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[VIDEO] Chop Chop TO profile

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The moment I learned that a Taiwanese mom was involved in running this restaurant, I knew it was more than just about food. Thanks to my parents for forcing me to go to Chinese school every Saturday for 10 years…because I interviewed Mama Tiao in Mandarin, making sure she was comfortable enough to tell her story. There were Toronto publications that posted the menu and some glossy photos, but I wanted to find out much more. I instinctively knew there was much more. And I’m so glad I did because these are the people that build our community and connect us by feeding us!

“Keeping it all in the family is fairly typical of a Chinese business, but this pointed to the universal love language of Asian parents who don’t show physical affection: I love you so I will help you and give you everything I can.”

Asian kids, ya’ll feel me?

Below is the video profile of Chop Chop TO for NextShark’s NomTime:

Producer: Amy Chyan

Videographer: Rosa Park

Editor: Amy Chyan

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5 Things To Do When You’re Jet-lagged in Taipei

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(Photo by: Amy Chyan)

TFW you’re nodding off early in the evening the day you land, go back to your hotel to “nap” and the next moment that your eyes blink open, it’s somehow past midnight. You wake up groggy, confused and very hangry. Although Taipei isn’t a 24-hour partying city, here are 5 things you can do at all odd hours of the day when your body’s internal clock is feeling slightly confused.

1) GO FOR A SWIM
I often find that when I travel, I still like staying active. (Let’s be real, there’s something called 5 meals a day when in a foreign, delicious country.) But asking yourself to get into sets of burpees and squats isn’t the easiest thing to do on vacation. (Sure, you’ve packed your running shoes, but those are to be worn when you’re hiking a mountain for that Instagram picture!)

Swimming pools usually have early hours, whether at your hotel or the local community centre.

It may be intimidating to look up a community centre, but Taipei’s community centres are equipped with pools and even the basic gym. You pay NT$120 for an adult entrance fee and can stay as long as you want.

The pool I hit up this time is the Taipei Zhong-Shan Sports Centre. It’s open all year round except Chinese New Year Even and CNY day.

I enjoy swimming during sunrise when the rays are shimmering through the water, but this pool like most pools at these local sports centres are in B1 the basement. However, the Zhongshan pool is 50m long, which is a nice change from the usual 25m. You’ll just have to be cautious that if you’re trying to go for hard laps, many of the elderly in the morning go at a leisurely pace.

And remember to bring your own towel, shampoo and soap. (Everything is a bare minimum there, unlike the eucalyptus towels and Kiehl’s shower products at Equinox when I had a membership in NYC…)

Oh, one more thing. Swim caps are MANDATORY at all pools in Taiwan and generally men are not allowed to wear baggy swim trunks. Happy swimming!

2) BROWSE A CONVENIENCE STORE
Most convenience stores are 24-hours so don’t worry if you look like a psycho going in there at 3 a.m. Don’t be alarmed if you see someone with bags of personal belongings sleeping at the tables they have set up for patrons to eat food. Often the homeless take shelter there. They’re usually not bothered by the employees since it’s a mutual understanding.

What can I say about convenience stores in Taiwan without going into a post that deserves its own? For starters, erase the image of a gas station convenience store from your head. It’s not like that! Convenience stores in Taiwan are well air conditioned, bright and always stocked to the brim. (And there’s always new products to discover.)

You can find a shelving wall just for one category of beverages, for example an enormous choice for milk teas. You can find ready-made-food for on the go consumption like sandwiches, onigiri (triangular shaped rice wrapped in seaweed) and even hot foods like curry rice, dumplings, noodle soup or pasta.

All the hot foods are microwaved and a great way get to your fix when jet lag has you wide awake in the middle of the night.

I’m really not doing the Taiwanese convenient store justice, but here are some food items they sell that I love:
-mini cream puffs from Family Mart (8 to a package–4 chocolate, 4 vanilla)
-pre-peeled roasted chestnuts from 7-11
-fruit platters of local, in season fruit at either place (guava, apples, papaya, pineapple, dragon fruit, grapes)

3) EXPLORE A WET MARKET
These outdoor markets are open relatively early. Most aunties like to go with an umbrella to shade themselves from the blistering sun! So don’t be freaked out of the edge of their ‘brella is poking you in the side of the head. They mean well for their porcelain skin.

