Posts Tagged ‘taiwan’

Eating Paleo in Taiwan Food Porn, 2/6,000,000

Definitely time for an update! Lots and lots of delicious stuff to go around.  Plus I’ve been on an inspiration kick for the last couple weeks and you could probably use a break from all my soap boxing.

You’ll recall from my last post that eating paleo in Taiwan is easy.  Sure, there’s lots of noodles and rice to go around, but they are easily avoidable.   Even when in a specifically noodles or rice restaurant, it is totally cool to request a veggie replacement for your rice.  Buffets are also abundant.  This is great not only because it helps me avoid wading through a Chinese menu, but also because I get to avoid toxins and load up on all the meat balls and fish heads I could ever dream of.

You’ll also note most of my photos are fairly low quality and in take out containers.  This is because I am a giant sissy, and I don’t want to look stupid taking photos in restaurants or at markets and street-side stands, which are the truly interesting shots I’d love to share.  Anyway, this means I hurry up and snatch photos whenever I can, without much attention to detail or composition.


Item number one!  Very common here.  A whole fish on a plate, often in curry or some lemon sauce.  Broiled, baked, or steamed.  This may be haddock.  Possibly mackerel. Correct me if I’m wrong.  I don’t know what half the things I eat here are called, in Chinese or in English.  n00b.

Take out number one.  Steamed fish filet on top of cabbage, seaweed and some sort of noodle (avoided!), and what looks like a mushroomy thang sandwiched in the upper left hand corner.

This is a close up of seaweed sauteed in pork fat.  Touche, Taiwan.  Touche.

Lots of stuff going on here.  At the very top: fried sweet potato.  I’m pretty sure the Taiwanese roll the sweet potato as-is in a tiny bit of sugar then drop it in a deep frier.  Not great for your health, but not horrific, either.  Plus, these things are hugely addictive.  I have to try really hard not to over-do it.  Below the sweet potato is a slab of barbeque-fried mackerel.  I’m sure the fish sauce has some omega 6′s in it, but hopefully that’s balanced by the omega 3s in the fish itself.   It’s a bit sweet (as, unfortunately, many typically savory dishes are in Taiwan, perhaps the only Taiwan downside).  Below that, on the right, is an egg and scallion “pancake,” but it’s just eggs so it’s really no pancake at all.  On the bottom left, of course, is my heaping dose of seaweed again.  I love the curly ones, they’re my favorite.   Or they were.  You should know that I’ve dialed it back on the seaweed.  I think I over-did it once, finding out later I had eaten about 3000 percent my daily dose of iodine for a few days in a row, and I had this really high, no-sleep-for-two-days-but-high-energy, can-feel-my-heart-beating-in-my-chest episode.  It felt nice, rather like some of my favorite recreational drugs, but hyperthyroidism isn’t the best thing in the world for our health.  Moreover, the next time I ate a big portion of seaweed I got enormously ill.  Could be completely unrelated, but now I have no taste for it at all.

Some similarities in this photo with the last one.  It’s a smorgasbord.  One stick of sweet potato, a tiny portion of scrambled egg, and another serving of seaweed are scattered throughout.  This type of seaweed is kelp, and said to have the most iodine in it.  Also here:  bottom middle: sauteed bamboo.  Savory and tangy and a bit chewy, it goes great with mushrooms, with seaweed, and with eggplant or potatoes.  Bottom left: meatballs, which are surprisingly common here, and which have fairly western flavors.  I like them a lot, despite the fact that I don’t exactly know what’s going into them.  And finally, upper left: chicken stomachs!  A staple at my favorite buffet.  I eat them often.  I don’t know how nutritious they are, exactly, but since they’re organs I snarf ‘em.  My other “go to” buffet has an absolutely to-die-for cucumber, pepper, and liver dish.  I’ll get some photos of that one in the next post.

