Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Food

(Written on 1/25/09)

Here is something you take for granted when you're in your own country: for the most part, every time you sit down to eat, you know what to expect. You know what it is that you're about to eat and what it tastes like, and if you're about to eat it, you're pretty sure that you like it.

Imagine this: You don't know what anything is, so you just point to some things on the menu (not pictures, just Chinese characters) and you just hope for the best.

Once your meal comes out, you can only guess at what it is you're seeing in front of you, so you move on to the blind taste test. And since most dishes consist of a bunch of things mixed together (various vegetables and meats or other unknown things) basically every bite is unknown territory. If you're lucky, you may know what meat is in the dish, but that information is not always available.

This has been our life for the last week! As a result, we've encountered some pretty interesting food (see "stinky tofu" post).

Taiwanese food in general is very sweet. It has made me realize how salty American food is, and you know what... I'll take salty over sweet any day. Even things that you would think are the same anywhere (peanut butter on white bread) tastes a little off and much sweeter than you'd expect. But I definitely eat less when all the food is sweet, so that's probably a good thing!

One of our first mishaps happened the first time we ordered at a restaurant without Angel's assistance. For this trip we picked three things off of the menu, one was under the category of rice dishes. I know the character for rice, so I figured this was a relatively safe bet (and it turned out to be pretty good). The second thing we ordered was a total crap shoot and we definitely did not hit the bulls eye with this one. We later found out that what we ordered is called a "hot pot."

Basically we got a big bowl of broth over a small burning fire accompanied by some frozen meat (see picture). At first we were very confused by the platter of frozen meat, but it didn't take Nick long to figure out that the meat goes into the boiling soup. Let's just say, this was definitely not what we were expecting to get, it wasn't very good, and its something we will try not to order again.

We thought the third thing on the menu that we ordered was tea, but it turned out to be candied sausage! Imagine candied nuts (the kind you buy around the holidays) but instead of nuts its spicy sausage...hmmm very interesting to say the least.

Our next culinary adventure came when we stumbled upon a Japanese restaurant. This got me very excited because I love sushi! Unfortunately, the entire menu was in Chinese (of course) and the waitress didn't know the Japanese words for any of the sushi. So after fumbling around for a while, I asked her what she recommends and she ordered us what I assumed were two different sushi platters... but it definitely was not. This was by far the most expensive and worst tasting meal we've eaten thus far (minus the stinky tofu).

The first thing they brought out was some sashimi, ok good start! It went sharply down hill from there. One of the things we got was a plate of a huge shrimp and oyster and some other things on a bed of crushed ice. Which I ate (although it was not very good) and then 5 minutes later a hot pot came out and we realized that the food on the ice was supposed to go in the hot pot. But now it was all gone! Another thing we got was some pieces of beef in a fishy smelling/tasting broth...very gross.

I can't even describe the meal because we had no idea what any of it was but it was not good. Food just kept coming out, a never ending stream of bizarre dishes. Finally we both decided to throw in the towel, we were totally overwhelmed by the meal and figured by this point it had to be over, and then this showed up!

A huge shrimp head in my soup. WTF!!! We just burst out laughing… what else could we do!? There wasn't even the part of the shrimp that you eat in the soup, JUST THE HEAD!!!

But that still wasn't it, next this came out:
And Nick said it wasn't even cooked all the way! Geeze Louise! This is a restaurant we will not be returning to!

And this is our every day life right now. We never know what we're ordering and so far we haven't really found anything (on our own at least) that we've really liked. For now, the search for good food continues!

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