Favorite Taiwanese Dishes

Although our IELP students come from all over the world, food unites us all. We all enjoy  tasting new dishes and learning about the favorite foods of our friends and family. Last week, we spoke to Ting-Wei and Jo-Tzu, Taiwanese STEP students who both love Taiwanese food. Ting-Wei’s family even owns a traditional restaurant in Taiwan! To learn more about their favorite dishes, continue reading below:


Lu Rou Fan (Braised Pork Rice, 滷肉饭)


When asked what their favorite Taiwanese dish was, Ting-Wei and Jo-Tzu immediately named braised pork rice. This dish is an important icon of Taiwanese folk life, and is consumed all around Taiwan. However, different areas have slight variations in their dish, such Southern Taiwan using pork with less fat, and Northern Taiwan favoring a greasier version, sometimes with sticky rice mixed in.

Oil Rice (Youfan, 油飯)


Jo-Tzu loves youfan, or Taiwanese “oil” rice. She told us she has fond memories associated with this dish because it is traditionally served to celebrate the birth of a child. However, you can find this dish at New Year’s meals, temple celebrations, and all around Taiwan! You can even order some at the Taichung train station (pictured below), if you are hungry while traveling. Although most variations include rice, pork, and oil, there are differences in the dish depending on the area and the family cooking it.


Stinky Tofu (Chòudòufu, 臭豆腐)


Ting-Wei told us stinky tofu is a traditional dish available throughout Taiwan through stands that sell stinky tofu to locals and tourists (pictured below). According to folk stories, stinky tofu was invented by accident during the Qing dynasty by a man named Wang Zhi-He. Today, stinky tofu is often fried and served with sauce and sour pickled vegetables. Barbecued stinky tofu, where the tofu is cooked with meat sauce, is recommended to people trying stinky tofu for the first time, and is thought to have been invented in Taipei’s Shenkeng District.


Beef Noodle Soup (牛肉麵)


Beef noodle soup is a favorite of Ting-Wei, Jo-Tzu, and IELP staff. This classic dish usually uses brisket or shank only, although some restaurants offer a more expensive version with meat and tendon. Although beef noodle soup is common in both China and Taiwan, it is considered a national dish in Taiwan. It is so loved in Taiwan that Taipei holds a Beef Noodle Festival every year, where various chefs and restaurants compete for the “Best Beef Noodle in Taiwan” award.

Tánghúlu (糖葫芦)


Jo-Tzu’s favorite dessert is a traditional Chinese dessert that is loved throughout Taiwan. Jo-Tzu even said that she found tánghúlu at the Seattle International District-Chinatown Night Market! This snack is usually made with red or yellow hawthorn berries dipped in sugar hard candy. Although hawthorn berries are traditional, other kinds of berries and nuts are sometimes skewered and dipped in the candy. The tangy taste of hawthorn berries go well with the sweet candy coating, which is probably why this food has been loved in China and Taiwan for over 800 years.


After the interview, we asked Seattle locals about their favorite Taiwanese restaurant in the Seattle area. If you are in Seattle and would like to try Taiwanese food, or you are from Taiwan and missing food from home, check out these places:

  1. Looking for Chai Taiwanese Kitchen
  2. Facing East
  3. Din Tai Fung
  4. Dough Zone Dumpling House (Chinese, Sichuanese, and Taiwanese food)

Thank you to Ting-Wei and Jo-Tzu for telling us about their favorite dishes! This post and our conversations with students don’t even scratch the surface of Taiwan’s culinary history. We encourage you to explore different cultures, foods, and restaurants in Seattle, and to find your own favorite dishes!


Photo Credits: Business Insider, Bear Naked Food, i.epoch.times.com, Smart Traveler, Wikipedia, Eater

Seattle Spotlight: Art Walks

While our Calendar of Events is a great place to find events and activities all year long, some popular Seattle events require additional explanation. As Seattle weather becomes cooler and Autumn quarter begins, there are many opportunities for students to explore all that Seattle offers.