Finally some food that I know intimately how it was made!  Because I made it!  Welcome to my kitchen.  This is a heaping many-days-serving load of cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, carrots and cabbage in the back, fresh from the street market.  On the right is a dish of minnows and mini shrimp.  This is my favorite snack of all time.  Take a bag of minnows and throw them right on the stove with some butter, salt, garlic, and onions.   Or just them and butter is fine.  Stir ‘em up for ten minutes and you’re good to go to munch on all week.  The little shrimp are the same.  Sometimes I toss ‘em together, and sometimes I leave ‘em separate.   They’re crunchy and salty and fishy in the best proportions imaginable, and I really, really hope I’ll be able to get my hands on some in the states.  On the front left are some cuttle fish.  Like… mini squid?  I guess.  Also for these, just buy ‘em and throw ‘em in a pan to sautee.  I eat them whole.  They taste great but can get a bit.. pungent?.. in the digestive track and brain.  Still, the body and tentacles and whole shebang really is another fantastic paleo snack.

I’ve really been getting my fair dose of omega 3s lately, eating mostly veggies and seafood.  My skin has cleared up enormously, so now I know that a lot of my acne problems were due to inflammation.   There’s also a lot of salmon here, for really cheap.  My favorite buffet (again! told you it’s great!) had salmon in it this week, so I filled up two carry out containers and walked home with EIGHT SALMON FILETS FOR FOUR DOLLARS.  This is the coolest thing that’s happened to me all week.

Finally, some sweet lime-orange-mango-vodka drink thing.  Life ain’t about perfection, it’s about life. Drink up!

Hopefully I’ll grow a strong pair of balls or ovaries and get some awesome behind-the-scenes shots for you for next.



04 2011

Eating Paleo in Taiwan

I have to tell you something.  It breaks my heart a little bit to do so, but I’m happy to do it nonetheless.

Taiwan, my friends, is the world’s best kept secret.

It’s a paradise.

No joke.  I’m okay with letting you in on it, but don’t tell too many people, because I love Taiwan too much to give it away.  The people are warm, the weather fantastic, the opportunities endless, the recreational drugs affordable, and the food out of this world.  Honestly I can’t ask for anything else.

I wrote a post a little while back about how glad I am to be living in Taiwan and not cooking my own food.  This means that I don’t know much about the home cooking scene.  I’ve heard that the produce is fresh and the health consciousness pretty powerful, too.  What I know about is my cafeteria, general trends, and street food.  And I can tell you this: eating paleo is easier than it ever was in the states for me.  It’s more of an adventure, too.


For protein, you have your choice of: fish filets, whole fried fish, squid, octopus, shrimp, escargot, shellfish, chicken, chicken heart, liver, duck–that is, an entire, fried duck, beak and all– blood tofu stew, beef skewers, pork bones, and every cut of beef or pork you can think of.

For fat, you get brilliant sauces that come from a combination of native Taiwanese, Chinese immigrants from the north and south, some Indian, and even European influences.  You also get: brains, chicken feet, fish skin soup, fried chicken or pork skin, vegetables stir fried in strips of pork fat… goodness, you name it.  None of that low fat bullshit here.  Not at all.  Lay it on, friends!  Come and get it while the getting is good.

And their eggs! You can get them scrambled with vegetables, with cheese, plain, over-easy, poached, hard boiled, hard boiled in tea (boil your eggs a little bit, then crack their shells, and simmer them in a pot of tea, anise, soy sauce, and whatever else you want for a couple hours– it’s amazing, go do it, do it, do it), or–get this: deep fried!  Fry your eggs over easy them throw ‘em in a deep frier.  It’s worth trying. Trust me.

Vegetables are well prepared and hugely variable.  I honestly have no idea what half the vegetables I eat are, but there are giant varieties of mushrooms and eggplants, and seaweed. I eat at least three servings of seaweed a day.  I think it’s really, genuinely helping with my PCOS.  They also have: kale, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, carrots, onions, tarot, tomatoes… all of it.  The whole gambit, and then some.  Bamboo!  Oh, the bamboo, the bamboo! Is it ever tasty.

Taiwan is also well known for it’s fresh fruits.  This one stall I walk past every day gives out free samples of guava in this salty sauce, and it’s incredibly tasty. Honestly, though, my only other fruit experience was some grapes of my roommates.  Oh, but they were so good!

