Finding Taiwanese mandarins in Hong Kong

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Taiwanese mandarin orange

When I was living in Canada, I used to consume citrus fruits purchased in bulk with my family — a whole box of 30+ orange from Costco or crates of clementines from the supermarket. They make for a great quick snack, especially clementines, that are seedless and very easy to peel.

In Hong Kong, oranges are easy to find, but not so much for clementines. Since moving to Hong Kong, mandarin oranges (or 柑/kam in Cantonese) are the alternative. They are bigger, but usually have the trade-off of not coming in a seedless variety and are still somewhat harder to peel.

Mandarin oranges sold in Hong Kong usually overwhelmingly come from mainland China. Despite knowing about the Taiwanese ones, it wasn’t until recently, after consuming a lot of them as I was trying to shake off a seasonal cold back in March, that I paid attention to them. I even bought some a few years ago in my neighbourhood, but never realized how different they could be.

The mainland variety peels a lot easier, but the ones that I bought have always been drier and of varying quality (they taste fermented). Taiwanese mandarins are a lot sweeter and considerably juicier.

Taiwanese mandarin orange

Taiwanese mandarin orange

The Taiwanese ones are harder to find and you have to look to find them. According to a FAO estimate, 15.2 million tonnes of tangerines, mandarins, clementines, satsumas were produced in mainland China in 2013, compared with only 185,000 tonnes in Taiwan (around 80 times less).

In Taipei, I bought 8 for 100 TWD (~3 USD, so one is close to 40 cents) at a fruit shop outside Songjiang Market. The ones I bought on Friday were 6 HKD each, which is 77 cents, so roughly double the price. But if they’re specifically selling the fruits as coming from Taiwan and that the difference in taste and texture are so noticeable, it’s not surprising that there would be a market for them.

Sheung Wan fruit stall - Taiwanese mandarin orange

La télé bouddhiste 24/7 à Taïwan : vous aussi vous seriez tannés des moines en tunique orange

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La trash-télé, c’est pas une exclusivité de l’Amérique du Nord! Sur les 110 chaînes de télé câblée à Taiwan, on en trouve pas mal, de la marde. Chaînes continues de débats, de filles en bikini qui jouent à des jeux, de conseils économiques à l’aide de graphiques sur des planches en carton, en veux-tu, en v’là. Mais une catégorie se démarque particulièrement, et j’ai nommé, la télévision religieuse.

Après une soirée à zapper à Taiwan, finie l’image du moine sympathique à la Dalaï-Lama. Les moines accoutrés de leur tunique couleur orangée sont des têtes parlantes qui déblatèrent 24 heures sur 24, sept jours sur sept. La plus « connue », ou bien celle que je reconnais, c’est la première ci-dessus. Le type diffuse également à Hong Kong, alors que j’ai aperçu ses posters affichées près du quai à Lamma.

Puis pour votre info, il s’agit de Life TV. Le nom du maître m’échappe.

(Étrangement, je n’ai pas vu de chaînes chrétiennes, même si Taiwan a une minorité d’environ 5% de toutes sortes de religions judéo-chrétiennes. Faut dire que les bouddhistes constituent 35% de la population taiwanaise.)

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Ensuite, vous avez BLTV, ou Beautiful Life Television, ni plus ni moins. Le maître parlait super lentement, et avait la face en grimace pendant tout le long.

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Un autre, dont je ne peux lire les caractères en haut à droite de l’écran.

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Non satisfaits de parler toute la journée à la télé, le reste du temps, leurs chaînes jouent ces animations qui donnent de la crédibilité à leur personnage.

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Finalement, c’est pas juste les hommes qui font de la télé bouddhistes. Y’avait cette bonne femme avec une grosse monture, qui était entourée de statuettes de Bouddha…

My 2010 Spring Scream in Kenting: Two festivals, ninety kms in bike, one beach rave party

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kenting beach on sunday morning, after two music festivals, 45km of  bike and a monster beach rave party
Two festival bracelets


Spring Scream festival on Saturday

I’m now sitting at Eluanbi, at the original Spring Scream, writing an entry on my phone that I’ll be posting later when I get wifi.

