All you can eat dim sums at Taipei’s Chao Ping Ji (潮品集)!

February 23, 2014 in Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel


There are plenty of mediocre dim sum/yum cha joints in Taipei, some decent ones, and a handful of very good ones. One of the best, in my opinion, is Chao Ping Ji (潮品集), which offers all-you-can-eat dim sums of the highest quality.

There are two Chao Ping Ji restaurants in Taipei. One is at the San Want Hotel in the busy Zhongxiao Dunhua district, and the other (which we’ve been to multiple times) is near Q Square near Taipei Main Station. It is actually a high quality award-winning Chinese restaurant that serves traditional Chaozhou fare, but they have more recently become popular because of their all-you-can-eat yum cha.

How good is it? Take a look at the menu, a single two-sided two-pager packed with goodies.

3 2

As you can see, there are three all-you-can-eat sessions daily: 11:30-14:30, 14:30-16:30 and 17:30-21:30. It’s NT$549 for adults and NT$299 for children for weekday lunch and afternoon tea, and NT$599 for adults and NT$329 for children at all other times. All prices are subject to a 10% service charge.

The good thing about this place is that they don’t have waiters carts running all over the place to see if you would like a certain dish. Instead, you just order from the menu, as little or as much as you want, whatever you want, and they just keep bringing it over to you. Most of the portions are reasonably small, but even then it was too much for me at times, so I would tell them to give me even smaller portions so I can try more dishes.

The front page of the menu is all roasted platters and specialty dishes, while the back page contains the dim sums, rice and noodles, soups and desserts. Some of the dishes are traditional stuff, but some of the other dishes are not ones you’d commonly find. The variety is amazing, but so is the quality of the food. You really need to pace yourself or else you won’t get to try nearly as many dishes.

Here are just some of the ones we got on the day.


Chilled jellyfish and marinated chicken


Shu mai, prawn dumplings and chicken feet


Minced preserved egg and pork congee


Steamed shrimp rice roll


Deep fried pork ribs with garlic


Sauteed turnip cake with XO sauce


Sweet and sour pork with pineapple


Steamed loofah with garlic and steamed pork ribs with black bean sauce


Fried rice


Stir-fried vegies


Fried spring rolls with garoupa


Panna cotta, red bean soup, sago


Egg yolk custard bun

Comfortable setting, great service, wonderful variety and delicious food. Best overall dim sum joint in Taipei I’ve been to, and it’s not very close.



Chao Ping Ji (潮品集)

Website: (San Want Hotel, in Chinese only)


San Want Hotel store — Level 2&3, No. 172, Section 4, Zhongxiao East Road, Taipei (nearest MRT Zhongxiao Dunhua); (02) 2772 2687-9

Q-Square store — No. 17-1, Section 1, Chengde Road, Taipei (nearest MRT Taipei Main Station); (02) 2558 5128

Hours: 11:30-14:30 (lunch), 14:30-16:30 (afternoon tea), 17:30-21:30 (dinner)

Translating Subtitles and Screenwriting

August 21, 2013 in Best Of, On Writing


I broke my promise to post at least once a day the last few days because I took on an emergency freelance case translating subtitles for a Taiwanese film trying to make a film festival deadline. It was a brutal grind, a 110-minute film with around 14,000 Chinese characters to translate within basically a 24-hour deadline.

On some level, I quite enjoyed the experience. When you love movies as much as I do, translating film subtitles is actually quite the dream job, as long as the deadlines aren’t so tight. The pay isn’t great (as with most jobs in Taiwan), but if I could do a couple a month it would be fine and an acceptable supplement to the income. That said, I do realize that if this really happened I would probably get sick of it in a hurry.

The act of translating subtitles is an art in itself, and the choices that translators make are capable of dramatically impacting how the film is received by the audience.  It’s more than simply grabbing the script and doing a direct translation, as I thought it entailed in the beginning. It’s all about interpretation.

This, for example, is pretty good, in my humble opinion.

Context is crucial, so it’s important to actually watch the footage to see how the characters deliver the lines and how they interact with each other. Apart from being factually accurate, the getting the tone of the conversations right is also important, which is why word choice must be carefully considered.

On top of that, there is the length of the sentences. Some projects have a limited character length per line, but even if there isn’t, it’s always a good idea to keep the lines short and snappy, without losing their effectiveness. There is nothing worse than a line that is too long for audiences to read in time. We’re not all speed readers.

Further, there is the problem of local cultural references and word play, which elevate the difficulty to another level. Do you offer a brief explanation in parenthesis, as I have seen done before, or do you come up with a completely different line that is as close to the meaning as possible for the target audience of the language you are translating it to?

However you approach it, translating subtitles is a thought-provoking process that tests not only language but also problem-solving skills and creativity. In that sense, I’ve come to realize that translating subtitles bears parallels to the act of screenwriting itself. It’s essentially like editing a screenplay that has been written in another language. In fact, I am almost treating my translation projects as screenwriting exercises, which will put me in a good position if and when I start penning my own screenplays (soon, I hope).