In 1981, Seattle art dealers printed handout maps and painted footsteps in front of their galleries to attract residents and tourists. With this, the first Art Walk in the United States was born. Art walks are community events where local artists and art dealers display their art to the public, who can view it for free. These events, which typically happen every month, are important occasions to encourage community engagement and appreciation of the arts.

  1. Fremont Art Walk

    Every first Friday from 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm. Located at Fremont Ave. N. and N. 35th St.

    fremont-art-walk-300x210The Fremont Art Walk brings Fremont shops, galleries, and restaurants together to celebrate creativity. You can experience many forms of art – from oil paintings to musical performances – while you walk through the famous Fremont neighborhood.

  2. First Thursday Seattle Art Walk

    Every first Thursday from 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm. Located at 102 First Ave.

    seattle-first-thursday-art-walkPioneer Square has over 35 art venues to visit for free on the first Thursday of every month, and many restaurants to grab a bite to eat. In addition, Pioneer Square’s Occidental Square contains a number of sculptures for visitors to enjoy any day of the month.

  3. West Seattle Art Walk

    Every second Thursday from 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm. Located at California Ave. S.W. and S.W. Alaska St.


    Local artists, galleries, and businesses come together on the second Thursday of each month in West Seattle to display and sell art. Here, you can view beautiful pottery from Washington artists and listen to local musicians.

  4. BLITZ Capitol Hill Art Walk

    Every second Thursday from 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm. Located at Broadway and E. Pike St.


Visit one of Seattle’s most famous neighborhoods and enjoy various mediums of art and artistic performances. Capitol Hill Art Walk features theater groups, art by prolific Seattle artists, and access to a variety of restaurants and coffee shops.

Seattle is an artistic city with a strong sense of community, and Seattle Art Walks are a fantastic way to explore Seattle neighborhoods, interact with locals, and enjoy work by talented individuals. You can learn more and access a list of all neighborhood arts walks here, and find more Seattle events using our Calendar of Events.

Photo Credits: Rich Schleifer, FIUTS, Seattle Artists, West Seattle Art Walk, Capitol Hill Art Walk

Favorite Japanese Dishes

Our IELP students come from all over the world, and our STEP 3 session has a large percentage of Japanese participants. Although I have tried basic types of (American=ized) sushi, edamame, and poke bowls, I wanted to learn more about the traditional cuisine. On our field trip to Seattle Center last Tuesday, I asked the students to share some of their favorites, and did some research to find out more about these dishes and their origins.

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Sakura Yamashita describes her favorite dish she calls “Monja” as a “hot plate mixed with vegetable and meat.”

Monjayaki is very popular in the Kantō region, and is one of Tokyo’s most famous dishes. Although often compared to okonomayaki, a similar dish made in the Kansai region, it is a lot wetter and cooks flat on one side, whereas okonomiyaki is drier, firmer and thicker. The ingredients also differ. Monja is created by frying the dry ingredients (usually some variation of cabbage, noodles, cod roe, mochi, and flour) in a circle, and filling said circle with a liquid batter after a few minutes. The result? A delicious savory pancake with the consistency of melted cheese!


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“I’m from Fukuoka so I like Tonkatsu” -Kazuhiro Fujiyama

Often simply called “katsu” in the States, this classic Japanese dish uses pork fillet or loin that is dipped in salt, pepper, flour, and beaten egg before being deep fried in a coat of “panko” or bread crumbs. It is usually served with cabbage or tsukemono (Japanese preserved vegetables), rice, and miso soup. In Korea, tonkatsu is known as don-gaseu (돈가스) or don-kkaseu (돈까스), which derived from a transliteration of the Japanese word. There are many variations of this dish, and tonkatsu is also popular as a sandwich filling (katsu sando) or served on Japanese curry (katsu karē).

