Tag Archive: Stinky tofu


I’ve been taking a walk down Face Book lane for the past couple of days. A habit I’ve developed over the last couple of years when I’m bored. To be more accurate, when I’m back from a night on the town and feeling a little melancholy. I scroll through pictures and check up on old friends. You know how it is.

August first was the anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. Every August first at five p.m. Poland observes a minute of silence to remind us of when Poland fought back. Fought back, and lost, horrifically. It’s a time for remembering, respecting, and honoring our dead. I was trying to recall why I hadn’t remembered it last year. The moment of silence.

I scrolled back through my FB timeline to see what I had posted.

Nothing. I posted absolutely nothing. Instead, I posted something about losing my voice and being sick.

Shallow, right?

I clearly remember the articles and videos last year. Knowing me as well as I do, I’m pretty sure I decided that I wasn’t going to post anything just because everyone else was.

The upside, and the most bittersweet part of it all, was scrolling through a year’s worth of posts.

Why is it that we can always recognize how happy we were only in retrospect? I saw photos from my vacation last year in Helsinki and Tallinn with Linds, my announcement that I’m moving to Taiwan, my going away party, and my first post from Asia. It was all there.

I remembered.

I remembered like it was yesterday, my thoughts, my feelings, the sounds, scents, and scenes. The fear I felt in going. How I wasn’t sure I wanted to go but I didn’t get the job that I was applying for so I knew I had to. I gave myself pep talks. All the ‘But its good money,’ and ‘Did you ever think you’d have a chance to live in Asia? Visit sure, but live?’ and ‘ One more country off my list’. I remember all of it.

It turned things around for me. By the time I left I was excited to go. Packing was a bitch.  Trying to pack everything I could into a suitcase, carrying my whole life in a bag.

For the second time in a year I would be heading off into the unknown. What a rush.

The last couple of weeks flew by. I remember trying to squeeze in as much sister time as I could. I listened, again, to the video my sister left on my wall…the Faithless Don’t Leave video.

Yeah, sis. I’m listening to that now.

I remember the cultural festival Karolina and I stumbled upon in Old Town. Last minute drinks and lunch with Olga rehashing my going away party, getting filled in on the juicy details that I missed. Finally, my last night with Magda at Plan B, bullshitting about how Polish men suck, and why we need to be better friends and how can we connect better with other people and on and on.

I remember waking up, late. A little buzzed. I remember hearing my roommate get up. Slam into the bathroom and then his lumbering steps as he left for work. I clearly remember snapping off the WIFI button on the edge of my laptop with my heel. It was the beginning of the end of that crappy thing. I remember the ugly realization that I had no way to leave the keys inside the apartment for the roomies as I had promised. Oh shit! Then I remember thinking, ‘Screw those guys. I’m going to Asia.’

I remember my sister pulling up, seven stories below, and my nephew in the car. The drive to the airport where I told her I’d left the door unlocked and the look of horror she gave me. “That’s bad, Mish. You can’t do that here in PL. All of their shit is going to get stolen.” Feeling guilty. Calling my roommate to let him know the door’s unlocked. And oh yeah. Sorry ’bout that. Really.

At the airport. My heart racing, my stomach quivering. My luggage. overweighted. By a ton. Rushing back out to the car, trying to figure out what I could leave behind. The clothes I tossed back into the car, the movies, gifts, and then rushing back in. Talking to the unfriendly staff. Luggage still over the limit. Paying $250 dollars to lug 6 kilograms worth of weight. What a damned rip off! The airlines are making a mint off of people like me, no question.

Then the flight. Step one: Frankfurt. Six hours meandering around the airport then sitting around, drinking beer, and reading the latest Marion Keys book. I stepped outside, inhaled some German air, and headed back in. Sat down and watched the people around me and made up stories about their lives. Not better than mine I hoped.

Step two: Shanghai. I had every intention of using my 22-hour layover to explore the city. Where I ended up checking into the first airport hotel I could find and admitted to myself what I had not wanted to that I had neither the courage nor the strength to explore any damn thing.

I walked through the smothering heat back into the airport and had, quite possibly, the most disgusting thing I’d ever eaten in my life. I still don’t know what it was. It was some type of black potato-like thing with a starchy texture, and chicken feet.

Through it all, overwhelming fatigue and adrenaline, in my veins, my heart, my mind. My heart was going a mile a minute, my mind was racing, and it was all I could do to keep up.

It was exhilarating. I felt like I could do anything. Be anyone. I couldn’t get enough.

That feeling has been with me for a long time. It was with me in Poland too. Anything could happen. Anything DID happen. Anything and everything, and although shit happens on a regular basis it made life absolutely fabulous. No better experience, no better trip. No better life.

I’ve been living in Taiwan for nearly a year. I’ve had so many firsts. First time in Asia. First time meeting new people and going to expat events on my own. First time watching a plump rat squeezing its chub-assed way down a drain into the sewer. I’ve seen that too many times at this point. First time seeing horrifically massive black spiders. First time for Stinky Tofu and Taro ice cream, vinegar noodles and duck eggs. First time being the advisor to my friends. Learning to crawl, learning to walk, and learning to live. My life in Taiwan has been nothing but a series of firsts.

Taking a walk down FB lane. There are so many memories, so much laughter, funny comments, and enraging ones. The crappy times, nonsensical posts, and drunken Facebooking, too. It’s all there in my electronic brain, waiting for me to visit it.

I’m grateful for it. Are you?

How often do you scroll through your timeline?

