there are still plenty of buildings with stories waiting to be rediscovered.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tarte Fine

In New York I used to buy frozen puff pastry made by Dufour at Whole Foods or Gourmet Garage. The all butter puff pastry was so good that Dorie Greenspan wrote in her cookbook that she stopped making her own.

Unfortunately, Dufour is not available in Taipei. Moreover, I couldn't find any puff pastry in any of the western supermarkets around my apartment. I was starting to consider making my own, even though I knew the process would not be easy. It would probably take quite a bit of time and, given the humid conditions in Taipei, several rounds of refrigeration to complete the required six turns.

A few weeks ago, just as I was about to search Youtube for Jacques Pepin's demonstration to make puff pastry and buy a few pounds of butter to try it out myself, by chance I met a French speaking friend and asked her if she knew any places in Taipei to buy puff pastry. After a little research she said the only place she found was Carrefour in Tianmu.

Last weekend I took the 40 minute subway ride to Carrefour and finally found some puff pastry, or pâte feuilletée. Even though this puff pastry is not made with butter, it is good enough for now. In the future I will probably still try to make some puff pastry myself.

With puff pastry in hand it is not too difficult to make some desserts. In this case I made an individual-size tarte fine aux pommes, based mainly on Gordon Ramsay's recipe: cut the puff pastry into 5-inch round, prick the pastry with a fork, top with thin slices of apple, brush with soft butter, sprinkle with sugar, bake in a 400F oven for 15 minutes, dust with confectioners sugar, broil, and serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Pots de Crème

Over the weekend we walked by a Le Creuset shop in the supermarket at Taipei 101 and saw small ramekins with lids were on sale, two for NT$660. They were available in flame, my favorite Le Creuset color. I couldn't resist and bought a few. They are ideal for making pots de crème.

I have always wanted to make pots de crème because they remind me of my meals at Per Se, which serves them near the end of the meal just before chocolates. They are also one of the few things at Per Se that are technically less challenging and easier to replicate at home. With some egg yolks, sugar, vanilla, heavy cream, Thomas Keller's Bouchon cookbook, and some new bakewares, I finally made some.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Breakfast at YES

Because of Chien Ming Wang (王建民), all of the New York Yankees games are televised live in Taiwan, which has essentially adopted the Yankees as its home team. While I am not a Yankees fan - the Mets are my team - it is still nice to watch the broadcast from the "hometown". With the SAP button on the television, we can watch the Yankees with the YES commentators, such as ex-Met David Cone, like we did in New York. The only difference is we have to watch most of the games during breakfast.

Unfortunately Wang's two starts so far in the season lasted not much longer than my breakfast. Before I finished my morning coffee, the relievers were already starting to warm up in the bullpen. Wang now has an ERA of 28.93. I hope he can find his sinker again because the Yankees cannot rely on Nick Swisher to pitch another scoreless inning.

Monday, April 13, 2009


Recently I went to the supermarket in Taipei to buy some eggs and found they come in packages of 10 instead of 12. The built-in egg container in our refrigerator at home is also for 10. As much as I like the metric system, I still prefer to buy eggs in a dozen, as 12 is divisible by 2, 3, 4, and 6. I suppose this is why some countries with the metric system, like England and France, still sell eggs in packages of 6 or 12.

Another interesting thing to note about buying eggs in Taipei is they are not refrigerated in the supermarkets, only air conditioned.

Monday, April 6, 2009


I just learned today that the newspapers in Taiwan call CC Sabathia 沙胖. I am not against assigning nicknames to athletes, they are often very entertaining. Chris Berman's version is C.C. "Split, Splash, I Was Taking" Sabathia. However, calling someone fat seems a bit much.

Friday, April 3, 2009


The apartment in Taipei has a small room, roughly 3.3m x 2.8m, which we use as a study. We have furnished the room very simply with several items from Ikea: Billy bookshelves line the two walls and contain roughly all of my books on architecture; a Jorun area rug, around NT$1695; and a white Kulla ceiling lamp with a 23w warm white (2700k) compact fluorescent bulb. The metal table is from Jean Nouvel's Less collection for Unifor, which we had for several years now. The chair is the Ply-Chair by Jasper Morrison for Vitra. I spend quite a bit of my time in this room, mainly to use the white HP laptop to surf the web, email, blog, and skype.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Eat Dessert First

I finally made something in the kitchen: shortbread raspberry gratin based on Jacques Pepin's recipe. This is a very simple dessert: put some frozen raspberries in a gratin dish, cover them with shortbread cookies that are crumbled and mixed with some sugar, dot with a little butter, and bake in a 375F oven for about 18 minutes.