Taiwan does do rice, and they do do noodles.  However, at a restaurant, if you don’t want ‘em, they just give you more veggies!  It’s amazing.  They also have a fair number of bakeries.  I just don’t go. Do they tempt me a little bit?  Sure.  The Taiwanese also love chocolate.  My professor tries to get students to do homework by promising us chocolates.  It’s absurd.

Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure the Taiwanese use canola and sesame oil a lot.  I try to make up for these by eating a lot of their delicious whole fish.   On the other hand, I know that animal fats are used a lot, too, as evidenced by my ‘pork fat green beans’ and the ‘pork fat seaweed’ I eat every day at lunch.  I know pork doesn’t have the best PUFA ratio, but I am glad that I get to eat animal fats as often as I do.

I had my first conversation yesterday explaining my eating habits to people.  Pretty hard to do in Chinese, and I ended up, duh, resorting to English.  People didn’t think I was as crazy as I had thought they would, and even knew what insulin was, and what causes diabetes!  It was pretty cool.

And now, the photos!:

Seaweed and whitefish soup

Seaweed and strips of whitefish soup.  This was maybe the best soup I’ve ever had.  Ever.  Ever.

Braised chicken heart

Some chicken heart on skewers.  They’re sold all over the place.  Enormously tasty, and two skewers costs about 1.50 USD.

Pork dumpling, seaweed, and tea egg in broth: 7-11 staples in Taiwan

Pork dumpling, seaweed roll, and tea egg in broth.  This is a real quick meal I like to get from 7-11.  Each 7-11 (and there’s about one on each corner) has a station with a variety of foods like this floating in broth you can choose from.  Each food item costs about 10 NT, or 30 cents.  You can take as much broth as you want, so I usually get a bucket full.  Other items available at the stations include shrimp rolls, bamboo, and all varieties of meat balls.

Squid on top of steamed broccoli and ginger sauteed seaweed

My favorite meal right now: a bed of greens, composed mostly of seaweed, topped with whatever seafood is being served.  This time, three giant hunking squid.  The flavor in them is just out of the world.  Giant thumbs up.  Two dollars for this meal, and it’s simultaneously super filling and super tasty.

I have many more photos, and I can post some more soon, but these are pretty representative of my palate right now.  Loads of seafood and veggies and flavor.  My life is a wonderland.


02 2011

Adaptive Paleo: Why I never cook at home

The first and most obvious reason I don’t cook at home is that I don’t have a kitchen.  I live in a dormitory on the campus of Tunghai University in Taiwan, and space itself, let alone a set for 30-Minute-Meals-with-Stefani-Ruper, is a bit scarce.  So when I moved here, I woefully resigned myself to having to eat out all of the time.  It was worrying.  Now, I couldn’t be happier than a clam.

The Paleo movement is all about Real Food.  It’s about food awareness, and it’s about hands on interactions.   The idea is that, cooking at home, we have a greater ability to do and to be these things, and to eat the healthiest foods possible.  Duh.  We get to control our health.   This is completely awesome. I love to cook, and while I had a kitchen for a few months this fall I had some amazing experiences with all sorts of paleo goodies.  I got to experience those things precisely because I had that exact control over my diet.

What I did not have, however, was control over my stressful environment, control over my boredom, or control over my wandering hands.  Instead of having control over paleo foods, paleo foods began having control over me.   THEY WERE IN MY HEAD, GUYS.  I’ve written before about how it’s possible, and in fact quite unreasonable for people to think otherwise, to binge on paleo foods.  When we get our brains wired into food-response reward systems, trust: we can still really get at it.  Example: I’ve eaten a whole chicken.  Example: I’ve eaten three pounds of carrots.   Example: I’ve eaten a whole paleo cheesecake, with a meal and snacks aside.   I weight 110 lbs.   A binge can be my caloric load for three whole days.

