Red, yellow, green

July 31, 2010 § 26 Comments

Unbearable…that’s how to describe Taiwan summers. It averages at least 90 degrees F here, which may seem ok, but take in mind that the humidity here is like 250%. I’m not even half exaggerating. The minute you walk out the door, you start to sweat like you just came out from under the Niagara Falls. Forget about taking a shower after your workout, because the sweating never stops!

Besides the unbearable humidity + heat here, my second day has been fab. I zonked out last night at about 9pm and woke up at about 5:50 am this morning. Woohoo almost 9 hours of sleep! And I’ve already completely overcome the time difference as I did not wake up even for one second during the night.

Anyone care for breakfast? How about some really fat finger bananas?

I taste like banana but have a slightly tart taste. I am also firmer than your regular bananas, but tremendously yummy!

I have a confession to make: I like finger bananas more than I like plain bananas. There, I said it.

I sliced half of this into a bowl with some kiwi and topped the fruits with some plain yogurt and honey on top.

One of the things that always catch me by surprise whenever I come back is how small everything here is compared to those in the states. Check out the size of this bowl! It’s literally palm-size. This would be considered a kids bowl in U.S. standards. No wonder people here are skinny.

On the side I had a slice of this bread that I got yesterday: whole grain with walnuts, dried figs, and brushed with honey on top. It’s one of my fav breads from one of my fav bakery! I always get this whenever I come back home.

Hey look! It’s a snail on my plate!

I also got the chance to hit up the gym this morning. Although it was only 25 min of running on the treadmill, I’m not joking when I say that every pore on my body was streaming out sweat. Okay that sounded quite gross but it was the only way I could think of to describe my condition as! I don’t sweat alot, but only in Taiwan do I sweat like this.

After that almost unbearable sweating session, my family and I went out for something totally bearable. We joined my grandparents for lunch at my favorite vegetarian restaurant here!

Beware! The sister makes her appearance on Om Sweet Om!

For starter, we had this “Energizing Juice“, a house specialty that blends various veggies, fruits, nuts, honey, and fruit vinegar into this yummy drink.

My main dish was a soup pot with a tomato-based soup, tons of veggies, mushroom, chestnuts, cashews, and Japanese sweet black beans. The soup pot came with 8 treasure rice, or, simply put, rice with 8 types of grains. This rice is really, really good! It has a slightly nutty flavor because of all the grains, and very chewy!

We also got a dish of stir-fry cabbage that was soooo sweet, soooo crisp, and just soooo yummy overall! The cabbage was cooked with mushrooms and goji berries. Two thumbs up!

The restaurant had a variety of soup pots to offer, and my sister got one of our favorite ones: Rosemary-infused veggie pot.

Remember the silver fungus I was talking about yesterday? Well, whaddya know, it has a cousin–the black tree ear fungus (aka cloud ear fungus)!

Similarly crunchy, chewy, and yummy!

My dad got the Cream of Veggies pot.

And my grandpa got the pumpkin fried rice.

And now, the most important part of a meal: dessert! I sound like a hypocrite saying that, because I didn’t have any! I was stuffed to the max by the time dessert came around. I think the heat really screws up your appetite.

Nevertheless…

Cold, sweet, thick mung bean and barley soup.

The afternoon was spent chilling and reading in a well air-conditioned (too cold!) Starbucks with my mom, and some cellphone browsing. iPhone or HTC? Well, I use a Macbook, so I think I should stick with the iPhone. 3Gs or 4? Well, I’ve heard enough flaws about the iPhone 4 that I decide to stick with the 3Gs. Hmm..that pretty much narrow down my choices to…one. If (or should I say when?) I am getting an iPhone, I’ll have to wait till I return to Cali since it’s alot cheaper in the U.S.

Before I knew it, it was time for dinner. My stomach agreed. Seriously, where did the afternoon go?

