Question: What do you eat in Taiwan?
Answer: Anything I frickin' want.
It is ridiculously easy to eat three-ten square meals a day in Taiwan, not only because all townships like TaoYuan have a person/restaurant ratio rivaled only by New York City, but because it costs peanuts to eat deliciously, to eat well, and to eat diversely.
Those who know me are familiar with my obsession with cooking. The best part about being here is I can not only indulge my kitchen love, but also give myself a bit of a rest and let someone else do the cooking (and the dishes) for a change. This is especially handy on most work days, when jumping around for 8-10 hours doesn't leave me with the desire to run home and whip up something creative.
Let's turn to the photos for evidence:
Breakfast of Champion (Teachers)
*at least it prevents a hunger meltdown*
|OK, so we're spoiled breakfast eaters.|
Breakfast is a long, drawn out affair involving several types of cereal, bananas, a supplementary fruit - in this case, a mango - whole wheat toast (or half wheat, I speculate, because it looks less than grainy), almonds, and a glass of iced oolong tea. Iced tea for breakfast? Are you nuts? No, I'm just sweating like a pig at 8:00 in the morning, thank you very much.
Rou Fan - Something I Can Order In Chinese
The ubiquitous "肉飯" - meat rice (this particular one is lu rou fan, with stewed pork meat) and a bowl of "it" over white rice costs a whopping 75 cents. Note the red coloring - this is hot sauce - a necessary component of the dish. I could eat this all day, except that I'm probably missing some other key nutrients. This particular one comes from what we like to call "The Ladies," an eatery around the corner run by two ladies who cook, well, homestyle Taiwanese food. You can also get various pig parts fried up, if it so tickles your fancy.
|Are you sure you're in Asia, Caitlin?|
Sunday Brunch: who knew? We found pancake mix at Carrefour, (with directions completely in Chinese, so I added bananas and winged it. Wung it? Wang it?) bacon, eggs, and an odd Asian fruit called a wax apple. It looks like a red pear covered in crayon wax and tastes like lightly flavored Chapstick. Great thing about the eggs: You can buy eggs in the supermarket, which is lame-o, or your can buy eggs from any of your neighborhood egg vendors, who sell eggs individually out of big crates and give them to you to carry home in plastic bags. The eggs are enormous and still have chicken fuzz attached to them. How cool is that?
Moon cakes: It's a Moon Festival thing, really, but you can eat them pretty much whenever you want. And for me, since I only understand like two words when I ask "What's in it?", it's always a surprise! This particular moon cake was purchased because I heard the word "meat," and I assumed it was pork because...it's Asia. But to my dining confusion, it was peppered beef, inside a flaky crust, inside a smooshed sweet red been paste. I had another moon cake the other night I could have sworn had a fish inside of it. One of my kids set me straight. It was an egg. Surprise.
Sometimes I cook dinner, too. In this case, I made a dish I decided to call "Bruschetta Pasta," due to the fact that it a basil, tomato, almond, and garlic mash up. I'm still making pasta sauce in the wok most of the time. I don't know if I'll ever go back.
A word on tomatoes: they are expensive. The Taiwanese only really use them in a dish we simply call "Tomato eggs," which are tomatoes with scrambled eggs. I'd like to think I could make a killing selling pasta sauces, being as I'm the only one making them.
|Skewers of glory. Flavored with cumin and chili, of course, because I just can't help it.|
|Our Taiwanese barbecue buddies letting me take a turn at the corn.|
On Moon Festival (or as my sometimes lazy students like to spell it, Moom Festival,) you barbecue. On Moon Festival, we barbecued, with some random people who invited us to share their grill. It turns out, everyone loves these tiny grills. Americans would shit themselves to see entire neighborhoods sitting in the street, on the ground, next to a barbecue the size of a microwave dinner tray. The trick is, the food takes so long to cook that you end up eating for hours. We sat down at 6:00 and had to rudely excuse ourselves at 9:00, for the sake of getting some rest for work. And all anyone eats is meat. Thin meat, fat meat, tofu that looks like meat, prawns, more meat, meat on a stick, etc. And corn. I like that.
Lastly, ye olde teppanyaki, a dining trend that I know East Bay residents would go nuts for. If only they knew how awesome it was to sit down at a grill and be instantly cooked for by men in bell hop uniforms. Our typical order (from left to right): spicy bean sprouts (they're on the house), scrambled eggs, spicy lamb and onions, and spicy veggies (last night, cabbage). Spicier than Hell, more delicious than your average meal, always hot (because it sits on the hot grill the whole time you're eating), and dinner for two, with a beer, costs under $8 USD. They're also open until 4AM, making them perfect "I just had a freaking long day and don't want to go anywhere how about teppanyaki because I'm starving and it's delicious" food.
The cooks know us.
This is only one installment of many.