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Taiwan’s Local Food

Delish vegetarian Meal with stinky tofu, vinegar noodles, marinated tofu, assorted veggies and rice pudding.

(Just a quick update: I’ve found that its actually called purple rice pudding, not red rice. For the sake of accuracy I decided to go ahead and update the post).

 

In truth, I’ve been doing nothing BUT eating local food for quite some time.  There are many different kinds of strange things I’ve tried from octopus to sticky rice to a strange pudding made from egg yolk.

It would do no good to talk about it though unless I happen to snap a picture of it.  So here are a few I’ve finally gotten around to catching on camera:

Bao Zi                                   

Bao Zi

Basically, these are little dough buns filled with either meat or vegetarian items and steamed.

I tried these a long time ago in Danshui. Those were filled with pork and mushrooms. They were ok, but kinda plain.  The bun itself is mildly sweet, and tasty to eat in its own right.  I’ve since had some in a few different places. There is even a restaurant in Taipei that specializes in them.

I’m ashamed to admit that rather than running around town trying out the numerous tasty authentic versions that are out there, I’ve instead fallen victim to the cheap mass-produced 7/11 variety.  I don’t know what it is. They’re not even that good. But late at night when the craving overtakes me I’ve been known to visit up to 4 local 7/11s in the hopes of finding one.

Tea Egg

Tea Eggs. Don't ask me what that floating thing is either. I have no idea.

Next, I finally talked myself into trying a tea egg.

I first saw these the day I arrived in Taipei (in a 7/11 of course) fresh from my chicken claw experience in the airport in Shanghai.  I was instantly repulsed.  With their cracked shells floating around in an inky black fluid they look ready to give birth to a prehistoric slime creature at any moment.

Surprisingly, I was told by a couple of expats that they’re pretty tasty and I shouldn’t knock them till I try them.

So I tried one and what do you know? I’m a die-hard fan now. They are slightly salty with a vague “other” taste to them that is altogether yummy. Full of protein, Vitamin D and low cal to boot, the tea egg is a pretty decent late night snack. As an added plus it can be found in any 7/11, OK Mart, or Family Mart in the city.

The Duck Egg

chicken egg and duck egg.

Flushed with the success of my recent experiments I next took on the hard-boiled duck egg. Don’t be fooled by the glowing recommendations in this link.

When I first bought these at the local farmer’s market I was warned that they are a little bit salty.  And I thought, ok. I like salt. I salt a lot of my food. I put salt on my hard-boiled chicken eggs. I’m sure I’ll love these.  Larger than a chicken egg and with a pleasantly blue-toned shell I figured these would be a shoo-in.

Then I tried one for lunch while I was at school one day and nearly barfed up my first mouthful.  Not only were the egg whites more rubbery and jiggled in a gut twisting way, but these damn things couldn’t have been more salty than if I had dropped them in a box of salt and rolled them around for half an hour.  Even the yolk tasted different in a way I can’t even describe. There is no question that the difference between a duck egg and a chicken egg is immediate and palpable.

I tried to give them the benefit of doubt. I waited a whole day and then warmed up another egg, thinking maybe it would taste better warm, but no. I had to toss the second egg too, and ended up throwing out the rest of the ones I had bought.  Clearly these are an acquired taste and not one I’ll be acquiring anytime soon.

Stinky Tofu

Stinky Tofu

Good old stinky tofu.  A famous delicacy in Taiwan and one you can’t get away from even if you try.  It’s everywhere.

At first, when I heard about it I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. So ok, the tofu kinda smells but it’s supposed to be really good. Well all right then. So what?  It took a few weeks of wandering around the streets of Taipei for me to realize that the rancid rotting animal smell that I kept running into was NOT coming from the sewers like I had thought. Oh my god, no. That, my friend, is stinky tofu.

Well there was just no way I was ever going to eat something that smelled like maggot ridden ten-day old festering animal meat.  No way. No way, no way, until one day I gave in and tried it.

The first time I tried it was in Tainan and it didn’t taste like much of anything. Just fried food. Again, I couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about.

More recently, I tried it again last weekend. This fried tofu retained some of the taste which complimented the way it smelled quite nicely.  Dipped in a hot chili sauce it was actually quite good.

Strange to say even the foul detestable smell doesn’t bother me much anymore.

Purple Rice Pudding

Red Rice Pudding

You wouldn’t think that red rice would make a good snack but it does. The closest picture I could find on the net was this white and red mix which isn’t the same but probably close enough.  Basically its a pudding-like desert with sweetened purple rice. It’s supposed to be healthy but probably isn’t.

Tastes good though.

Nutrition Biscuits 

Yum

I first ran across these when one of my students offered me a bite of her snack.  They were in little stick-like shapes. I’ve since found them in a regular cracker shape.  I’m not including them in this post because of their exotic flavor or charming appearance, nor their nutrition or amazing biscuit-like properties.  In fact, they are not biscuits at all nor are they remotely nutritious.

I’m including them because  I’ve been mowing down on them ever since I ran across them with no end in sight.  They’re animal crackers that have lost their exciting animal shapes.

As I’m writing this I happen to have one in my mouth, and therefore, I feel they deserve an honorable mention.

There are so many unique and exotic foods in Taiwan that I would have to devote an entire blog to food if I wanted to name them all. That  won’t be happening anytime soon, of course, but I hope you enjoyed this brief glimpse.

If there are foods out there that you strongly recommend I try while I’m here, I’d love to hear about it.

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