These markets can be loud, intimidating and messy. (A pile of corn husks in front of a vendor ain’t hurting nobody!) As long as you keep a smile on your face and with eyes that look like you’re just exploring, no harm can be done.

What I like about the wet markets is how different they can be. There will be a man trying to sell a bunch of aunties the newest as seen on TV magic mop, but there will also be a vendor selling fresh passion fruit.

The hottest item at the Dongmen Market was surprisingly a line up for an assortment of roasted nuts! (Like a Bulk Barn without labels.)

For those that are squirmy about seeing meat being butchered in the open or fish flailing around on ice, it’s going to be there.

Often these markets sell ingredients, but also have vendors offering ready made items you can take home to add to your meal.

4) 24-hour restaurants 
And it’s NOT a sketchy diner? Welcome to Asia! The newest star in town is of course Ichiran Ramen from Japan.

I will update once I conquer that bowl of slurpy noodle even if it means eating it during sunrise.

5) Let me get my breakfast first! And come back to this.

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MADE IN CANADA: EP.1 Wooffles & Cream

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I’m thrilled to share the series that I pitched, produced and edited for Yahoo Canada. (With a female videographer–hello!)

In the first episode of  Made in Canada , I profile the boss ladies from Wooffles & Cream, who also happen to be my friends from high school.

To know our high school’s ethnic breakdown of 49% Asian, 49% South Asian and 2% other, is to know the pressure for every immigrant child to either be in finance or medicine. We didn’t celebrate the arts, creativity or anything other than high academic achievement on tests. To do what you love while having parents that tell you their friend’s kid who graduated from (insert all ivy leagues) makes (a lot of money), has a bunch of (insert material things) and is the same age as you….is not easy. Putting in work and paying your dues in any industry is not glam and the grind won’t look good on Instagram. And no one will tell you this because all that’s acknowledged is the perceived success on social media.

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[READ] How the ‘Mulan’ Reboot Has Some Asian Actors Hopeful for the End of Hollywood Whitewashing

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New article for VICE.

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[READ] Harvard Grad Cheng Ho Wants to Fix Taiwan’s High School Sports

You can read my new article for NBC News here.

* * *

I grew up in Markham, one of Toronto’s most ethnic suburban sprawls, where I felt I could be anything I wanted, even as a woman of colour and first generation immigrant to Canada. (As a kid, I wanted to be a Baby-Sitters Club novelist and an Olympic swimmer.)

At my first competitive swim meet in 4th grade, I lapped everyone in my freestyle heat and climbed out of the pool with wobbly legs looking for my mom. She wasn’t in the crowd, but she was prompt at dropping us off and picking us up. (There was 4 of us doing extracurriculars, so my mom was the OG Uber driver.) Don’t worry, she showed up for all of my lifeguard and swim instructor exams.

In the Winter, my cousins and I took skating lessons. In our first lesson, we learned how to glide and eventually learned how to skate backwards. We bought helmets and skates from Canadian Tire. In 5th grade, I learned how to ski and snowboard – and fractured my wrist on a boarding trip.

After homework and dinner, we played basketball on our driveway – coming up with silly words to replace H-O-R-S-E. We moved hockey nets onto the street to play street hockey. We threw baseballs against our garage door and even tried to throw them onto the roof on purpose. We kicked around soccer balls, as high and far as we could – so much so our next door neighbour put up a fence to protect her grass. (The fence is still up after 25 years!) We biked down steep hills and skateboarded on bumpy pavement, pretending like it was the X Games.

In high school, I played basketball – learning about camaraderie and experiencing direct racism. For a team that only had one “white” person, we got heckled a lot. We were the underdogs, losing most of our games, until we kicked ass and won the championship game.

In grade 11, I chose PE as an elective. Our teacher, Ms. Williams, the track coach for Canadian Olympian Andre Degrasse, took us canoeing and was the best example of a female athlete. (You can partially thank her for those Usain Bolt/Degrasse memes.)

So what is the point of this listicle of my childhood sports experiences? I’m excited to be working on an article about Choxue, a Taiwanese startup trying to integrate sports with education here. Asians get good grades, but we can be excellent athletes too.