Yamanashi Fruit

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Moemi Okamura explains that “peaces and grapes are the most famous in Yamanashi.”

Japan’s Yamanashi prefecture is dubbed the “kingdom of fruit,” and rightfully so! The reason lies in Yamanashi’s weather– low annual precipitation and extreme differences in heat and cold help to create sweet, juicy fruit year round. Not only is Yamanashi the biggest producer of peaches and grapes in Japan, but there are fruit picking facilities year-round boasting multiple varieties of cherries, plums, pears, strawberries, blueberries, and apples. People from all around the world flock to Yamanashi to admire their expansive orchards and to pick fresh, delicious produce.


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 “My mom buys the eel in the supermarket but will make it at home.” -Chisa Tomono

Unagi is a cult summertime favorite among Japanese, but can cost up to 30 American dollars served in a restaurant. For this reason, many have incentive to make this delicacy at home. This calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and iron-rich treat is known to help combat the scorching summer heat. One student adds that July 25th is the designated “unagi day!” Intrigued, I did some research and discovered that the name of the period for eating Unagi is called ‘Doyo-no Ushi-no hi’. “Doyo” is an 18 day period between summer and autumn, mid July to early August, and is the hottest time of the year in Japan. “Ushi no hi” can be directly translated to Ox day, originating from the traditional Japanese calendar that uses the Chinese Zodiac system. Legend has it that a struggling eel restaurant owner during the Edo period began advertising unagi on the day of Ox, because both Ushi (Ox in Japanese) and Unagi begin with the letter ‘u’. This play on words worked well as a promotion, and eventually developed into a Japanese folklore that if you eat unagi on the day of ox, you will regain power!

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Obviously, this blog post does not scratch the surface of Japan’s rich culinary heritage. Other favorites frequently mentioned include sushi, nikujaga (boiled meat and potato), nattō (fermented soybeans), shabu-shabu (meat and vegetable hot pot), udon (thick wheat flour noodle), soba (thin buckwheat flour noodle), and wagashi (sweet snack often served with tea). However, I hope that this post could provide some insight into traditional Japanese cuisine and inspire you to try something new!


Coping with Culture Shock

Five Stages of Culture Shock

1. Initial Euphoria

At this point, everything is new and exciting. You will probably notice a lot of similarities between your home and host country,  and the differences that you do notice are charming and refreshing. The first few weeks are also referred to as the “honeymoon” phase. You’re seeing new places, trying new foods, meeting new people, and you’re excited to learn about a whole new way of life…

2. Irritation/Rejection

After things start to settle down and the reality of daily routine sets in, you’re likely to notice more cultural differences and grow frustrated with local mannerisms. Speaking a foreign language can be stressful and difficult, and you may begin to feel misunderstood, depressed, and homesick.

3. Gradual Adjustment

Luckily, stage 2 does not last forever. Your English will slowly improve, you will begin to grow accustomed to social norms, and you will form meaningful relationships. You grow to appreciate the cultural contrast between two countries and remember why you decided to study abroad in the first place.


4. Adaptation/Bi-culturalism

At this point, you begin to integrate the local culture and embrace the customs that were once alien. You can comfortably communicate with native speakers, and you no longer feel isolated from the local community. You have adjusted to American lifestyle, and you feel confident in your new-found identity living in a foreign country.

5. Reverse Culture Shock

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Often times if you spend a long time living abroad you will experience a similar process when you return to your home country. Without realizing it, you have grown accustomed to the lifestyle in the States and upon returning back will see your native culture in a whole new light!

Coping with Stage 2

1. Learn about American culture

Understanding a culture and its values is the best way to begin to feel at home in a new country. Do some research! IELP releases a monthly newsletter and a calendar of activities, and these can be great resources to discover what’s happening on campus and around Seattle. Learn what the locals are doing and how you can get involved!

