I think that the most difficult adjustment for me was the food. It’s no Thailand, that’s for sure.
I guess that even though the prices are reasonable, I have an unfair tendency to compare to Thai prices. The currencies divide into USD exactly the same. So I initially used that to help me understand the pricing here. But now I’ll see a price here and automatically exclaim “75 (Thai) baht for a drink? That’s ridiculous!”
Anywho, there are a lot of noodles but I can’t help but wonder where the soysauce at. Or any kind of flavoring. There’s usually just some white pepper and sometimes a five spice powder. But it doesn’t do much. And I feel like several of the traditional dishes here, such as braised pork rice, are mostly just rice (with a tiny bit of sustenance piled on top).
There’s also a conspicuous absence of many of the foods that I love most in my diet. It’s a small island, so there’s not a lot grown here. Things like fruits, vegetables, and dairy products are mostly imported, so the prices are through the roof. I find myself having to ration apples.
I’ve been relying a lot on the school lunches. They provide a “nutritious” meal full of vegetables which most of my co-teachers lament for its lack of flavor. But I’m frankly so glad to finally be eating some vegetables. I pig out every day at lunch and the kids all comment on why I’m eating so much. I tell them to mind their own fucking business.
There are a few good things that have become staples of my diet. First of all, dumplings. I have eaten dumplings probably for a majority of my meals here. The restaurant next to my house makes kimchi dumplings, and it’s a popular place for my friends and I to meet up. Dumplings are great because of the number of different dipping sauces you can put them in– creamy soy sauce, vinegar, hoisin sauce, hot paste, etc. For that reason, they don’t get old quickly. There is an option here for boiled or fried dumplings, and I strongly prefer the fried ones.
Another thing I enjoy are the “lunchboxes”, often with an assortment of meats, a whole bunch of rice, and a tiny bit of vegetables.
Fried chicken is also widely available and delicious.
A major culinary controversy in Taiwan is “stinky tofu” It’s tofu that has been left to ferment, and you can smell it from a mile away. It smells like ass.
When I first arrived, I would catch a whiff and think “uh oh, what happened around here?” Until I realized the horrific odor came from a snack that many actually considered delicious. I was ready to believe it, since I knew that fish sauce also smells like ass but tastes completely different and delicious. Some said if you plug your nose, stinky tofu tastes great.
Spoiler alert: stinky tofu tastes exactly like it smells. It’s decomposing tofu, for pete’s sake!