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(Photo by: Amy Chyan)

And if you’re wondering, this panel of investors has the biggest heart for Taiwan – all former athletes, from Berkeley, Yale and Harvard. L-R: Richard Chang SVP Costco Asia, Joe Tsai VP Alibaba, Cheng Ho Choxue CEO, Blackie Chen former national player and now celebrity who has 20 million followers on Weibo and Jimmy Chang, who brings all the NBA players to Asia in the Summer.

There’s something endearing about Taiwan. We are always the underdog, the most “started from the bottom” and this time it’s no different.

Meet you at the top. 👑

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I had the best tasting beef (of life) in Toba, Japan

Living in Taipei, I have a lot of friends and co-workers who always rave about Japan. For myself, I never made Japan a goal destination. However, I recently had the chance to visit Toba in Japan – and a surrounding island called Toshijima. (Toba is approximately 3 hours away from Osaka’s Kansai International Airport and Toshijima is a 20 minute medium sized ferry ride away from Toba.) As a first time visitor to the country, I was blown away by the degree of hospitality – though it shouldn’t be a lightbulb moment.

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What did surprise me though, when I chose to explore, was the number of vending machines. Regardless of city or rural, there were vending machines everywhere. As a Taipeier, that rings true for convenience stores.

My question was “Who refills these machines and do they have a computer system that indicates when the supplies are low?” 

Other than generous hospitality – the constant smiling and bowing, the food was also a great foray into the geography of Toba. 

Toba faces Ise Bay, flowing into the Pacific Ocean. As we were looking at the sunset one day, one of our translators said “If you look far enough, you can see Hawaii!”

Let’s talk food. On my first night, I attended a welcome dinner party where the menu featured local ingredients.

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Drinks were the first call of order. For the indecisive, there was a glass of everything and anything. Red wine, white wine, sparkling wine, a beautiful cocktail with gold specks and a pearl nestled inside the portion of cotton candy made to melt into the beverage and even sake “Mokkiri” style.

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Sake “Mokkiri” style is when the sake glass is placed into a square wooden container, pouring to overflow the glass on purpose. One can choose to drink from the glass or directly from the aromatic wood box. I tried it both ways and preferred drinking my sake from the box – it added another level of flavour.

The assorted sashimi dish highlighted the fresh seafood ingredients Toba’s natural environment abundantly provides. (Kudos on the region’s efforts in sustainable catching.) In the dish, there was Japanese spiny lobster, abalone, Ise tuna, sea bream and Spanish mackerel. With this course, we also had fresh wasabi. The active eating aspect, where we had to grate our own wasabi from the root, was thrilling. It was an accomplishment. We were given a small rigged mortar that would grate the root into paste as you vigorously swirled the root in a circular motion. The taste was mild and light, unlike the radioactive green pungent paste I’ve often seen at North American sushi joints. (The better places I’ve been to offer a pistachio shade of spicy wasabi paste.)

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The most memorable dish for me was the Japanese beef teppanyaki. I will boldly proclaim that it was the best beef I’ve had in my life. The beef is highly marbled so it’s a very rich bite of protein. According to our translator, the Matsusaka beef, named after the city that farms the cattle, is raised where each cow is given a name. (Our cow was named Neneko…sorry, buddy, you were delicious.) The cows are given beer to drink and pampered with shochu sake massages. At around $50 USD for 100 grams of beef, even people who live in the area can’t afford it – and can only splurge during special occasions.

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Taitung, Taiwan (land & sea)

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Photographs by: Amy Chyan

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[LINK] Hello Kitty Shabu Shabu in Taipei

Hi Googlers,

Sorry I’ve been a bad website updater. I’ve been writing, have you been reading?

Here’s something fun I wrote:

Hello Kitty Hot Pot Restaurant Gives Visitors Warm Welcome in Taiwan

I will try updating more frequently.

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The American Dream…in Taipei?

Hi Internet friends,

My latest for NBC – on the American Dream in Taipei.

I realize the irony is that I’m a Canadian – a proud one that pledges allegiance to my girl Queen Lizzie through and through.

Please enjoy!

The American Dream Is Alive and Well in Taipei

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Samchong-Dong, Seoul

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愛過了, 就是一生一世

Samchong-Dong, Seoul
March 2015