2. Make local friends

Having local friends will help a lot with improving your English and learning about American culture. As easy and tempting as it can be to only spend time with other international students, it is important that you move outside of your comfort zone and befriend people who don’t speak your language.  IELP also offers a Language exchange program that will match you with another UW student or volunteer that is interested in learning about your language and culture. Email langex@uw.edu for more information!


3. Make a REAL effort to learn the local language

The more of the local language you know, the easier your everyday life and studies will be. It is very tempting to exclusively spend time with other students from your home country during your time off, especially if your level of English is very low. However, this will result in only speaking and practicing English in a classroom setting-which you can do anywhere in the world! Take advantage of all of the English resources that surround you in Seattle; immersion is the quickest and most fun way to learn a new language. Doing your homework and going to class are good first steps-but the real progress happens outside of the classroom.


4. Journal!

Writing in a journal is a great practice no matter where you are. However, while studying abroad, you will be doing experiencing new things every day and growing rapidly. You can write down what you love about the country during the honeymoon phase to look back on when you’re feeling depressed. If you want to further challenge yourself-try keeping a journal in English! While I was studying abroad in Spain I kept a journal in Spanish. Not only was it great language practice, but when I came back to the States I could reflect on the experience in depth. I could also see how much my Spanish improved over the course of my stay!


5. Talk it out

Although making local friends is important, connecting with other international students is also very helpful while adjusting to a new culture. Talk about the differences you’ve experienced-what you like, what you don’t like, what you miss about home, what you don’t miss about home. Talking to others experiencing the same transition is a great way to feel connected if you’re feeling lost in a new country. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your peers about how you’re feeling, UW also has a counseling center in Schmitz Hall: https://www.washington.edu/counseling/






American as Apple Pie

Hot dogs, milkshakes, and grilled cheese are all iconic American foods, but none are quite “as American as apple pie.” A pie is a baked dish made up of a pastry dough exterior that is filled with sweet or savory ingredients. However, not all pies are made equal. Pie was initially a practical dish because it required less flour to make than bread, making it the ideal, cheap, and filling dish for hungry immigrants. As colonists (and their pie recipes) spread towards the West, variations developed and came to represent different areas of the United States.

In Northern states, Native Americans taught settlers how to extract sap from maple trees, and pumpkin pies sweetened with maple syrup became very popular in this area. Maine, which boasted a plentiful blueberry harvest each year, claimed blueberry pie as their signature dessert. The Midwest, with its abundance of dairy farms, specialized in cheese and cream pies. Southern states indulged in various kinds of “chess pie” which was filled with rich buttermilk or cream, sugar, egg, and sometimes bourbon.

Today, pies of all kinds are enjoyed throughout the States, especially during American holidays like Thanksgiving and Fourth of July. If you haven’t tasted pie yet, it is a classic (and delicious!) part of American heritage that you need to try at least once while in the States. With Independence Day coming up, you will likely find pies on display in any major American supermarket, but Seattle also has a slew of specialty pie shops if you want a taste of the traditional homemade goods. Here are a few of the most popular:


Pie Bar Ballard


This family-owned business has a weekly-rotating menu of sweet and savory pies as well as craft cocktails and ciders to compliment! Check out their unique selection of treats here.

A la Mode Pies


“Quite simply, exceptional pie – the kind Mom would be proud to serve.” – Chris Porter (Owner)

This hand-baked pie shop has expanded from its original location in West Seattle to open a second in Phinney Ridge across from the Woodland Park Zoo. Their 9-inch pies are made-to-order with the fruit filling sourced from local, organic farms. They also offer pie-making classes on Tuesdays and delivery for orders consisting of of 5 or more pies. Explore their website to browse their flavors, order online, and check out their extended summer hours.




As its name would suggest, this is a one-stop-shop for all of your pie needs. Baked fresh throughout the day, each one (meat pies, vegetarian pies, sweet pies, savory pies, morning pies, late- night pies) is individually sized which ensures freshness and the perfect portion. Their menu changes daily in rotation so you can expect a new treat for your taste buds with each visit!



