Chat Leftovers: Homesick for Comfort Food in Taipei
Taipei, Taiwan: Before I relocated here I was a regular reader; however, with a small and vocal new addition to the family, I've fallen off the radar. It's Monday, rainy, gloomy, I'm far away from girl friends and Mom(!!)...basically I'm exhausted and really low and in desperate need of comfort food. In fact I had been trawling the web fruitlessly when I remembered where to get some sane, veg-based comfort food ideas. Today's a goner, but will be very obliged if you can suggest something for the next time I'm in urgent need of comforting...which so far looks like tomorrow!
P.S. - I can cook but I don't have an oven here so can't bake; also I don't relish Chinese food.
Okay, let's break this down: We've got a down-in-the-dumps vegetarian expat in Taiwan looking for stove-top comfort food, and no Chinese, please. It's hard to tell from the reader's note just how recent her move is, but it's got all the markings of a case of the homesick blues. I'm also getting the impression she's a new Mom.
I've never been to Taipei, but I know a few things:
a) It's a huge cosmopolitan metropolis, and there are tons of cuisines represented, including French, Italian, Thai, Vietnamese, Indian and Middle East.
b) Don't give up on "Chinese" as you know it from this country just yet; now that you're in the motherland, you've got an amazing opportunity to experience approximately eight regional cuisines, including Hunan, Sichuan and Cantonese. There's a whole world of "Chinese" and it's right there at your fingertips.
c) Given the Buddhist influence, Taipei is known to be a vegetarian paradise, and from what I understand, Taiwanese vegetarian buffets are EVERYWHERE. Check out this long list of places to try and at the bottom of the list, you'll see a few health food stores as well.
d) When a city is as richly diverse in cuisine and culture as Taipei is, it means a prime opportunity for ethnic markets and stocking up on cookware. Have you bought a wok yet? Go, go!
If you're missing your girlfriends and familiar faces, what about making a few new friends by taking a cooking class? Jodie's Kitchen offers mostly vegetarian classes, and French restaurant Le Jardin has a spiffy-looking studio offering Taiwanese classes.
Now, for a taste of home...Since it's cold and rainy, I'm thinking a pot of soup might ward off the blues. I'm betting you could find a few sweet potatoes that you can boil with garlic, onions and ginger, and/or lemongrass. Have you got a blender or food processor handy? If not, pulverize your cooked mixture with a hand masher, then use a whisk.
I find noodles incredibly comforting, and you could serve them over a meatless stock in which you've steamed your favorite veggies (I'm seeing bok choy and bamboo shoots in your future)...and let's not forget, tofu will be everywhere!
Sometimes a little something fried takes the edge off, and once you get a wok seasoned, you can fry up an egg in about 60 seconds. Nothing like a fried egg sandwich to put a smile on that face. Taking the fried idea a little further: Have you ever done batter-dipped fried veggies? Here's a recipe for pakoras, fried veggie fritters, Indian style.
Got any advice for our friend in Taipei? Your home-cooked comfort, Taipei tips or anything else to turn that frown upside down are all welcome in the comments area.
Find more Q&A in this week's What's Cooking transcript.
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