Singer-Violinist Kevin Liao’s Guide to Hsinchu

Translated to Chinese by Teresa Lee.

Violinist Kevin Liao may live in Taipei for his work—he released his first EP Not For Display last year and a new album is in the works—but family, friends and nostalgia (and his love-hate relationship with that infamous Hsinchu wind) keep him coming back to the Windy City, where he grew up.

“I love Hsinchu… Hsinchu is my home…” the singer-composer croons an impromptu ballad.

小提琴家廖柏雅因為工作關係現居台北,去年剛發行了他的EP非展示品」、而新專輯也在籌備中—— 但是家庭、朋友、及思鄉之情(包括他又愛又恨的九降風)使他不斷回到「風城」新竹,也是他的成長之地。

「我愛新竹新竹是我的家」這位創作人與歌手低唱著一段荒唐有趣的旋律歌頌他的家鄉。

kevin liao violin singer

“But to be honest, your middle and high school years are really quite formative years, you know, and you’re fond of the places you grew up in.” He’s serious now. “I guess there are more people-to-people relationships in middle and high school, so you really remember the places you went to with certain people.”

Here is Kevin’s handpicked list of his favorite places in Hsinchu.

「但說真的,國中高中時期對之後發展影響極大,你會愛上你長大的地方。」他認真起來的說道「我想國高中有很多人與人之間的記憶和羈絆,所以你會真的記得一些你和特定人去過的特定地方。」

以下是廖柏雅親手挑選、新竹他最喜愛的去處。

Xi Zhou Tan Kao (溪州碳烤)

silkie chicken xi zhou tan kao black skin bones hsinchu restaurant

An insiders’ favorite in a tiny back alley “literally in the garage of somebody’s family”, this restaurant serves up silkie, a breed of chicken with black skin and bones that Kevin insists on calling “black chicken”. Don’t be fooled by his nickname for the dish though, the unique salty flavor makes it “quite incredible”. The shop is also known for its MSG-free chicken soup; the owner will tell you he brewed it for days, before handing you more to take home for free. Kevin has loved this restaurant ever since he returned from Vancouver. “I still think about it,” he says. “My brother and I go every time he comes back to visit from the States. It’s ritual.”

這間新竹的行家精選餐廳就位在一條迷你後巷,「真的就是某人的家用停車場」。他們提供烏骨燜雞(廖柏雅堅持要把這種黑皮黑骨的鳥類稱為「黑雞」),但可別被「黑雞」這個有趣的綽號騙了,這道佳餚帶有一種特別的鹽味,著實是一道「出乎意料」的美味。這兒的雞湯也非常有名;老闆在免費多送你一些打包回家時,會叮嚀你他可是花了好幾天燉煮這些料理。直到廖柏雅從溫哥華回國、父母帶來溪洲碳烤,他才一試上癮。「我還是會常想著這道菜,」他說「我弟弟每從美國回來時我們都會去吃,這已經是習慣了。」

image source

Kwan Hua Ice Shop (光華冰菓店)

kwan hua shaved ice shop hsinchu taiwan

This local favorite is popular for its shaved ice and douhua—often sold out before the night’s out—in the summer and hot sweet soups in winter. After a basketball game, Kevin will order a watermelon or papaya milk or a mung bean slushie, which, he says, isn’t watered down like at a lot of other places. “The ingredients are so real, and it’s the perfect balance between sweet and not too sweet,” he says. As Kwan Hua judges portions by eye, Kevin says the owner won’t hesitate to fill another cup for you for free when there’s extra left over. As a testament of Kwan Hua’s popularity, Kevin says the shop owner was able to put her kids through college in the States with the money from this shop alone.

每到夏天,光華冰店的豆花和刨冰就成了最熱門的選擇,而且通常在晚上天黑前就賣光了. 到了冬天, 熱銷的產品便是熱甜湯。打完籃球後,廖柏雅通常都會點一杯新鮮西瓜或木瓜牛奶、或一杯他說「絕對不像外面那樣大量稀釋」的綠豆沙。「這家店的用料新鮮實在,而且有恰到平衡的甜度」,他說。由於光華冰店的食物都是目測盛裝的,當有剩下的好料時,老闆從不吝嗇再送來店的客人們一杯免費的。為了證明光華冰店的熱門程度,廖柏雅說,老闆光用她店裡的營收,就將他的子女送到美國讀大學呢!