Pie-history Credit:



You are Welcome Here!

We welcomed almost 70 students to the IELP for Winter quarter. If there is a new student in your class, please give her or him a nice, warm welcome to Seattle.  We went high tech this quarter for the  Strategies for Success workshop at new student orientation. Students answered questions with text messages. These messages appeared live on-screen, so we learned a lot about each other.  I wanted to share the responses with everyone.  So here they are!

What are my goals?


What do I want to try in Seattle?


What am I good at?


What questions do I have about classes?


Visit Bellevue

Bellevue is a neighboring city to Seattle, it is easy to get to by bus. Either the 271 from UW Seattle Campus or the 550 from Downtown Seattle can get you there in a jiffy!

Bellevue Square Mall


Bellevue Square Mall, often referred to as “Bell Square” is a large shopping center with popular stores like ZARA, Macy’s, Nordstrom, UNIQLO, GAP, Lego, and more! Beecher’s Cheese, the popular cheese store in Pike Place recently opened a new location in Bellevue Square!

There is a skybridge that links Bell Square to Lincoln Square – where there is a movie theater, a bowling alley, and much more!

Bellevue Art Museum


The Bellevue Arts Museum (BAM) is located right across the street from Bellevue Square Mall and Lincoln Square. They have many exiting exhibits, check them out here. Tickets are $10 for students with ID cards, $12 dollars for adults. However, each first Friday of the month is free!

Downtown Bellevue Park


This park is also located close to Bellevue Square Mall. The 20 acre park is a great place to have a picnic, play frisbee, enjoy the sun, and much more!

During the 4th of July (Independence Day) the park is full of people enjoying food from food trucks and sweet lemonade. In the evening the Bellevue Youth Symphony Orchestra plays music while fireworks are set off.

Bellevue Botanical Garden


With 53 acres of land, the Bellevue Botanical Garden is a must-see. There is the Fuchsia Garden, the Native Discovery Garden, the Waterwise Garden and much more! Admission is free and you can even go on a tour – a tour begins each Saturday and Sunday at 2PM.

During the winter time the Botanical Garden hosts the Garden d’Lights. At the end of each year the garden lights up and creates lovely sights to see. While tickets are usually $5, there are some nights that are free! See here for more information.



Using the Libraries at UW!

Libraries are excellent places to borrow books, study, do research, or complete your homework! Here at the University of Washington (Seattle Campus) there are many libraries – the East Asian Library, the Law Library, Drama Library etc. However the two major libraries on campus are Odegaard Library and Suzzallo Library.


Students at UW call Odegaard Library “Ode” (pronounced Oh-d)

Odegaard Library has three floors – the bottom floor has a lot of tables for studying in addition to white boards! You can ask for white board markers from the information desk near the doors.

The second floor is full of computers and printers; you only need your UW netID and password to be able to use the computers.

The third floor is a quiet floor – loud talking and noises are not allowed. This floor has several bookshelves for research and a lot of desks for studying in silence. Monday- Thursday the library is open 24 hours! However, you will NEED to have your husky card with you if you want to be in the library after 7PM.


You need your husky card to be in the library after 7PM

Suzzallo is another great library! It has several floors and a lot of study space available. On the third floor there is the famous Reading Room. Students call it the Harry Potter Room because of the architecture style. This is a silent study space. You can find more study spaces in Suzzallo here.


The Reading Room is a beautiful, quiet study area

If you want to check out any books from the library you only need to use your husky card. Bring the book to one of the help desks and they can check it out for you! You can also check out movies from the Media Centers in the libraries.


This is where the Media Center in Suzzallo is located

Don’t be afraid to ask the librarians at the help desk for help! They love questions!


Find a Help Desk if you have questions!

You can find the hours and contact information of the UW libraries here