It’s already Sunday. I arrived here in Taiwan on Wednesday afternoon in Kaohsiung, and got to Kenting before sunset. On Thursday, I spent my day visiting the town of Hengchun, the populated area next to the Kenting National Park. It’s an old town with city walls as tourist attraction.

Hengchun 恆春, Taiwan 台湾
Hengchun 恆春

viet in hengchun
Vietnamese food in Hengchun, Taiwan

When Kenting changes into a party town, Hengchun remains a good alternative for affordable lodging and local/cheap eating. South 300m from the old city wall’s west gate, you can find a delicious viet place opened by a local man and his Vietnamese wife. The noodles broth is bone broth and absolutely without MSG. The spring rolls were very fresh, with minced taro in them.

On Friday, my friend Doug joined me and we went on the first bike trip to the Eluanbi lighthouse. Instead of a music festival, we found an empty field where the main stage of Spring Scream 春呐 used to be, and groups of tourists (including from the Mainland) who were obviously not there to listen to rock music.

After visiting the Eluanbi (goose neck) park, something else I did not do two years back, we discovered that the festival had been downsized. Already it did not provide printed fliers, and posters in Kenting proper were rare, but the Main stage for big-name acts like Faith Yang 楊乃文 in 2008 is no longer there. Instead, only the back of the Eluanbi park is used for Spring Scream, still with the six small stages and one DJ table.

And plus, even if advertised as a four-day event, there was reportedly (from people we met randomly yesterday) only performances on Friday evening. According to the schedule, Monday is just one stage.

7-eleven in hengchun, halfway to maobitou
7-Eleven on our way to Maobitou for Spring Wave

On Saturday, because of an all-fest pass, we came to Eluanbi, but only for less than two short hours. The adventure yesterday was to be Spring Wave 春浪, a commercial, big-name festival at the Maobitou (cat head). There is no comparison with Spring Scream. While SS is a fringe event, that returns this year to its roots of promoting small bands, Spring Wave is made and conceived by the people who brought you Mandopop. One is youth-oriented, attracts expats, and the other is family-oriented, is almost exclusively Chinese (from HK and Mainland too).

Even the sort of food stalls is telling: SS has hamburger, pulled pork stands manned by non-Taiwanese, along local ones, while SV offers a complement of typical Taiwan street food like fried okonomiyaki-style pancakes, five-spice fried chicken and sugar cane juice.

cheer chen at maobitou spring wave


Cheer Chen at Spring Wave in Maobitou

Instead of smaller bands and crowds not often more than 50 per stage, SV is one single stage with audience of well over 1000. While I spent the evening making snarky comments on Mandopop until getting tired of myself, I also enjoyed firsthand the personalities of pop stars we usually only hear in songs. JJ Lin is a womanizing crooner, Cheer Chen is Cheer Chen, Tanya Chua is kinda Singaporean, and the dude from Sodagreen is quirky and kind of gay, really. (full disclosure: i’m a big fan of Cheer, so I came for her, and to take a video of Sodagreen b/c my friend Mary is a big fan.)


Sodagreen covers Eason Chan at Spring Wave

The bike ride itself is an adventure of 14 km up and down hill from Kenting (and the same distance back), through the sleepy village of Daguang, unlit roads near the seaside, and behind the Hengchun nuclear power plant.


Beach party in Kenting, with fireworks

Saturday night, upon our return in Kenting town at 2:30am, we headed to the Caesar’s Hotel beach party. Maybe 500-1000 people crowding a beach, under techno music, probably drugs, raging fireworks exploding like next to you, a 3/4 moon illuminating the crowd and lots of sand in your shoes.

I didn’t participate, but walked across, enjoying the walk and my carton of good Taiwan milk, drunk from the bike ride.

