Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What We Eat, Part II

It's been a few weeks since I've given any real consideration to writing. After all, the last thing I want to do after a nice long day of breaking English into tiny words, sentences, and grammar labels is write something original of my own. It would be much simpler [is] blogger came with a [est] of questions and answers, much like the classes I teach.
*as you can tell by my excellent grammar and spelling, I'm really digging writing at the moment. We can play a game and you can correct me.

Therefore, back to food we go! In a country of cheap deliciousness, there's nothing I like to gloat about more than what I eat, what I make, and how obscenely cheap it was. And it was cheap.

Let's discuss something I love to eat: the lunch box. A lot of people find the lunch box bland or boring. I say, if you eat a boring or bland lunch box, get over it and move on, because you're bound to find an amazing one within a block of the last joint. The lunch box is generally a flat-ish to-go box divided into one large section and 3 smaller containers, generally reserved for your veggies. (Or if you're really awesome, you'll use them to divide up your different meats, because often you can choose tofu, tiny fish, and eggs as your "vegetables."

You can find lunch boxes practically everywhere. They are the "fast food" of Taiwan, although truthfully, you can find McDonalds and KFC pretty frequently as well. And nearly every restaurant will sell one to you. Damn smart, I think, because it practically ensures you eat a balanced meal. (Unless, again, you think tofu and eggs are vegetables. Which they aren't. But they are delicious. Have I mentioned I haven't met a Taiwanese egg I haven't liked? It's true. It doesn't matter how it's cooked. Eggs here are magical.)
*However, James reminded me that yes, I did find an egg I didn't like. It was 1,000 years old. Sort of. It was a hard boiled egg buried in hay for like a month and then peeled and cooked inside some ridiculously disgusting black jelly. Almost gag reflexed that one right onto the market table.
**Whoops, just informed that the black jelly was actually the egg white, way too far gone. Check this out: whytheheckwouldyouruinaperfectlygoodeggbydoingthistoit?

One night in Danshui, we found ourselves starving. Needless to say, Caitlin was not the happiest bird on the street. Thank goodness two doors down from where we parked our scooter was a family restaurant. What you see is a fish...a whole fish...a possibly once happy fish...of which I ate...the whole thing (save the very middle spine) and other deliciousness - the strips of yellowish stuff you might not recognize is bamboo (I love bamboo here just like I love eggs). Price: 75 NT. Less than $2.50.

Hot pot coals about to be covered by duck filled pot of goodness.
Just as common as the lunch box is the hot pot. Huo guo, if you pardon my excellent Chinese. Wo xi huan wode huo guo hen la. Heck, I could sit here all day pretending to know Mandarin (What I just tried to say using my 50 word vocabulary was "I like my hot pot very spicy.), but then you'd never find out what food I'm talking about.

Duck heart: chewy. Duck liver: bomb.
Eating hot pot in Taiwan is like eating burgers at home. Or burritos, if you're from California. Or sandwiches. You go a restaurant, pay either a set price or all you can eat price, and cook your food in a pot of boiling, flavored water in the middle of your table. There are a billion variations, and most of them end with hot, spicy, oily water flying onto your shirt. Nevertheless, this is duck hot pot.

We went out to dinner with an obscenely large group and found "famous" duck hot pot. Long line. Like, 45 minutes, which is oodles here. Finally you sit down at tiny stools and a low to the ground table. Your pot has a whole duck in it. You buy the things you want to add: mushrooms, meatballs, cabbage, hearts, livers, pigs blood and rice (oh yes, we did) - and cook it. Slowly. And drink some beer. And eat some more. The broth was gingery oily goodness. If only I knew how they did it, I would make my own.

Look who's making yeast rise in Asia...

Speaking of which, even though it's still equally cheap to eat out then eat in, I'm still finding time to challenge myself with the oddness of ingredients available over here. One of my greatest acheivements has been Sunday pizza. I found a terrific pizza base recipe on one of my favorite food blogs, and have since taken to whipping up a simple batch in our fabulous toaster oven every week. Toppings? Tomato sauce, of course, but the first few weeks we had sardines and lime, instead of anchovies, because there weren't any. Since then, it's anchovies, olives, capers and cheese...and a good ol' margherita. Chomping on pizza in TaoYuan. Come visit and I'll make you some! (PS. Bring some pepperoni.)

But it doesn't stop there. Bi-weekly burritos have also hit the menu. Our head teacher found us some amazing, taqueria-style tortillas (not a corn one in sight yet, but my hopes are high), and I've managed to find pinto beans, guac fixings, etc., to make a meal of amazingness. You'll have to take my word for it. I'm pretty sure I'm crafting some of the most authentic things this side of the Pacific.

Bienvenidos de Taiwan!

Oh yeah, about that teaching thing. Pretty sure I'm going into the out-of-home restaurant biz as soon as my contract is up. Winky winky face.