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Jia-yu Hsu
Food and Travel Columnist

Jia-yu Hsu, a senior food and travel journalist-turned freelance writer and photographer, has always been curious about how the ingredients are transformed into delicious food. As her mother is a professional chef, Hsu visits the kitchen very often. Aside from being a food lover, Hsu is also a dexterous cook herself, under the influence of her mother. She has recently created her own food brand—”Homey Rice & Café”.

After graduating from college, Hsu worked as a food journalist for nearly 20 years, during which she has become acquainted with many famous chefs and learned from them for her own “private home cuisine”. Besides cooking, Hsu likes to indulge in food photography and travel.

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Q & A

Q: How do you start your day?

A: After I wake up in the morning, I will have a glass of Enzyme drink first. As my days are very hectic, I usually have a big lunch and dinner but not too much for the breakfast in order to maintain the pH level of my body (I love meat so much.) I have only two meals a day. If I don’t control my diet, I may suffer from occupational injuries. (Laugh)

 

Q: What places do you visit regularly?

A: I often go to the “Liyuan Shop”, a cafe in the neighborhood of Dongmen. It has a quiet environment with great music and pour-over coffee. Sometimes, I take my laptop along with me to do some writing. The pour-over coffee is very special. You can tell them what flavor you prefer. They will choose the coffee beans which have been properly roasted and which meet the taste you have ordered to brew one cup of good coffee for you. I prefer coffee with citrus fragrance.

 

Q: What restaurants do you visit most often?

A:
1. YIWANMIAN. I have formed this joint venture with friends. It is a place where I work and where we usually have gatherings with friends. I would recommend the “Perfect Double Pig Trotter Noodle” to everyone. Personally, I love to eat pig trotter so much that I have even done a lot of research and development on the recipes of pig feet. You must select as ingredients from the female black pigs(Black Sow), which do not have the unpleasant smell like the other types of pigs. I hope that all my guests can come here to enjoy this amazing “Perfect Double Pig Trotter Noodle”

Facebook page: www.facebook.com/YIWANMIAN2018/

2. Zhan 1852 Steak & Lobster House. I would recommend the New York strip steak, which is prepared by aging the beef to make it crispy outside and soft inside, subverting my impression that New York strip steak is hard to chew and not particular juicy. All the appetizers, side dishes and desserts are also amazing. The chef makes all the cuisines in a very “Taiwanese way” that embodies a harmonious quality that has been unachievable so far by other steakhouse chefs in Taiwan.

Facebook page: www.facebook.com/Zhan1852/

 

Q: What is your after-work entertainment?

A: Binge-watching drama shows and playing video games like Candy Crush, Super Mario Brothers, and so on. While playing online games and watching drama shows, I feel so relaxed, without a worry in the world. I enjoy watching ancient or traditional Chinese dramas from the Mainland because I like to observe the details of the camera movements and costumes which the actors wear from a particular dynasty. I am very curious about and interested in how real the theatrical costumes are and will search online to find out the differences compared to the authentic costumes in that particular dynasty .

 

Q: What book have you read recently? What thoughts or feelings did you have about the book?

A: No Fear in Life! Yu-jun Li, the First Taiwanese Female Chef in the world of French Cuisine
Women in the catering industry tend to be prone to discrimination. As such, it is very difficult for female chefs to break into this field!

Chef Li has nevertheless torn down many barriers bravely in her career. She went to foreign countries to study culinary arts, even without mastering the language of that country. She has put herself in many desperate situations, which have never defeated her but have strengthened her. At the age of 30, Chef Li founded the PapaMio Italian kitchen, which is one of the most famous Italian cuisine restaurants in Taichung. At the age of 37, she founded the French Restaurant Flower of Salt. She has always maintained a heart of learning, curiosity, and persistence in cooking throughout her life. She even pays special attention to tableware presentation. Though she came from a very ordinary background, Chef Li has made a difference in her life through her courage and hard work. Her story is very inspirational. I think her book is worth reading.

 

Q: What is the first thing you do when food is served?

A: Take a picture first of course . After that look at the way dishes are presented then smell the food.

 

Q: Reviews on food taste are subjective. How can you give objective comments?

A: It is rather challenging to give an objective comment. Everyone appreciates the taste of food differently. Due to my work, I have been exposed to so many types of cuisines and restaurants that I have developed a kind of average scale from such experiences. Take bubble tea as an example. After you have tasted ten different brands of bubble tea, you would gain an experience value that tells you what the bubbles should taste like and the ideal proportion of the black tea and milk. Sometimes, when I taste a dish for the first time, I won’t comment on whether it tastes good or bad but only talk about my feelings at that moment. Before you become a food critic, you must build up a database in your mind by trying many different ingredients. The same principle is true for people in different trades. You need to accumulate experience.

 

Q: Which place in Taiwan is the most interesting to you or attracts you?

A: Hualien Taroko. I used to travel to China because of its magnificent mountains, rivers and lakes, but nowI have found that the scenery in Taroko is even more fascinating soon enough.

Taroko National Park https://www.taroko.gov.tw/

 

Q: What do you expect the most from a hotel stay?

A: I have stayed in many star-rated hotels, most of which have a similar spatial arrangement. After you open the door, the toilet is located at the right-hand side. Passing through the small hallway, you find the bed. This kind of spatial arrangement is a traditional pattern, nothing new to me at all. So, I would expect new styles of room space planning which is different from the traditional types, and then I would check how convenient the sockets are and some other design details.

 

Q: What is your impression of the hotels of the Taipei Inn Group?

A: The entire hotel building in white attracted me very much at first sight because I love white. Then, I felt very curious how white was chosen for the hotel since white color is very difficult to maintain, especially for a place like hotels with full of hustle and bustle! The bathrooms at the Ambience Hotel are so spacious and bright that I can fully stretch out my feet even for a tall girl like me. The bed, though ordinary in appearance, is very comfortable to sleep on. The hotel breakfast, in terms of its scale, is sincere and generous in offering a self-service buffet instead of set menus. This is indeed beyond my expectations.

11 years ago, when I was working for a newspaper, one of my colleagues who had stayed at the Ambience Hotel shared his experience and strongly recommended it to me. Since then, I have always wanted to stay there and really didn’t expect that it has only happened now.