You might be able to tell from my Facebook pages that I’m in Taiwan at the moment. I’m here to take part in a mandarin program at a college in Taipei. I don’t start the “learning Chinese” part until March so I’m trying to do as much traveling and food experiences that I can while I still have free time.
The more and more I discover Taiwan, I’m starting to realize there is so much more to this place then just an island I visit for two weeks out of the year to say hello to relative. It’s an island full of festivals celebrated for years, history that is rich in color, taste, and emotions, and food that is equally rich as its history and traditions. But what strikes me most are how people are proud of their land here. I’m not saying they are patriotic in the US Sense where flags are waved, bbq is eaten, and conservative pundits tell us what America is all about . But, instead it’s people who are proud of the dishes that they eat or the fruit that they raise. It’s the farmer who had been raising pigs for 40 years and has already passed on the torch after suffering numerous strokes. It’s the story of why they chose this profession and why their children choose to continue it. It’s through this realization that I’ve come to understand what I want my blog to be in the next couple of months. I want to share the narrative of the individual (the vendor, farmer, home cook) and the narrative of the storyteller (me) as I figure out what it means to be Taiwanese at 30 and just realizing what the island has to offer.
So through out the next couple of the weeks, I’ll have posts dedicated to the people I meet on my journey. But for now, a dish that sums up the cooking style of Taiwan:
One of the things that I’ve always know about Taiwanese cooking but never really paid attention to is that the flavors and methods are simple. It’s the thing I love about the cuisine: ingredients need to be fresh and there shouldn’t be anything to mask the flavors or why buy them at all. No bullshit.
This dish is no bullshit. Squid, celery, chili pepper. My cousin’s wife made this for me the second day I was in Taipei. I hiked a trail with my cousin at 5 am, waited in line for breakfast (people like to wait in line for food here), bought a squid from a seafood vendor (who thought I was 22 years old so I paid for the squid out of gratitude), and this dish was cooked within two hours and in my belly soon after.
No bullshit. Fresh seafood, no time lingering in a fridge or thawed and then refrozen, and nothing needed to mask any stale tastes. I think I’m going to like Taiwan.
1 tbs vegetable or coconut oil
2 c Chinese Celery, sliced into on inch pieces *if you can’t find Chinese celery, use regular celery…just cut it thin
1 or 2 chili peppers, seeds removed and sliced
1 medium whole squid, cleaned and sliced
salt to taste
heat oil in a saute pan on high heat until screaming hot
sauté celery and chili together until celery is slightly tender, about 3 min
add squid and toss until cooked through, about 2-3 min
season with salt to taste.