Now these choices were made fairly mindfully, and I didn’t exactly have a problem with the huge quantity when I ate these foods.  I don’t want to lead you to believe I have a serious problem.  I learned to handle binges and guilt a long time ago.  It is definitely still an evolving issue, but I barely struggle at all these days.   Moreover, instead of being a unique, struggling case–because I am not–I consider myself instead to be one of millions of people with Food On The Mind.  If and when I “over eat” it is more often than not in the form of grazing.  I want you to know this because, in my experience, the whole ‘appetite regulation’ deal doesn’t always work.   Certainly it helps, it helps so much, but the psychological is a giant part of the battle.  I have leaned on the comfort and safety and serotonin boosts of food in my past like it was my job.  I know scores of others who do the same.

So being around food all the time meant that I could precisely choose my foods.  And it meant that food was readily available, all the time.  This lead to grazing, to careful preparation, to doubt, and to guilt.  To Obsession.  And general overthink, I think.   Before meals, I would think about what to make.  Between meals I would graze or wish I was grazing.  And after I ate I would be a really critical judge: “Was that butter really the best choice?  Shouldn’t I have used coconut instead?  Why didn’t I eat fish today?  I have all these beets and I can’t believe I let them go to waste!”

Being away from a kitchen has liberated me from those thoughts.  I have no food around me, and it’s the fucking bomb.  It is now an adventure, rather than a psychological need, when I get food.  And so often it is a surprise!  And so fun!  Last night I stumbled on a woman deep frying chicken livers, and it was tasty and SO GOOD.  I know that she was using high-PUFA, possibly trans-fatty sesame oil for her frying, but I weighed the benefits of the livers versus the omega 6 fats, and considered how much omega 3 I get from the rest of my diet, and jumped in line.  They were delicious, and they were a meal, and I went home without a thought of food at all.

Eating out is difficult because it is expensive and because it can be time consuming and because you never actually know what exactly you’re putting in your body.  However, if you have a general awareness of the cooking process, and are comfortable with the choices that you are making for your health, it can be a godsend.  This is easier for a paleo dieter, I believe, in a nation such as Taiwan that sells hard boiled eggs on every street corner, but it is possible, I guess, any place with a couple of restaurants and a nice chef.  What’s more, I think I can handle some trans fat for the psychological freedom.  Ouch, I know.  But I do my best to mitigate it, and to avoid it, and to move on.   I do my damned hardest every day for holistic health, and these are the correct steps for me, right now.

The problem with disordered eating is that defeating it requires mindfulness: “What the fuck am I putting in my body?”  But it also requires mindlessness.  It is a constant war that is won with balance.   Yes I need to know what I’m putting in my body, and Yes, I need to make sure it’s healthy, but No, I don’t need to obsess about it when I plan my meals.  No, I don’t need to feel guilty afterward.   No, I don’t need to fret about how much I’ve left on my plate.

This is why being kitchen-less is a godsend for me.  Now, when my body sends me satiety signals, I don’t keep walking past them with my fingers in my ears going “Na na na na na na I can’t hear you.”  Instead, I feel them, and then I move on to a different activity, and even when physiological hunger comes up on me again I can work through it just fine.   I wrote a post on healthy relationships with food a while back.  I stand by everything I said.  Yet the most, absolutely the most important part of a healthy relationship with food is being able to let go.  Don’t obsess.  Don’t let it control you.  Don’t think about it all that much.  Food is great and food is omg so tasty but it’s also just. food.

So if you have a psychological need, think about what you can change in your life to put food in a new context.  For me, it was physical distance.  It was also, a little bit, adventure.  I still eat paleo, even if its a little less consistent than it was in my last life, but this is perhaps an even more important aspect of my holistic health.  These are my needs, and I prioritize them appropriately.

What are your needs?  If you think you need to be less mindful, like me, maybe you can rearrange your kitchen so your fridge is less accessible, or move your pantry to another location, or only shop for food on certain days of the week… the list of ideas is endless!*  On the flipside, if you need to be more mindful of your food, you can do that, too!  Go shopping on specific days, make yourself a calendar, put pictures of food up around your desk, line your kitchen table with fitness and health books.*  The world is your oyster, and you’ve got to shuck it like yo’ mama taught you.


*If you need help brainstorming, drop me a line!