July 15, 2007

Episode XXVIII: Rice in the Soup


Some people describe Taiwan as a food paradise. I will not argue with that statement. I think it is pretty accurate. Local cuisine is tasty and inexpensive. An impressive variety of fresh fruits and vegetables is available on almost every corner.

Tofu is eaten in every possible form. That is splendid news to all who do not fancy meat that much. I would still recommend watching amounts of fat and salt that are being put to the dishes. If you care about your health I mean.

The base of a regular meal in Taiwan is a bowl of rice. Not too big. Just to fill your palm comfortably. The rice is usually eaten separately. The rest is on the plate or another bowl.

Before I have arrived to Taiwan I did not have many occasions in my life to eat with chopsticks. Obviously it was a challenge at first but I have taken it with a pleasure and joy. Now I do not even think about it. It simply became a part of myself. I feel very comfortable with it.

I would like to talk about some significant differences in food culture between Taiwan and my homeland – Poland. If Taiwanese person will ever travel to Poland, I suspect might be very surprised with what we do with rice.

Rice fried with an egg is probably common everywhere but in Poland we often eat it sweet. We add sugar, butter, and cinnamon and apple mousse to it. Quite a popular dessert it is. I know it might sound like a blasphemy to the Taiwanese traditionalists but there is nothing I can do about it.

Another thing is we do not use those smart pressure machines to prepare our rice. We boil it directly in the water. That is not the best option. I know.

To shock you more I will tell you that we also do put rice into the soup. Just instead of noodles. Sounds crazy? It is tomato soup, which is commonly eaten that way. Actually I have never question it before but after spending some time in Taiwan I feel like I should. Maybe next time I am offered I will tell the people what a missed idea it is.

To continue the strange stories from a distant Poland I would like to mention that we have totally different bread back in Europe. First of all we have many kinds of bread – white, brown, black. Soft, light and sweet. Hard, heavy and a bit sour. Crunchy and full of grains. The choice is vast and mouth-watering.

I suspect the Polish people could not live without their bread and potatoes. It is like rice and noodles in Taiwan. Eaten everyday and in big amounts. Our potato is not sweet to clear the doubts. It tastes the best with a pinch of salt and lots of fresh dill.

Another noticeable difference between Taiwanese and Polish cuisine is that here red beans, green peas and lentil are mainly consumed as a dessert or a snack. Often with squares of solid jelly and roasted peanuts, all drowned in a sweet soup or a hot herbal jelly. I was used to eating beans with a spicy tomato sauce back home. Nevertheless after a while in Asia I became a true amateur of a local specialty.

All those funny or sometimes shocking differences make the world exciting and inspiring. That is why I enjoy discovering new tastes and ways to cook and prepare food. It is a pure joy and delight!

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