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?

The Frog in the Shallow Well

July 21, 2010 § 17 Comments

Once upon a time there was a Frog who lived in a shallow well. The shallow well is the only place he has ever come into contact with, as well as a puddle of murky waters. Whenever he looks up through the opening of the well above, he would exclaim excitedly: “Wow! The world is so big!” Little did the Frog know the real world that lies outside of his well.


One day, the Frog met a Turtle, who came from the East Sea, at the edge of his well. The Frog boasted of his perfect little biding: “I am so happy! When I go out, I can jump about along the edges of the well. When I come home, I can rest in the holes inside the well. I have the water which comes up to my armpits, and the mud to play with. When I look at the small worms, crabs, and tadpoles, I realize none of them can compare to me. I am the lord of this well, and I am very, very pleased!”

The Frog then said to the Turtle:”Dear sir, why don’t you come visit me more often to look around my place?”

The Turtle shook his head, “Even a distance of a thousand miles cannot give you an idea of the sea’s width; even a height of a thousand meters cannot give you an idea of its depth. In the time of the great floods, the waters in the sea did not increase. During the terrible droughts, the waters in the sea did not decrease. The sea does not change along with the passage of time and its level does not rise or fall according to the amount of rain that falls. The greatest happiness is to live in the Sea.”

After hearing the story, the Frog of the Shallow Well was shocked and became suddenly aware of his insignificance.

[A Chinese Fable. Source: http://allaboutfrogs.org/stories/well.html%5D

This is a story that we all learn as children of Chinese heritage. It teaches us to not be arrogant, to be open-minded, and be aware that there are so many other things in the world around us besides just our own selves.


Case # 1: The Battle of the Risotto
Yesterday Dmitri and I a serious conversation about risottos. He claims that all risottos have ground beef in them. Uhhh…are you kidding me? Most risotto recipes I see do not even have meat in them! He wouldn’t believe me. He told me that they made risotto in a class in middle school once, and that had ground beef in it. He loved it so much that he took the recipe to his mom, and his mom now makes it very often. He grew up believing all risottos are made with ground beef.

Well, obviously I know more about food than he does. I told him that the definition of risotto is arborio rice cooked in broth, sometimes with milk or cream, and flavored with cheese. He still wouldn’t believe me, so I went onto Allrecipes.com and looked up the Top 20 Risotto Recipes. Only a handful of them had some sort of meat, and none with ground beef.

Ahh…victory is sweet :mrgreen:. I have officially opened his eyes to a bigger world of risotto.

Case # 2: Tribute to Oatmeal
Today Dmitri was making oatmeal, and said he hated it. I sort of flinched and my heart skipped a beat when I heard that. What?! How can someone hate oatmeal?!?!?! The glorious, versatile, oatmeal? He said it was dry and tasteless. Clearly, he hasn’t seen the power of oatmeal. I asked him what he cooked his oatmeal in, and whether he added anything. Water, and nothing. No wonder.

I took his bowl of cooked oats from him. I will perform magic to this oatmeal, I told him. No one, no one, can say that they hate oatmeal in front of me. I won’t let that happen.

A mere five minutes later, with a sprinkle of my pixie dust (maple syrup, microwaved chopped apple, cinnamon, milk, a dash of salt, flaxseed, a glob of nutella), I transformed his bowl of boring oats to something scrumptiolicious.

He couldn’t stop saying how good that oats were. Another sweet victory :cool:.


Case # 3: This blog & the blog community
Approximately 6 months ago, I discovered the foodie blog community. I have enjoyed baking as a hobby years already, but never have I really strayed from the recipes. I wasn’t daring or creative, and I pretty much followed every recipe to the tee. I would occasionally have some rather more creative breakfast ideas, but that was it.

This blog community has really opened my eyes to the world of foodies out there. Ever since starting to read these food blogs, I have learned so much more about food, and have become more daring when it comes to experimenting with food. Reading these blogs motivated to start my own as I discover my own cooking style and also as an outlet to my thoughts and my passion about yoga. I have met wonderful people through this community, everyone equally as inspiring, as creative, smart, beautiful as the other. I’ve never been much of a writer, but blogging almost every day really helped me discover my own writing style and voice. If I have not found this blog community, I wouldn’t have made these delicious meals.