Slept about 3 hours in a tent on the beach and back up for more adventures, which today take me back (thank God) to the Eluanbi Spring Scream.

spring scream's central seafront stage, featuring taiwan's band  "braces"


Orange Doll 橘娃娃, a small Kaohsiung band that I saw in 2008, performing at this year’s Spring Scream

Bands seen include:
– JOKER
– Mary Bites Kerry
– City Cat 城市猫
– won won 旺旺
– anniedora 安妮朵拉
– EFTC
– Caramel 焦糖
– Orange Doll 橘娃娃
– BRACES 牙套
– new hong kong hair city 新香港髮都
– OliBand
– Vialka
– Little Fat Pig 小肥猪
– 88 Guavas

明天去墾丁!Tomorrow I’m going to Kenting! Je vais à Kenting demain !

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Kenting during Spring Scream

I’m flying to Kaohsiung, Taiwan, and heading to Kenting tomorrow, ahead of Spring Scream and other activities in this national park and resort town at the southernmost tip. This will be the second time there and I already feel very anxious at the prospect of adventure!

Every year, thousands of mostly young Taiwanese descend on the provincial town to party. But this is a special year as the Chinese holiday of Ching Ming (public holiday in HK, Taiwan) coincides with Easter, resulting in a 5-day long weekend instead of the usual 3-day one.

Spring Scream is my main attraction to Kenting, but other festivals have taken greater space in the festivals/parties landscape in recent years. Spring Wave is perhaps the most serious “competitor” despite the fact that they are very different events. Spring Wave is a single big main stage populated with very big names of Mandarin music, of all-Chinese (including the Mainland) household names like Sodagreen, Mayday, Tanya Chua and Cheer Chen. Spring Scream usually has well-known names on the front stage, like Deserts Chang and Faith Yang in 2008, but they are mostly a chance for smaller amateur acts to get stage experience in SS’ other 7-8 stages.

On another note, I won’t be doing any live coverage like I did for Bande a part in 2008, but will be blogging like I can… on my cellphone this time (like now).

Please take the chance to subscribe to my twitter at commeleschinois.

Cheers!

Taiwanese-style popcorn chicken

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Taiwanese-style popcorn chicken

In the world of Taiwanese street food, not all are made equal. In fact, one of my favourite kinds remains popcorn chicken, a variety of deep fried chicken with the subtle addition of Chinese five spices. I had it in Montreal (in Jason Lu‘s restaurant, Lu Mama), and had it too when I was in the town of Kenting and Taipei).

Like anything, it’s more rewarding when you do it yourself. Making popcorn was surprisingly simple. You cut up some chicken (four thighs) and mix an egg, dark soy sauce, honey and cooking wine. Mix into another bowl of mostly flour and five spices. Add salt for taste. Then go ahead and deep-fry in a wok or whatever. It’s best at low heat, so not to roast the coating. In fact, my recipe is vastly inspired by this one that I found on the Internet.

Taiwanese-style popcorn chicken

Fryin' big-time - Taiwanese-style popcorn chicken

Some quick veggies - Taiwanese-style popcorn chicken

Grabuge à Taiwan

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La visite de l’envoyé spécial de la Chine continentale Chen Yulin en a fait sué beaucoup – et pas juste au sens figuré. Sang et larmes ont été versées; je trouve juste dommage qu’on en ait pas mentionné un fichtre mot sur Radio-Canada.ca, et pas tellement plus sur les autres médias en ligne d’ici. Bien sûr, c’est la Chine et Taiwan, alors c’est très très loin d’ici…

Un chance que l’Internet est grand et qu’on peut se fier à des blogues comme celui de Roland Soong (EastSouthWestNorth blog).

Dans tout ça, vous avez des journalistes de la Chine continentale qui se font harceler physiquement par des manifestants, et des gens brûlent des drapeaux rouge et jaune. Ah oui, et on se bat aussi. De chaque bord, on s’accuse l’autre d’avoir incité à la violence : le président bleu Ma Ying-jeou pour avoir initialement invité Chen et « forcé la population à aller dans les rues » – la secrétaire du parti indépendentiste (donc vert) DPP Tsai pour n’avoir pu retenir leurs partisans. Puis Chen Yulin lui, assiégé par une foule en colère dans son hôtel.

