Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Food, glorious food!

I love to talk about how delicious the food is here in Taiwan, which has lead some of my friends to (gently) demand, "Well, then, show us some pictures of what you eat!" OK, here they are. Click on the photos to see larger versions.

Of course, the best food is made at home. Here, Zenny and Marc have prepared a breakfast for us of congee (rice porridge) with various toppings, and pan-fried daikon. Unfortunately, I didn't get many photos of the food that Zenny and Marc prepared while I was staying with them.

If you watched my first apartment tour video, you saw the pathetic contents of my refrigerator. I'm happy to report that the situation has improved somewhat, as you see. I lived in my apartment for a week before I got the fridge, which necessitated eating out quite a bit. Since the fridge arrived, I've been trying to eat at home as much as possible. I still don't have a cooktop, but I've been managing with a steamer, coffee maker, and small toaster oven.

Many times I'll make some rice, and steam some frozen pork dumplings or meat-filled buns that I have in the freezer. Other times, like tonight, while the rice is steaming, I'll go to a local food stand and pick up something to go on top. While I write this, I'm eating what you see here: Tofu, fried squid, and flash-fried green beans & basil, over a bed of rice.

Saturday Marc and I went to Danshui, a seaport town north of Taipei City. There we had a local favorite, A-Gei (阿給 ah1 gei3)--transparent noodles stuffed into a tofu pocket, sealed with fish paste, and served with a spicy sauce. In the photo they've rendered it "arcade" in English. We also had the other items you see on the menu, fish ball soup (魚丸湯 yu2 wan2 tang1) and "tubular" rice cake (筒仔米糕 tong3 zi3 mi3 gao1).

For breakfast I'll usually have coffee (some habits never die) and some fruit and/or a steamed bun. Now that I have a toaster oven, I just bought some honest-to-goodness bagels in Taipei (and some cream cheese, of course). For the price of those bagels, they must have flown them in by First Class. I also occassionally visit a bakery down the street where I pick up items like this ham-cheese-onion stuffed pastry.

That's not to say that I don't junk it up. I always keep ice cream in the freezer. And, as of this writing, I've eaten at McDonald's twice. But even then, the menu items here are slightly different, so that you don't feel quite as bad eating corporate fast food. For example, this wrap from KFC has, in addition to the fried chicken, shredded cabbage and seaweed, giving it a Japanese twist.

You've probably noticed that a lot of the food here is deep fried. This is true, and to counteract that, I try to vary my meals with soups, other ethnic dishes, and those mouthwatering Taiwanese fruits. For lunch on this day, I paired the fried chicken wings and sweet potato with bubble tea and my favorite fruit, 蓮霧 (lian2 wu4).

The variety of ethnic groups living and visiting here, along with the Taiwanese desire to be more cosmopolitan, means that the choice of food seems endless. I've been here 6 weeks and already I've eaten Taiwanese, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Korean, Vietnamese, Italian, Indian, and, yes, American food. German, French, Mexican, Indonesian, and many others still await. Also exciting for a food fanatic like me are the unusual varieties not found in the U.S. Just the other day I found, not one, but many brands of starfruit juice for sale at the local market. And why they don't offer pomelo-flavored Sprite in the US is a mystery to me.


Emmanuel said...

wow you seem to be having a great time, keep em coming steve, and if i may ask a question do they speak a lot of english in the few places you have been?

michael_karo said...

i just bought a starfruit tonight! smal world :)

Steve4nLanguage said...

Hi Emmanuel: I haven't experienced a lot of English here. Some places might have an employee who speaks a bit, but even then I must use a combination of English, the little bit of Chinese that I know, and a lot of pantomime.

I thought that Western places like McDonald's and KFC would be totally bilingual, but, surprisingly, they're not.

Steve4nLanguage said...

Hi Michael: The last time I bought a starfruit at Safeway, I had to pay through the nose for it. Hope you didn't have to sell a kidney for it!