Bagel with Sunflower Seed Butter, Greek Yogurt, Sliced Strawberries, protein brownie batter.

Sourdough Bread French Toast

Stuffed Pepper with Teriyaki Quinoa

Green Monster!

Omu Rice (Omelette with Ketchup Fried Rice)

But today, I didn’t play chef! The Kitchen God was the boyfriend today ;).

The inspiration:

With vegan chorizo, naturally. 😀

I’m not gonna lie, but I did play in the kitchen a little bit. Just to make some roasted cauliflowers! Boys need to learn that veggies are a must at every single meal. Well, breakfast doesn’t count.I even told him to add more peas than the measly 1/2 cup as written on the recipe. Seriously 1/2 cup? I’d rather have more peas than rice!

I hope I didn’t bore you all with my ramblings in this post. But I’ve been thinking lots and I just want to share! Besides, sharing is caring right? 🙂

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+ What is something you have recently discovered and opened your mind to?

Hey, that’s rice in my omelet!

June 21, 2010 § 19 Comments

Rice omelet is a very popular dish in Taiwan and in Japan (it actually originated from Japan). There are restaurants in both Taiwan and Japan that are solely dedicated to serve these so-called rice omelets. They also come in many different flavors.

You can have the simple, ketchup-fried rice wrapped in soft, fluffy cooked eggs.

Or you can jazz it up and put veggies, chicken, shrimps, etc in the fried rice.

It is also very popular to serve them with curry sauce instead of ketchup.

And of course, many come with tonkatzu, or fried pork cutlets on the side.

I swear, Japan makes the fluffiest, perfectly cooked eggs!

Tonight for dinner, I tried in vain to replicate these omelet babies. The fried rice part was easy enough, but the eggs? Not so much.

~~

KETCHUP RICE OMELET

The recipe is very versatile, as you can add more stuff to your fried rice.

Serves 4 (or one with moderate appetite and one with an appetite of 3 persons)

Ingredients:

  • ~ 4 cups cooked rice (I used brown)
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped finely (can use more if you like)
  • 1/2 cup ketchup (or more)
  • salt & pepper

The steps are very simple. First, heat some oil in a pan on high heat. When hot, add in the onions and cook till slightly golden.

Next, dump in your rice and mix with the onions. Turn heat down to medium-high.

When the rice has heated through, squirt the ketchup on and stir. Add salt & pepper to taste. Set aside for later use.

Now that you got the easy part down, let’s do the hard part! Sorry, no pictures because I was slightly distracted while I was cooking the eggs. Never multitask while you’re cooking these eggs cause you want them to be perfect. I learned my lesson. I actually kind of burned Dmitri’s eggs 😛

First, spray the pan with cooking spray and let it heat through on low heat. This is one of the many mistakes I made here. You must cook your eggs at low heat! This is the way to achieve that perfectly even yellow color.

For mine, I whisked together one egg and one egg white. Whisk them good. Add a tbsp of milk, some salt & pepper to taste.

Pour the mixture into the pan so that it evenly coats the pan and let sit for a minute or two.

Okay, this is what I forgot to do but should have done. One of the tricks to make the eggs light and fluffy is to constantly stir them while cooking, but you don’t want to end up with scrambled eggs. I read online that people use chopsticks to stir the uncooked egg mixture, but I guess a fork would do too.

When the eggs are about 2/3 cooked, add in about 1 cup of the ketchup-fried rice onto the middle of the egg. Fold the eggs over in whatever style you like–burrito style, omelet style. Or if you’re like me and failed at tucking the corners of the eggs in…

Sort of works right?

Be sure to dress it up with more ketchup!

I need to perfect my egg-cooking skills so that they end up looking like the pictures above. The dinner was still really tasty though! 🙂 It was a new dish for the boyfriend, but he really liked it!

Going off to devour some pineapples! 😉

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+ Of the above pictures, which type of rice omelet would you like to try most?

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