Franchement, quand on voit ce qui se passe là-bas, on prend vraiment tout ce qui se passe ici comme “grabuge” avec un super gros grain de sel. C’est pour ça aussi que je déteste entendre le stéréotype en Occident comme quoi les Asiatiques n’aiment pas contester l’ordre des choses!

Ci-bas, c’est une photo du boulevard ci-haut (crédit: Apple Daily) lors d’une journée plus calme. La photo a été prise de la fenêtre de mon “auberge” de jeunesse, le 14e-quelquechose étage de l’immeuble à gauche de la photo précédente.

Taipei Railway Station

Malaise dans le Chinatown : une enquête de Radio-Canada sur le Falun Gong

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Director - Laogai Research Foundation
Harry Wu, Director of the Laogai Research Foundation

Update (2009-03-11): Due to the controversial nature of this report, as well as a complaint filed by the Falun Dafa Association of Canada, the Radio-Canada ombudsman released a review saying that while she “expressed reservations about the selection of two interview clips”, she considered that the “report is otherwise based upon serious research” and that “the complaints were unfounded”. See the full report (PDF).

Mise à jour (2009-03-11) : Étant donné la nature controversée du reportage, l’ombudsman de Radio-Canada a décidé de répondre à une plainte déposée par l’Association Falun Dafa du Canada. Elle a émis des réserves sur le choix de deux extraits d’entrevue, mais considère que « le reportage s’est basé sur une recherche sérieuse » et que « les plaintes ne sont pas fondées ». Voir le rapport complet (PDF).

Canada’s French-language state television Radio-Canada presents an investigative report critical of religious organization Falun Gong (Falun Dafa).

A pro-Falun Gong blog reacts for the English-language web too. The French-speaking web doesn’t seem to realize.

Update (2008-11-06): It’s not like Xinhua doesn’t have anything about things happening here in Canada… A search on Google on the official Chinese news agency for “Montreal” (蒙特利尔) and “Falun Gong” (法轮功) yields a mass of articles that you can pass into Google Translate. It includes a 2002 article written when the story with editor Mr. Chau and the former FG practionner broke out.

It’s also ridiculous as to how the pro-Falun Gong media are pwning the English-language web in terms of search engine hits… If you look for something contained in this article, for instance “crescent chau falun gong“, 7 out of the 10 top hits belong to pro-Falun Gong individuals and nothing from mainstream media. They are also pwning in the free newspaper coverage (all languages confounded) category.

Update (2008-11-08): At the center of this controversy are articles published in 華僑時報 (Montreal’s Presse Chinoise / Chinese Press). You can access them through this Google search – Google Translate (“Translate this page”) does wonders, again.

La journaliste Solveig Miller et le réalisateur Léon Laflamme signent un reportage d’une trentaine de minutes sur le mouvement religieux Falun Dafa (Falun Dafa), diffusé jeudi dernier à l’émission Enquête à la télévision de Radio-Canada.

On y voit des entrevues avec la travailleuse communautaire May Chiu, l’éditeur de La Presse Chinoise (華僑時報) Crescent Chau, le dissident chinois Harry Wu et l’ancien secrétaire d’état fédéral David Kilgour (signataire du rapport éponyme), et les sinologues David Ownby et Loïc Tassé de l’Université de Montréal.

Il s’agit d’un portrait peu flatteur fait des activités du Falun Dafa au Québec et au Canada. Le reportage dresse un historique des démêlés entre les Falungongistes et Crescent Chau (poursuivi en 2001 pour avoir publié un article d’une ex-Falungongiste dans son journal en langue chinoise de la rue Clark), puis parle des très grands moyens que posséderait l’organisation du Falun Gong.

Spécialiste questions chinoise Université de Montréal
Loïc Tassé de l’Université de Montréal.

