Rainy Day Sandwiches No. 12 & 35
Soy Milk in Taiwan
When my plane touched down in Taiwan’s Taoyuan International Airport, the rain was coming down steadily. The wet tarmac glistened in the the airport’s panoply of lights, while an army of poncho-wearing ground staff guided our plane to its gate. Because I was arriving from the relentless hell-heat of southern Vietnam, this was all a welcome sight. After several weeks spent coated in a perma-glaze of sweat, the notion of a cool, rainy night was undeniably appealing.
By the time my third night in Taiwan had rolled around, however, the rain hadn’t let up. This soggy trend continued into my fourth night, by which time I’d arrived in the country’s center city, Taichung. By this point, I was beginning to miss the ceaseless sunshine of Vietnam.
For a traveler, though, the show must go on—even in the rain—for every day spent inside is a day deprived of new experiences. And so, on my first morning in the waterlogged city of Taichung, I put on a sweater, some ratty jeans, and a pair of Converse—the closest thing to rain gear I had in my bag—and set out in search of breakfast. Because a good friend of mine was an English teacher in the city, this first meal of the day was thankfully not a difficult thing to find.
I rendezvoused with my friend at a restaurant called Lai Lai, on the corner of Xitun and Wenxin Roads, which he told me was one of his favorite breakfast spots. Given that the line to the restaurant’s counter spilled out onto the rain-soaked sidewalk, it was clearly a favorite among locals, too.
While we waited in line, I scanned the menu board above the counter, trying, without success, to make some sense of an indistinguishable clutter of Chinese characters. As it turns out, however, these efforts were pointless, as my friend had already decided what we’d be eating. Relying on the impressive amount of Mandarin he’d picked up in the eight months he’d lived in Taichung, he placed our order with the cook, who flipped omelets and fried eggs on a steaming grill. A minute or two later, we paid up and were handed our trays.
I still wasn’t sure what I’d be eating.
The answer, as it turns out, was a Taiwanese egg sandwich, accompanied by a tall glass of frothy soy milk. The sandwich was wonderfully simple: a small omelet, seasoned with snippets of green onion and black pepper, and wrapped in a flaky, sesame-seed-sprinkled Chinese flatbread called shaobing. Each sandwich came in a small, transparent plastic bag, which I instinctively tried to remove. My friend, however, stopped me to recommend that I eat the sandwich from the bag to help mitigate the inevitable flaky mess. So, heeding his advice, I dug in, pulling the bag back with each warm, crunchy bite and washing each bite down with a sip of sweet soy milk.
Outside, the rain continued to come down in sheets, as waves of umbrella-toting locals shuffled off on their morning errands. As the steam rose from sandwich, and the smell of fresh bread and fried eggs filled the air, I thought to myself that there could be no better breakfast on such a soggy morning.