Friday, June 17, 2005

Hot hot baby!

So I made a nice discovery today. Figure out what it was:


Korean hot pepper paste goes really well with….


a) yogurt

b) scrambled eggs

c) greek salad

d) croissants

The answer is…B! “ding ding ding!!!!” Really, hot pepper paste and yogurt?

So the story goes…

As I’m staying in Aunt J.C.’s apartment in Taipei for the summer (while I try to cram as many Chinese characters into my head as possible—oy!), I’m trying to cook for myself as much as possible. This is not easy. No, it’s not because of limited resources (there are plenty of supermarkets and vegetable/fruit stands everywhere in Taiwan) nor is it that my aunt doesn’t have a kitchen (she’s got a fully stocked one and even has a small toaster oven—note: very rare to have any type of oven in homes in Taiwan or mainland China, they just don’t bake their food).

The truth is that Taiwanese (especially those in Taipei) tend not to cook because getting cheap, good quality take-out is just too convenient. I walk down the block and I can find 6 different storefronts with various noodle and rice dishes. A large bowl (enough for two dinners) of noodles is about $1.50. There’s a pushcart at the end of the block with a woman selling a fried tofu dish. Or I can head over tp the local 7-11, Family Mart, OK Mart, Hi-Life or Niko Mart convenient store (there are more convenient stores in Taiwan per person than anywhere else in the world—and if you don't believe me check this out) and grab a cold noodle platter with shredded carrots and cucumbers. So, I’m finding that getting the urge to cook for myself is a bit more difficult than I had anticipated.

I went to the grocery store the other day and bought a package of soba noodles, eggs, daishi sauce, dried Chinese mushrooms (can’t remember the English name for them) and string beans.

I really enjoyed the soba noodles I had in Japan and while I might not be able to get that quality of noodle in a supermarket here in Taiwan, I still crave that hearty taste. Yesterday I added some soy paste to the daishi sauce and it added a nice touch to the broth, a bit of depth to the saltiness of the daishi.

Today, as I sit indoors because of yet another rainy day—it’s been raining everyday since I got here—just hope there are no typhoons like the last time—I was craving for something a bit less hearty than noodles. I pulled out the eggs from the fridge and added a bit of grape seed oil (I couldn’t find butter at the store and my aunt doesn’t have any other oil—however I found it works really well and doesn’t add any flavor to the eggs—unlike olive oil) to the pan (which is really a pot because I haven’t found the pans yet—I need to ask my aunt where they are). Originally I thought I’d make some eggs sunny side up (I had no spatula—another thing to ask my aunt), but one broke and using the only kitchen tool I had, a pair of chopsticks, it became scrambled eggs.

I'm guessing the chicken feed is a bit different here in Taiwan because the yolks are a shiny bright orange color. These eggs are also organic (or at least according to the package), but I don’t know what standards they use that deem products “organic” in Taiwan.

I put the eggs into a small bowl and looked around the kitchen for some sort of herb or seasoning. The daishi sauce and the soy paste would not be appropriate this time—too salty. I looked around and saw the Korean hot pepper paste I took as a foodie souvenir from the Korean Air flight to Seoul. I was a little hesitant at first and put a tiny dab in and mixed the eggs. I could barely taste anything on my first bite. I squeezed the tube a bit harder the second time. I mixed it more too and my second bite was delicious. It really wasn’t “my tongue needs a fire hose” spicy, but, WOW, the paste added a kick to the eggs I never thought would be so tasty.

I would have never thought Korean hot pepper paste to be such a great complement to scrambled eggs. Of course, Koreans have probably been doing this for centuries or more.

Do you have a favorite dish spiced up with hot pepper paste? Do tell.

Written on Thursday June 16, 2005


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