L’intégrale vidéo : Partie 1 | Partie 2 | Partie 3

Créé en 1992, Falun Gong est un mouvement politique et religieux qui combine foi bouddhique, exercices physiques et méditation. Interdit en Chine depuis 1999, Falun Gong a essaimé dans le reste du monde et ses adeptes sont de plus en plus visibles dans les communautés chinoises expatriées.

Doté d’importants moyens financiers, Falun Gong suscite parfois de la méfiance et créé même un certain malaise dans les villes où le mouvement est implanté. C’est notamment le cas dans le Chinatown de Montréal.

(Voir la page web de Enquête)

Grande parade à Flushing, NY

Au début de l’année, ce blogue avait rapporté qu’un article de la Presse Canadienne sur le « Chinese New Year Spectacular », passé dans les principaux médias web au pays parlait de ce spectacle sans en mentionner ses commanditaires. Je n’ai pas eu le temps de descendre au Quartier Chinois avec ma caméra, mais cette année, les organisateurs de l’événement ont inscrit visiblement au bas de leurs posters qu’ils étaient liés au Falun Gong.

Falun Gong à Montréal

Continue readingMalaise dans le Chinatown : une enquête de Radio-Canada sur le Falun Gong”

Natural Q (自然捲) – C’est La Vie / 魚罐頭 / 30 years old hereafter

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自然捲 - C'est La Vie

Semaine du 26 août 2008 / Week of August 26th, 2008

Cette chronique hebdomadaire sur la musique indépendante chinoise est diffusée à Radio Centre-Ville (102.3FM), les mardis entre 22h30 et 23h30. L’émission complète est disponible sur ce fichier MP3, à partir du lendemain de l’émission.

This weekly segment on independent Chinese music is broadcasted every Tuesday between 10:30PM and 11:30PM on Radio Centre-Ville (102.3FM). The full-length show is available at this MP3 file, starting from the day following the show.

***

1. C’est La Vie
2. 魚罐頭 (canned fish)
3. 30 years old hereafter (live_acoustic)

My friend Jen recently left Montreal and gave me her copy of Natural Q‘s first album “C’est La Vie” that she used to own. It was a big indie hit in Taiwan and Chinese-speaking territories, and is, as it should, out of print. It was the first release by A Good Day Records, now a prominent independent label in Taiwan.

I failed to mention it when I recorded the segment last week, but Natural Q actually released a new album last month.

Natural Q as it was known in 2004 (or 2003, when it started) no longer existed after 2006, when female vocalist Waa and Chico split, with Chico keeping custody of the band’s name, and periodically releasing stuff afterwards. The third song (optional, depending on whether Goo Por Yvonne can fit it all) comes from such album, just called “Recycles”, and from Natural Q’s “solo” period.

I don’t know why they split, anyhow. So enlighten me, if you do know all the gossip.

(Song 魚罐頭, or “canned fish”, is the first song in Natural Q’s still-together second album, C’est La Vie 2.)

J’adore le vombrissement d’un scooter quand je me réveille le matin

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Taichung, Taiwan
Scooters à Taichung / Scooter in Taichung

This morning, on my way to work, I heard the vroom of a scooter. In Montreal, this may only happen in the four, five months when motorized bike riding isn’t a danger due to climatic hazards.

I like the sound because it reminds me of Asia, and especially Taiwan, where the scooter is king. Not so much of China, where its use in the city is either prohibited or costs so much in license that you’d be better to get a car. And it’s for a good reason too – any Chinese city would disappeared under an even thicker cloud of grayish pollution.

***

Ce matin, en me rendant au travail, j’ai entendu le vombrissement d’un scooter. À Montréal, ça peut seulement se produire dans les quatre ou cinq mois durant lesquels la conduite d’un bicycle motorisé n’est pas un danger lié à un climat hazardeux.

J’aime ce son parce que ça me rappelle l’Asie, et plus particulièrement Taiwan, où le scooter est roi. Pas trop la Chine, où son utilisation en ville est soit interdite ou que le coût élévé d’obtention d’un permis voudrait dire qu’il vaudrait mieux se procurer une voiture. Et il y a une bonne raison derrière ça : n’importe quelle ville chinoise disparaîtrait sous un nuage gris de polution encore plus épais.