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UMC Recreation Center (聯園活動中心)

umc recreation center indoor basketball court hsinchu taiwan

It’s incredibly difficult to find an indoor fitness venue in Taipei with a swimming pool, gym, basketball courts, badminton courts, and rooms for table tennis and weightlifting, Kevin says, and all for only NT$80 for the whole day The entire space is air-conditioned, and the floors have just been redone. On Fridays and Saturdays, UMC’s basketball court is always “packed to the max, which is good, because you get some good competition… If you win,” Kevin says. If not, then you may have quite a wait on the sidelines.

廖柏雅說,在台北,要找到一間包含泳池、健身房、籃球場、與球場、桌球室、和舉重室的室內健身中心,而且日票還只要80元,大概是難上加難。聯園活動中心整棟建築都有空調,而地板才剛整修過。 每每到了星期五和星期六, 聯園運動中心幾乎總是擠滿了人。「這樣很棒,因為你會有許多強勁的對手……如果你有贏的話,」廖柏雅說道。如果輸的話,可能就得在邊線等上好一段時間了。

image via UMC

Sports Equipment Stores Next to Hsinchu East Gate (東門城旁運動用品店)

hsinchu east gate dongmen roundabout taiwan

Speaking of basketball, Kevin tells me how he, his brother and their friends used to compare the prices of sneakers at the numerous sport equipment store near the Dongmen Roundabout. “The prices really only varied by like $NT200, but back then we would always be like ‘Oh, it’s so much cheaper here. Everything is like half price,'” he says laughing as he reminisces on his “dumb high school days”. Then he starts dishing out the insider tips: A lot of the shops have basements; that’s where the sales are. “If you’re rich, don’t go down there.” And if you’re super broke, he says, there’s one store next to the police station with a third floor that has massive sales. “You can usually always find a cool pair of kicks for cheap there,” he says.

我們聊到籃球,廖柏雅說他常與他的弟弟和朋友們比較東門圓環附近所有運動用品店的球鞋價格。「其實每家的價格大約只差個兩百元,但我們當時都覺得:『天阿,這裡簡直太便宜了,所有東西都是半價!』」當想到他「無知的高中歲月」時廖柏雅不禁笑了。然後他開始告訴我專家的小秘訣:很多運動用品店都有地下室,而特價品就在那兒。「如果你很有錢,就別下去那裡了」他說。如果你真的經濟拮据,他提到,其中在警察局附近的一間有第三層樓,而三樓總是販賣大打折的商品。「你幾乎總是可以在那裡買到便宜又酷炫的鞋,」他說道。

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100 Tastes (一百種味道)

100 tastes hsinchu cafe blueberry strawberry pie tart

Of the many cafes in Hsinchu, Kevin really likes 100 Tastes, which he says is a nice place to hang out with friends or to take your date. It’s got a nice vintage look going for it, he says. “Rustic,” he adds. The pie selection at 100 Tastes changes from day to day, but the blueberry is a staple that Kevin recommends, noting the freshness of the fruit. Customers can also buy by slice or by pie, “great for parties and stuff.”

新竹各式各樣的咖啡店中,廖柏雅特別屬意「一百種味道」這家店,據說是和朋友小聚、或帶女孩約會的好地方。它有著美麗的復古裝潢,「純樸的感覺」。他們提供的派口味每天都會有點變化,但充滿新鮮果香的藍莓口味是廖柏雅的主力推薦。顧客們也可以買分裝的一片、或一整個派,「很適合派對之類的場合,」他提到。

image via 100 Tastes

Shui Ge Breakfast Shop (水哥養生早餐)

shui ge breakfast rice balls hsinchu taiwan

If Kevin has a moment in the morning, he will go to Shui Ge and grab a hearty Taiwanese-style rice ball, that is all around “very customizable and not oily or greasy.” Shui Ge is also known for its soy milk. “It’s got a little smokey flavor to it,” he says, “It’s like your soy milk smoked a cigarette.” He quickly adds that it’s a terrible metaphor, reassuring me it’s “homemade, nothing like at the convenience stores.” If you’re really hungry, Kevin recommends getting a rice ball along with the rice milk, which can be extremely filling.

如果廖柏雅有個清閒的早晨,他便會到水哥養生早餐去買一個豐盛的台式飯團,他們會製作一個所謂「非常客製化而且不油不膩」的飯糰。水哥早餐的豆漿也非常有名,「他有點微焦的香味,」他說「就好像你的豆漿剛抽了一支煙。」他馬上補充這是個不好的比喻,他保證豆漿絕對是「手工現作、跟便利商店的絕對不一樣」。如果你真的飢腸轆轆,廖柏雅建議可以買飯糰加上米漿,絕對讓你一飽口福。

image source

orange hotelThis post is presented by Forte Orange Hotel 福泰桔子商務旅館

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