Too _________ for words

August 8, 2010 § 28 Comments

I have so many pictures on my memory disk that it’s not even funny. It’s been two whole days since I last logged on to WordPress and clicked New Post. Like this chika, I am at a loss for words and am having a hard time at slewing those pictures together into one humongous yet eloquent post. I’ve been praying that some inspiration will hit me. Uhhhh…maybe not.

I’ve been thinking how I should document my blasting fun stay in Taiwan. I’ve been lugging my dSLR everywhere I go (well, almost), taking pictures like a tourist even though I’ve lived here my entire life. I’m doing this all for the sake of this blog, ’cause I so want to show all of you the treasures found in Taiwan!  I have loads of pics of city scenes, night markets, traditional open air markets, etc. But I think I’ll leave that to the end of my stay and combine all those pics into one huge post. For now, I’ll focus on food…you like that right 😉

Anyhooz, on Friday night, I met up with S to go to a Hello Kitty Theme Restaurant that she said she’s been wanting to try. With me back, she can finally brave herself to enter that obnoxiously pink restaurant.

They have a display of a variety of sweets, cakes, pastries near the entrance of the store. I was absolutely salivating over these while we were waiting to get seated!

Hello Kitty overload?

We were seated on the second floor of the restaurant, again with muchos pink!

I saw this Hello Kitty Bread Bowl on the menu. How cute is that?

Alas, they didn’t have any vegetarian options, so I opted for Vegetarian Calamari Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce.  I got the set meal, which included salad, soup, bread, appetizer, main course, dessert, and choice of drink. It might sound like alot, but here in Taiwan, every course is probably half the size of those in the States.

A salad the size of my palm with Japanese sesame dressing

Veggie soup with cilantro

Hello Kitty bread roll!

Appetizer: Vegetarian calamari with asparagus.

Main course: Vegetarian calamari spaghetti with tomato sauce.

Dessert: Hello Kitty Strawberry Jello

Everything was served on plates with Hello Kitty design.

The food was only above-average good, but it was a worthwhile experience to dine in a pink and girly restaurant 🙂

Unlike the U.S. (and other Western countries?), we celebrate Father’s Day in Taiwan on August 8th. Like I mentioned in this post, we celebrate Father’s Day on that day because August 8 = 8/8= Eight-eight = ba ba (same sound as “Father” in Mandarin). So for Father’s Day this year, we splurged on a fine-dining Japanese restaurant.

We ordered some ice-cold sake to go with our meal. They poured the sake into this glass container with an “inward cave” to put ice in.

It was the best sake I’ve had by far! It actually had a slightly sweet taste to it. I like :mrgreen: !

My sister and I both ordered the vegetarian meal set (only the two of us are vegetarians in our family).

Appetizer: some steamed veggies with mushroom. This was literally bite-size.

Vegetarian "sashimi", which is made out of "konjac."

Alot of vegan and vegetarian food items found in Taiwan and other Asian countries feature a type of plant called konjac. The “sashimi” and the “calamari”, for example, are made out of konjac. Konjac is a plant grown in the subtropical East Asian countries (Japan, China, Taiwan, India, Korea, Indonesia). It is tasteless, has a jelly-like texture, is low in calories, and a good vegan substitute for gelatin. You guys are probably more familiar with shirataki noodles, yes? Yup, konjac makes up a good portion of those noodles!

Green sashimi, anyone?

Served with a type of root vegetable and avocado(!)

Okay okay, here comes the good part. Prepare yourself, because this was easily my favorite dish for the entire meal, and because this was LEGEN- wait for it…

Grilled eggplant topped with miso paste!

-DARY!!! Oh who doesn’t love a little Barney Stinson now and then? 😀

Doesn't that just scream "EAT ME I'M DELICIOUS"?!?!

I’m salivating just thinking about it again!

Mini sushi pieces

Hot pot: soup with fresh veggies thrown in.

You dip the veggies from the hot pot in Japanese soy sauce and sesame sauce, then eat in that cute little bowl!

That might have seem like alot of food, but like I said, everything here is on a much, much smaller scale. All the dishes that you’ve witnessed above are probably smaller than the appetizers you find in restaurants in the States. It’s about quality and not quantity here.

It’s also sad to see how the “largest” and most “powerful” country in the world has the poorest quality of eating (developing countries don’t count!). Everything in the U.S. is supersized. It is not normal to eat 8 or 12 oz of steak for one meal! It is not normal to have pasta equivalent of three servings and think that was one serving. It is not normal to consume desserts that are probably more than half of your daily caloric intake.

Speaking of which, out “dessert” is naturally…

Courtesy of my cousin 😉

Overall, a very satisfying meal with lots of healthy, fresh ingredients!

Here are a few pictures of some other eats the other members of my family ordered.

Chilled soba noodles eaten with Japanese soy sauce, and some tempura.

A small piece of steak (literally the size of your palm) that my cousin ordered. Though I've been a vegetarian for two years, the meat looked so tender and perfectly cooked!

Vegetarian gods..please don't smite me. I'm simply admiring the plate.

I’ve recently just finished this book called Love Walked In. If you’re looking for a sentimental, inspiring read about love (and not just romance, but love of family, friendships, and loving a child), this is it!