From top (clockwise): steamed cabbage, cold bamboo shoots, braised bamboo shoots/sea kelp/dried bean curd, and a Chinese veggie that has no corresponding English name. I ate this with leftover rice from lunch.

If you’re curious, bamboo shoots before peeling, steaming, and chopping into bite-sized pieces look like this:

To eat, these shoots are usually steamed first and peeled when cool. Afterwards they can either be cooked in soup or eaten cold dipped in some mayonnaise. We ate them cold tonight, but I went sans mayo since I’ve never been a big fan of mayonnaise.

I’m really sorry if I can’t give more accurate names or descriptions of certain vegetables that we eat here, because alot cannot be find in the States. Case-in-point:

On the top left is a type of Chinese vegetable that is usually stir-fried with some garlic. In raw form, you can see hints of red/purple in the leaves. When cooked, it leaves a residue of purple juice.

Protein of the night? A hot-spring egg that I got from 7-eleven today.

You must be thinking: What? At 7-eleven?! Yes indeed. I love 7-eleven in Taiwan because they offer a variety of health(ier) breakfast/lunch/dinner/snack food instead of your usual hot dogs, slurpees, and hot pockets. While they do sell those items at the 7-elevens here, there are actually more of prepackaged salads, fruit cups, yogurt, microwavable meals (okay, maybe not so healthy), fresh sandwiches, and rice balls wrapped in seaweed with either some sort of meat/seasoning/veggies.

What’s with the “hot springs”, you ask. It’s actually a Japanese-style of cooking eggs. These eggs are slowly cooked in hot water in hot springs (well, it doesn’t have to be cooked in a hot spring) of about 160 degrees F until the eggwhites are cooked and soft but the yolk is still runny. Kind of like your soft-boiled egg.  This one was probably cooked in soy sauce since it was well-seasoned.

Let’s talk about dessert…again. I did eat them this time.

My mom bought these cute little marshmallows as we were leaving Starbucks because she had an afternoon munchie attack. I ate them despite knowing that these contained gelatin. Here is where I am bending the rules of my vegetarianism.

Did I feel bad? Maybe a little. Was it good? Heck yes! They were soft and fluffy, maybe a tad sweet, but acceptable if you eat one or two at a time.

This is the type of situation where I let loose of my vegetarian lifestyle. Gelatin is derived from the collagen from inside animals’ skin and bones, and thus, not strictly speaking a vegetarian-friendly food. But over the past couple of years of my vegetarianism, I’ve come to accept the fact that I can’t always eat a clean, vegetarian diet all the time. There are gelatin hiding everywhere–in yogurts, candies, pudding, jello, marshmallows, desserts. Unless you have an encyclopedia of ingredient lists of all the food you’re eating with you all the time, it’s really hard to distinguish what has gelatin and what doesn’t when you’re eating out. This is exactly like what Katie was talking about, that sometimes veganism, or vegetarianism, aren’t black or white.

Marshmallows, as well as other food that may or may not contain gelatin (puddings, jello, gummy worms), are what I’ll term yellow light food. You know how when you see the light turning yellow, you’re not sure whether to step on the gas or hit the brakes? That’s what I’m referring to. There’s the obvious green light food for vegetarians (veggies, beans, tofu, milk, eggs) and the red light food (meat, duh).

Street scene on the streets of Taipei

But what about yellow? Should you go for it or stop yourself? Most of the time I stop (the same goes with my driving….REALLY!), but I can’t say that I’m completely clean.

So, dear readers, I leave you today with a question to ponder (before my laptop completely crashes from all the pictures overload): Are food items containing gelatin completely out of the bounds for vegetarians? Is an individual still considered a vegetarian if he/she knowingly consume food with gelatin?

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§ 26 Responses to Red, yellow, green

  • Megan says:

    I’ve never even heard of finger bananas… but I do LOVE kiwi! That “energizing juice” looks good too!