Nylas – Stop Shining / Love For Free

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Nylas / There you are ...my dear Uncle K

Semaine du 29 juillet 2008 / Week of July 29th, 2008

Cette chronique hebdomadaire sur la musique indépendante chinoise est diffusée à Radio Centre-Ville (102.3FM), les mardis entre 22h30 et 23h30. L’émission complète est disponible sur ce fichier MP3, à partir du lendemain de l’émission.

This weekly segment on independent Chinese music is broadcasted every Tuesday between 10:30PM and 11:30PM on Radio Centre-Ville (102.3FM). The full-length show is available at this MP3 file, starting from the day following the show.

***

1. Love For Free
2. Stop Shining

Two songs that I instantly liked. I am not too quite sure why – perhaps because it’s cute, and it might sound like something that I like here in the West. It’s really simple indie pop music. Stop Shining is some really really cute love song: “Stop shining, I wanna go out and get some fun / Stop shining, I wanna bite you and get some fun”. I paid attention to the lyrics for the first time when I was on my the city bus taking me to the Hong Kong International Airport, that was in turn going to take me home, and thought, gee, couldn’t life be just that simple??

“Love for free”, it’s in Chinese, and I don’t get all the lyrics. I lent the CD containing this song out to one of my friends (maybe it’s _you_?), and can’t quite remember who it was. It’s a compilation called “Grassland Music” (草地音樂同學會), apparently a one or two-time music festival in a small town in Ilan county, on the more rural East coast of Taiwan. And again, if not the lyrics, the title indicates that it’s about innocent innocent love. Twee suckers will enjoy, if not the rhymes, at least the melody.

Cartes postales d’Asie, par Marie-Julie Gagnon

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Cartes postales d'Asie, par Marie-Julie Gagnon

J’ai finalement fini de lire Cartes postales d’Asie, par la journaliste (communicatrice?) Marie-Julie Gagnon. C’est un récit d’un point de vue très familier, écrit comme des e-mails à ses proches lors de ses voyages. Ça se rapproche peut-être plus du format du blogue, quand on y pense.

Bien que le titre porterait à croire à une distribution égale entre les pays visités par l’auteure, une bonne partie du récit se passe en fait à Taiwan, où Marie-Julie a enseigné l’anglais dans une école catholique à Keelung, une ville à une trentaine de kilomètres de Taipei. Avant de savoir qu’elle avait écrit un livre, j’ai su que je n’étais pas le premier résident québécois à être allé au festival de Spring Scream à Kenting (sur Taxibrousse).

Ses péripéties à Taiwan m’ont rappelé de bien bons souvenirs : même si je n’ai fait que passé à Taiwan (juste sept jours), les marchés de nuit (à propos desquels je vais bientôt bloguer), du bubble tea, des 7-Eleven (ils en font une vraie épidémie là-bas) et des surprenants paysages (Taipei est bâti très plate, et est entourée de montagnes).

C’est disponible chez Renaud-Bray, et je vous le conseille fortement!

Wonfu 旺福 – Lady’s Night

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旺福 / 青春舞曲

Semaine du 15 juillet 2008 / Week of July 15th, 2008

Cette chronique hebdomadaire sur la musique indépendante chinoise est diffusée à Radio Centre-Ville (102.3FM), les mardis entre 22h30 et 23h30. L’émission complète est disponible sur ce fichier MP3, à partir du lendemain de l’émission.

This weekly segment on independent Chinese music is broadcasted every Tuesday between 10:30PM and 11:30PM on Radio Centre-Ville (102.3FM). The full-length show is available at this MP3 file, starting from the day following the show.

***

Wonfu – Lady’s Night

This week, we’re having Wonfu, a band from Taiwan that does in the pseudo-60s, upbeat country-ish (at times) music. They’re fun, and it definitely shows in their music. The song that I will be presenting this week is called “Lady’s Night” (sic).