The bigger question is, what will this screenplay (or these screenplays) be about? I have no idea, and that is the real problem. I envy writers who have the audacity to think big and have the ability to come up with original and complex plots with confidence. A lot of the Hollywood tripe that gets churned out these days instills optimism, but at least those writers are getting stuff done, unlike me.

The key, of course, is practice, and plenty of it. Don’t be afraid of what people will think and write under the assumption that no one else will see it. Write lots of bad screenplays and good ones will eventually start to emerge. On that note, I will conclude with this awesome video from Paul Haggis, who wrote/adapted Million Dollar Baby, Crash, Flags of Our Fathers, Letters From Iwo Jima, Casino Royale, and Quantum of Solace. His latest film (writer and director) is Third Person, a romantic drama starring James Franco, Mila Kunis, Olivia Wilde, Liam Neeson, Adrien Brody, Maria Bello, Kim Basinger and Casey Affleck. It has a release date of September 2013.

The Beijing Diaries, Day 8: In Awe of the Translators

November 17, 2012 in China, Travel

The young lady on the right

November 13

I’ve pretty much settled into a daily routine in Beijing, though it hasn’t been particularly fun with all the shrinkage and itchy skin caused the freezing weather (though locals tell me this is nothing compared to the ‘real winter’). There hasn’t been much except a lot of writing, a lot of researching and a lot of conferences and travelling. I’ve also attended a function or two for journalists, but it’s not exactly my idea of a good night out. I prefer to spend my free time resting or on Skype with my family.

My post today is about the translators at the 18th National Congress, who have continued to blow my mind every day thus far. All the sessions open to the press are of course in Chinese, but most of them have an English translator who does immediate translations all the way through without missing half a step.

I’ve done a little translation work myself so I know how hard it is, but these Chinese-English translators are like machines. Actually, I doubt there are machines that can do what they do. Even if I had the script and a dictionary in front of me with all the time in the world I doubt I could translate it as well as they do, and they do it on the spot and under pressure!

What is even more impressive is that most of these people look really young, but they are all so poised. The party official can ramble on for a couple of minutes before they get a chance to translate, and yet they don’t even break a sweat. They just listen intently, jot down a few notes (I assume in shorthand), and provide seamless translations whenever they need to.

I know what you’re thinking — perhaps they had the official’s script in advance and had already translated it. Yes, I have no doubt that is the case with the opening speeches, but that’s not possible during question time, when reporters ask multi-part questions and the officials give long, winding answers that can sometimes go for 10 minutes or more (all up). Yet, there are no long pauses, no stutters, no “ums” and no mistakes. None. Not a single word out of place.

How is it possible that so many of these young people can get so good at both languages? What is amazing to me is that most of them don’t sound very fluent in English because of their pronunciation and accents, and yet their vocabulary, comprehension and ability to articulate sentences are better than most native speakers. Are they, like those Chinese gymnasts, forced into training from infancy? Have they been told that their entire family will “disappear” if they make a mistake? Are they secret Chinese government experiments?

I don’t know how they do it, but I am in awe.

PS: Also kudos to all the foreign journalists who ask questions in Chinese. Takes a lot of skill and guts.

Actors shortlisted for Jeremy Lin biopic

February 16, 2012 in Basketball, Best Of, NBA, Sport

Jeremy Lin is rumored to be the subject of several upcoming films

[Updated to include latest info on Landry Fields and Lin’s love interest]

Avid New York Knicks fan and filmmaker Spike Lee has announced a shortlist of actors to play Jeremy Lin in his upcoming sports biopic based on the life of the Asian-American superstar who has taken the basketball world by storm.

The film, which currently has a slew of working titles including  Linsanity, Lincredible: The Jeremy Lin Story, Lin Got Game, Linception, Linderella Man, Linvincible, The First NBA Player of Chinese or Taiwanese Descent, and Linning! (though Charlie Sheen has threatened to sue if this title is used), will be written by Academy Award winning scriptwriter Aaron Sorkin (selected for his familiarity with Harvard after The Social Network) and is set to begin casting next month.

Spike Lee wants his Jeremy Lin biopic to be "as authentic as possible".

Even though it is a sports film, Lee has emphasized the importance of selecting a Jeremy Lin with an acting background who can convey the emotions of the humble, deeply religious 23-year-old from Palo Alto.