  • That is a tricky question. I can’t say there is a clear answer to it either. For me, I would say no since the animal has to be killed to get the gelatin, but for many that would not be the case. I think eating what you are comfortable with is up to each person. Ok, the pumpkin fried rice…hello deliciousness! And I have never seen a whole bamboo shoot before. That is pretty cool! I hope you have a great day!

  • Wei-Wei says:

    I don’t like rigidly defining my diet, or actually any of my behaviours. There are always exceptions and just the few occurrences, but I go with what I feel like most of the time. I’m trying intuitive eating with a healthy twist. ;)

    Wei-Wei

  • Monet says:

    I have heard about finger bananas from my friend in Japan, and she loves them more than regular bananas too! My goodness, all the food you posted looks so delicious and healthy. Isn’t it amazing the differences between American food culture and other parts of the world? I loved seeing those tiny bowls and plates…if only we could learn to be more mindful when we eat in the States. And that vegetarian restaurant…everything looked so good!

  • Why is it that all other cultures seem to be SO much healthier than North America? It was funny reading about the small dish sizes, the 7-11’s, and restaurant food, and comparing it to what we have here. I think we need to start taking a hint from other cultures. :P

    Hmm, that’s an interesting question. I guess it just depends on the individual and their definition of “vegetarian”. I think there’s already some wiggle room with the term because I know some vegetarians who don’t eat ANY animal meat, whereas some people still eat seafood and consider themselves vegetarians.

  • kaztronomic says:

    Wow, I’m charmed by those tiny dishes! :D I covet! I love delicate dishes like that.

    That feast looks amazing. I love good food, and that definitely looks like wonderful food!

    Eh, I’m ‘meh’ about gelatin. I don’t eat meat for a number of reasons, including environmental and ethical ones, but mostly because I don’t *like* to eat meat. When it’s gelatin, it doesn’t look, smell, or taste like meat, so it doesn’t bother me as much. I don’t make a habit of eating it in excess, but I’m not going to resist a hot, gooey roasted marshmallow at a bonfire, you know?

    And, here’s my awful reply: the animal is dead anyway. It was chopped up and sorted into burgers, steaks, leather. I’d rather the bones and connective tissues actually be used, rather than go to waste. I know. I sound awful for saying that, don’t I? =P I feel more like a scavenger than a carnivore when I eat gelatin, since it’s just a by-product of meat production. (Okay, now I just feel dirty and gross. Hah.)

  • Love your snail bread! Too cute. And I have no idea what finger bananas are, but they look cute as well :) Oh, and the tiny dishes thing? Totally hear you on that one. Even when I was in Europe last summer, it took me a while to get used to how small everything was. Plates, bowls, packages… nothing super sized over there, that’s for sure. I’m a big fan of tiny things, though, so I was right at home :)

    As for the whole vegetarian and gelatin thing, I don’t really think it’s a problem… one can go a little too far, and become a little too obsessive, if you know what I mean. I used to be vegan and SO strict about my diet, and it was miserable. I was obsessed and afraid to eat anything that wasn’t a vegetable or fruit… Eventually, I quit veganism and now I simply avoid eating meat for the time being. I hate labels like “vegan”, “vegetarian”, “pescetarian”, etc… we shouldn’t be defined by what we eat. It’s great to have the interests of animals and the environment in mind, but some people just take it too far.

  • oh. my. word. that bread? yeah, it looks amazing, and i think you should buy the whole store, freeze them, and ship them to me. yeah, that sounds good! haha. looks amazing, and the finger bananas sound so interesting!
    good question re: gelatin, and the comparison to yellow light, red light, etc. it’s hard for me to really put myself in the position to answer since i don’t really consider myself a vegetarian (…even though i can’t remember the last time i had meat, lol) but i wouldn’t consider someone who DID have gelatin from time to time as breaking the rules, you know? I think it’s up to the person and situation. Are they veg for health or moral reasons? Are there other options? Is it something you really want? That sort of thing.