The blurb on the back of the book:

When Martin Grace enters the hip Philadelphia coffee shop Cornelia Brown manages, her life changes forever. But little does she know that her newfound love is only the harbinger of greater changes to come. Meanwhile, across town, Clare Hobbseleven years old and abandoned by her erratic mothergoes looking for her lost father. She crosses paths with Cornelia while meeting with him at the café, and the two women form an improbable friendship that carries them through the unpredictable currents of love and life. Love Walked In, the first novel by award-winning poet Marisa de los Santos, is bursting with keen insight and beautifully rendered prose. Invoking classic movies to illuminate the mystery and wonder of love in all its permutations, Love Walked In is an uplifting debut that marks the entrance of an enchanting literary voice.

I came across this quote towards the end of the book:

“A real life doesn’t mean getting what you want; the achievement, the privilege, too, is knowing what you love.”

I have many things that I know that I 100% love, of which they are something that I think should be kept personal and dear to my heart. 😀

I know in my last post that I promised to make something featuring matcha and adzuki beans. But lately I’ve just been lazy too busy/not in the mood for baking, so that might have to wait till I return.

Return from what, you ask. My family and I are escaping to the high mountains for a couple of days to get away from the heat. Specifically, here…

See y’all when I get back!

————————————–

+ Have you read something worth recommending lately?

Muesli Chocolate Chip Cookies

August 4, 2010 § 32 Comments

Back in the days when I was still a little kid (how I wish I could turn back time!), I would go to this one summer camp year after year. Like any summer camps, we had our camp songs that we would sing near and dear to our hearts. I remember so clearly that Tuesdays and Thursdays were Pool Days, meaning we got to go on the school bus and go on a field trip to the swimming pool! On those days, we would sing this song:

Swimming, swimming, in the swimming pool
The day is hot, the day is cold, in the swimming pool!
Breath stroke, side stroke, fancy diving too
But don’t you wish you can have, anything else to do!

This morning, I did just that! I went swimming at the pool in our community. And by swimming, i didn’t mean your splish-splash type, but swimming laps. It’s a great total-body workout!

[picture]

I did about 35 min of alternating free-style and breath strokes.

True story: I used to be deathly scared of water when I was little. I took my first swimming lesson when I was 6 or so. I accidentally swallowed and choked on lots of water, and refused to take another swimming lesson from then on. Finally during 3rd grade, we were required to take some sort of swimming lesson for our P.E. class. I had no choice but to face my fears as I, once again, tackled to put my head under water. I realized during that first class that I liked swimming. It felt so calm and serene under the water, and I loved the way that I could float around like I was in outer space.

+ What was a fear that you had as a kid, but had to face eventually?

After much bumming around in the house these past few days, I finally got to meet up with one of my high school friends today! For lunch, I requested we go to another vegetarian restaurant. :mrgreen:

The restaurant was located at the entrance/exit of a trail–just perfect for hungry hikers! But alas, we didn’t go hiking today (toooooooooo hot!), but I was still hangry from my swim in the morning!

Entrance/exit of a trail and to the restaurant.

Herb garden right outside the restaurant.

The tables in the restaurant were filled with sand, rocks, and shells.

For starter, we had a small salad with passionfruit dressing and pumpkin soup. Both are to die for!!! And I’m not even close to exaggerating.

Salad with passionfruit dressing.

Really really good pumpkin soup.

For my main course, I had Pumpkin Rice Noodles (very tasty!) that was loaded with mushrooms and veggies.

Pumpkin rice noodles

While my friend S got the Mushroom Risotto. Last time I was here I got this dish too, and it was the best risotto I’ve had. Ever. (Sorry for the blurry pic)

Mushroom risotto

The meal was followed by a light dessert, Lavendar Tea Jello, and iced tea with an apple slice!

Lavender Tea Jello with cream.

Lightly sweetened iced tea with apple slice.

I only managed to finish half of my  noodles, so I asked the waitress to pack it to-go for me, thinking that it’d make a yummy lunch another day. Ugh, and now I can’t believe I actually forgot it there! 😦

The heat made us want to hide in cold, air-conditioned buildings. What better ways to satisfy our needs to be cooled than hiding in a dark and chilly movie theater? Off we went to see some booty-kickin’ Angelina Jolie.

Like always, she totally rocked her role, and I was absolutely diggin’ her in the black hair!

We killed time at a mini arcade while waiting for the movie. S is the master of the master of these claw machines. I kid you not!

The results? Pacman and his little jellyfish friend. Actually, S managed to get me two jellyfishies 😀

~~

Okay, so here’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for–the recipe for the cookies I made yesterday.

Muesli Chocolate Chip Cookies

Wet

  • 1 cup Muesli
  • 1/2 whole wheat flour
  • 3-4 Tbsp chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Dry

  • 1 egg
  • 3 Tbsp peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup (or less) honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 340 degrees. Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly.

Then, in a separate bowl, combine all the wet ingredients and blend.

Add the dry to the wet and mix with spatula till only combined.

Drop by tablespoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet or lined with parchment paper, about 1 inch apart (they don’t rise much). Bake for 10-12 minutes.

These cookies are moist and chewy! One bite equals a chockful of grainy touch from the muesli!

Not enough salivating cues from this post? I leave you with this:

Matcha fluffy-shaved ice with sweet adzuki beans! The shaved ice has a melt-in-your-mouth texture. Enjoy! :mrgreen:

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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