A few days before Dr. Tsai Ing-wen took the oath of office to become Taiwan’s first woman president - and the first female national leader in Asia who wasn’t the widow, daughter or sister of a previous leader - I went back to Kaohsiung to witness the scattering of a friend’s ashes.
A decade earlier, he’d told us he wanted his remains sprinkled in the shade of a huge banyan tree that overlooks the harbor. He eventually passed after years of ill health, some of which could be attributed to bad habits when younger. En route to the ceremony, I made a slightly dubious lifestyle choice of my own. I detoured to a breakfast establishment famous in Taiwan’s second city for adulterated soy milk. Once hailed as a protein-rich, low-calorie alternative to cow’s milk, unfermented soy products like soy milk are now linked to health problems including hypothyroidism, kidney stones, and male infertility. And if that isn’t bad enough, at Guo Mao Lai Lai the beverage is best enjoyed when it’s slathered with oily condiments and salty toppings.
But it’s fresh, meaning the beans are soaked the evening before, steamed before sunrise, blended, then pressed through a cheesecloth. Drunk hot and neat, just-made soy milk is quite unlike - and quite a bit stronger than - its bottled, refrigerated supermarket counterpart. For first-timers, the experience is akin to trying coffee prepared by a good barista after a lifetime of drinking instant. But raw soy milk isn’t to everyone’s taste, so many Taiwanese stir in sugar. In Mandarin Chinese, the non-sugared variant is called xian doujiang (鹹豆漿). This means “salty soy milk,” but at Guo Mao Lai Lai, only the finest of palates can detect brackishness beneath the various pungencies...
To read the second half of this story, go here. I first visited Guo Mao Lai Lai when researching this article, thanks an entry in this excellent blog.
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