  • April says:

    I think it is up to each individual person to define what vegetarianism means for them. I don’t think any one should have to feel forced into adhering to a strict definition of anything, you know?

    I am loving these updates about Taiwana! It’s amazing to see how different things are there than they are here in the US. Especially the bowl size! That blew my mind

  • Oh, my … humidity and I do NOT get along. I will be sure to stay away from Taiwan in summer. ;)

    As for the gelatin… is it a cop out for me to say that it doesn’t really matter, since labels aren’t (or shouldn’t be!) important??
    <3 <3

  • Run Sarah says:

    I try to avoid gelatin but I know it’s in some products I don’t know about. All of your eats look SO good…especially the various meals from the vegetarian restaurant. It all looks so fresh!

  • The dishes look really tasty!

    When gelatin comes from an animal is not vegetarian. But there are vegan alternatives, and most of the companies now use them because they are cheaper. So maybe you didn’t brake your rules :)

  • mysweetseason says:

    Glad you’re having fun in Taiwan! It is soooo much hotter in Asia than it is over in the States. I miss Cali weather!

  • I remember the horrible heat and humidity in Taiwan!!! But my relatives made me drink hot tea to cool off which made me really confused at the time. Are there still lychee slurpees at the 7-11?

    • i know some teas are made of herbs/leaves that have “cooling” effects,…i guess that’s what the tea was for? hmm..in all honesty, i don’t get slurpees here (nor in the States), so i really don’t know what flavors they have.

  • teenagehealthfreak says:

    okay first off..why didn’t you take me with you?? ha! kidding..but it looks soooo awesome there!! the quality of the food you get at resturants…all natural, healthy, awesome, exotic VEGGIES and GRAINS. it’s heaven. i hope your enjoying yourself!!!! thanks for your comment! :)

  • omg theres a figgy popping through the bread! damn that looks so TAASTY!!!!

    i hat ethe humidity! urgh it hasent been hot here temperature wise but the humidex has been so high it feels like the earth is boiling and it always drains me and leaves me feeling like shit lol.

    xoxo<3

  • jqlee says:

    Oh man, so much good food!! That’s a tricky question. I think you can eat it if you want to, being a “vegetarian” doesn’t mean you have to follow rules. You eat what you feel you should.

  • Dmitri says:

    Wow, the food looks good. I think Florida is comparable to TW in terms of humidity, though ;::).

  • Tina says:

    I go for the yellow light foods if I am truly hungry and really want it. I won’t eat it just because its there and looks decent. I never believe in depriving myself.

    That looks like such a great vegetarian restaurant. All your food pictures are wonderful too.

  • It’s so cool to read your posts and know that I’ll be experiencing some of this stuff soon! There’s a 7-11 next to our “Just Sleep” hotel, but I didn’t get a chance to go in. Now I’m excited!

    I’m jealous of your ability go recover from jet lag but know you’re used to it ;) I passed out at 8 pm but woke up again at 3 am and couldn’t go back to sleep! Hopefully night 2 will be better.

    And yeah, even my 2 years of Florida didn’t prepare me for this humidity!

  • Michal says:

    Oh my gosh everything looks delicious! You are so lucky that you are enjoying Taiwan. And you are right, being vegan (or vegetarian!) isnt black and white. There are tons of gray areas and honestly its all about what YOU think. Personally im not too concerned with honey. I enjoy chai lattes, but i wont go out and buy a whole jar of honey. Eh… thats just me :) to each her own!

  • Ameya says:

    Hi Elaine!
    Thanks so much for stopping by my blog! Im so glad you liked it! You have an awesome blog as well. I am also a vegetarian, and I do practice a little yoga(Im trying to up it). I will definitely follow your blog :)

  • [...] I told you yet how much I love 7-eleven’s here in Taiwan? Yes! This is another one of my fabulous finds [...]

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