The shortlisted actors (in no particular order) and Lee’s comments on each of them are set out below:

  • John Cho (Harold & Kumar) — “He is the early favorite because he is a lanky Asian and he oozes a wholesomeness which reminds me of Jeremy. John is also goofy and funny, which Jeremy apparently is as well.  Needless to say, Kal Penn (Kumar) will of course play (Lin’s teammate and buddy) Landry Fields.  He’ll have to leave his post at the White House again, and maybe Obama will want to join him.  I hear the president can ball!”
  • Daniel Dae Kim (Lost) — “I always liked the Korean guy from Lost, but I was skeptical because I thought he couldn’t speak English. After watching the new Hawaii Five-O, I realized I was wrong, so he’s on the shortlist. Yeah he’s a bit old but non-Asians can never tell how old Asians really are, so I’m not too concerned.  Sayid (Naveen Andrews) from Lost will play Landry if we choose DDK.”
  • Jimmy Tsai (Ping Pong Playa) — “Jimmy is a relative unknown, but he showed that he knew a little about hoops and Asian culture in writing the hilarious Ping Pong Playa, so I would say he is the dark horse.  As for Landry, it’ll probably be one of Jimmy’s black friends from Playa, maybe the one that speaks Asian.”
  • Chris Pang (Tomorrow, When the War Began) — “Those Aussie actors are taking Hollywood by storm, so you never know, Chris could be the next Russell Crowe. He was crap in Tomorrow, When the War Began, but I think all he needs is a chance to show what he’s capable of, just like Jeremy.  The guy who plays the Greek guy (Deniz Akdeniz) in Tomorrow will have to do as Landry.”
  • Chi Cao (Mao’s Last Dancer) — “Cao already played one iconic Asian as Li Cunxin in Mao’s Last Dancer, so why not play another one? Ballet dancing and basketball are deceptively similar. Oh, and I think he can speak Chinese really good, which none of the others can. Unfortunately no black people in Last Dancer so it’s gonna be hard finding a Landry for him.”
  • Robert Downey Jr (The Avengers) — “Robert’s one of the most versatile actors on the planet and after watching Tropic Thunder I’m sure he can pull this off.  He’ll have plenty of Landries to choose from, such as Jude Law (Sherlock Holmes) or Zach Galifinakis (Due Date).  My preference is Terrence Howard (Iron Man) but if we ever make a sequel I might replace him with Don Cheadle (Iron Man 2).  Heck, RDJ is so damn talented he’ll probably play both roles.”

The shortlist of actors will be reduced to three finalists by the end of the week, says Lee. The finalists not selected will have a chance to play Jeremy Lin’s brothers, Josh and Joseph.

Noah Ringer, the kid actor from M Night Shyamalan’s masterpiece, The Last Airbender, will play the young Jeremy Lin.  “He fooled audiences once; he can do it again,” says Lee.

Actors rumored to play Lin’s inspirational father, Gie-Ming Lin, include Jackie Chan (Rush Hour), Jet Li (Kiss of the Dragon), Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai), Chow Yun Fat (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and Ken Leung (The Hangover). Every actress from The Joy Luck Club is said to be vying for the opportunity to play Lin’s mother, Shirley.

Two of the Wayans brothers are said to be in talks to play Lin’s Knicks superstar teammates, Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, while George Clooney is allegedly the favorite to play Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni.

Jesse Eisenberg will reprise his role as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg from The Social Network as Lin’s college buddy.

Lee will of course play himself, and Dallas Mavericks bench player and Chinese national Yi Jianlian is also rumored to make a cameo as Yao Ming, whom Lin apparently speaks to after every game for some reason.

Given the importance of Lin’s religious beliefs, God will of course play a major role in the film. The favorite to land the role should be Morgan Freeman, says Lee, though he is leaning towards Celtics sharpshooter Ray Allen, who has already played Jesus once in Lee’s earlier basketball film, He Got Game.

No Hollywood fairytale movie would be complete without a love interest, and while Lee has many fine actresses of Asian descent to choose from, he intends to stay true to the real Jeremy Lin, who is single.  “Look, I don’t want no bitches messing up Linsanity’s mojo, in my movie or in real life,” says Lee.  “But I know how love interests drive movies so I’m going to compromise and revive Wilson from Castaway, and get our make-up and CGI guys to reincarnate him into a basketball called Spalding (the official basketball of the NBA).”

One of the perceived obstacles to the film is that Jeremy Lin is 6’3″ (191cm) and there are no Asian actors in the world that tall. However, Lee is not perturbed. “Hey, Andy Dufresne from Shawshank was supposed to be a shorty and they got freaking Tim Robbins to play him,” Lee says. “And didn’t they just choose Tom Cruise to play Jack Reacher from those Lee Child books? Come on.

“If the chosen actor is shorter than 5’9” (175cm), I will speak to Peter Jackson and employ the techniques he used in The Lord of the Rings on the dwarves and hobbits to make everyone else around Jeremy shorter. If the actor is more than 5’9″ (175cm) I will consult Tom Cruise to see how he manages to look as tall as his co-stars in all his movies.”

Shooting is expected to begin after the NBA Finals.

Finest HK Cuisine: Lung King Heen

July 22, 2010 in Best Of, Food, Hong Kong, Travel

The view from Lung King Heen

As of 2010, there are only two restaurants in Hong Kong that have been awarded 3 Michelin Stars.  One of them is Lung King Heen, a superb Chinese restaurant in the Four Seasons Hotel (the other one is also there, and I’ll get to that in a later post).

Initially, I wasn’t all that enthusiastic about going there.  I’ve been to plenty of Chinese restaurants.  How good can they possibly get?

(to find out (including pics), click on ‘more…’)

Read the rest of this entry →