December 18, 2014

A little mustard heaven on Borough Market - London again

Spice it up with mustard

While in London, I didn't just visit Brixton Market (link to previous post), to get the local flavours and buy Caribbean and African spices,  I also was lucky enough to have time for some food related visits in central London. 

Yes, yes, I know what I often say, the best food in London you get slightly outside of the city, unless you go to the very fancy places,  but you actually don't need to venture that far out. Borough Market, an amazing farmers market with plenty of organic food is just around the corner from London Bridge Tube station.

I like this area in general, it is an area full of odd little places, and I like to come here or to Camden Lock Market (see link) when I am in town - always have, and I have spent a lot of time in London. If you have the slightest interest in food, not just for cooking, but for eating, this is a place that you need to visit. 

December 16, 2014

Brixton - Another side of London

A taste of the Caribbean with a hint of Africa

The rest of the world likes to make fun of UK and say that you can't eat well in England.

That's not true.

It is admittedly very easy to eat bad in UK, something went wrong once upon a time. This country that has a lot of wonderful traditions when it comes to hunting and harvesting, but unfortunately much of the knowledge got lost somewhere along the way. However Britain always had a big influx of inspiration from elsewhere, having been an empire you have people with their roots all over the world, not the least India. People who now are settled in UK, especially England, and have been for generations.

And with that, and with efficient transports, it has become increasingly easy to find good food in UK, you just have to know where to look. Brixton is one of the places.

November 14, 2014

Learning from the Locals - Som Tum from a motorcycle kitchen

How To Prepare Green Papaya Salad

Via my Twitterfeed (Wander_World) I found an interesting little piece from Huffington Post on "7 Street-Food Eats Not to Miss on Your Next Visit to Bangkok". Thanks to Keith Jenkins for re-posting so I found it, and to Anna's Friends  for finding and posting - this post about Thailand made me look back and fondly remember some of the things I love about the country.  

Yes, Thailand, the country in South East Asia where Bangkok is the capital, I am not mixing up Taiwan and Thailand like people in general often do, the same way they mix up Sweden and Switzerland, I really mean Thailand. Just like Taiwan a food heaven, but another type of food heaven. 

It's all garlic
Seeing the post made me relive, in my memory, many of the wonderful things I have seen and experienced when I have been in the country; And with Som Tum, or Som Tam as it's also called, on the top list I can remember the flavours, sense the aroma of the fish sauce and the crushed garlic in the air, I can remember the wonderful feeling of sitting on the roadside, munching on a delicious and very spicy Green Papaya Salad, som tum salad. 

I ate green papaya salad many times, full of garlic and chilies, flavours that suits my palate very well - someone who has problem with garlic or spices will not want to be close to me, garlic is a staple in my house, not only because it is tasty, and, I believe, very healthy, but also because it helps against mosquitoes, or so I believe. 

October 28, 2014

A Magical Spot in the Mountains - The Ju Ming Museum

In The North East Corner of Taiwan 

In a far away corner of Taipei, well, not really Taipei, but as close as you can get and still be far away, is an interesting little spot. How to get there with public transportation I don't know, but I heard that there is supposed to be a bus service certain days and times. If that is true or not, I don't know, but there are taxis and other types of tours, or you take your scooter, if you are lucky enough to have one.

Trust me on this one - it is worth the effort. 

The Ju Ming museum – 朱銘美術館(JuMing MeiShuGuan)- a magical place up in the mountains. It is worth going here just for the view but when you see the museum itself, embedded in the green, it's easy to be lost for words. 

October 25, 2014

In a Corner of Frankfurt

Did I Mention I Love Food?

In a corner of Frankfurt I found my little heaven.
A fantastic food market with foods from all over the world.

A market hall with long history, it has been around for a long time - and it is still going strong. I walked in, with my friend, and I was almost overwhelmed. It's an amazing indoor market, with stands all over the ground floor, and up, on the first floor, a balcony that goes along the market hall, giving you the view over the stands and what's going on, and going on it is - at least on a Saturday, this is one of the most lively little places I have seen, full of smells and aromas, people chatting, sales people offering their product, letting your sample, giving you tips on what to cook and how.

A walk around the market is like travelling to Mexico, over to India, via China, and back to Europe and France, over to Italy and returning to Germany, before heading out to Spain, and then down to Mexico again - and you go around and around and around and meet new parts of the world with every step you take. 

October 20, 2014

Through Europe with train

Travel Slowly 

Currently I am involved in a startup and studying at university. I have a degree from before but I'm in the process of changing. The beauty of that is I get to plan my own time.

It means I am not restricted to location, nor to a specific time. And I use my time wisely. I always travel with my books and most of the time with my computer - but I travel.

And as I am not limited by time, I can travel my favourite ways. I travel by train. And sometimes by bus/coach.

Recently I took the night train through Europe, through German down to Basel, and onwards through to Geneva.

It's a beautiful ride! The amazing landscape you are moving through, not the least in Switzerland, with the mountains and the big lakes, the rolling hills, the farms, the vineyards, the beautiful little villages (and a number of not so interesting concrete buildings), taking the train through Europe without any time pressure, I find it calming, relaxing, and very very fascinating, the contrasts are dramatic between the different parts of Europe, and the history is long and very visible, of kings and queens, emperors and powerful church movements - Calvinism in Geneva not the least - and empires. The Roman influences are still strong in many parts of Europe, not the least in the architecture.

October 14, 2014

The Five Foods You Should Never Eat

Five Foods You Should Never Eat

From the food we are eating we are getting nutrition and energy, food is important for every living being. 

Without food we can survive longer than we can survive without water, but still not very long. 

Food contains not just the energy that we need to but should also all the vitamins, minerals, the antioxidants we need to live a good life, or any life. 

But to stay happy and healthy, there are some foods you should never eat.

October 04, 2014

When I first got to Düsseldorf... NRW Forum, and the expats

Back at NRW Forum

When I first moved to Düsseldorf, Germany I didn't really know many people. I came here for work, but work was in another city. However Düsseldorf was the natural choice, as it is a very international city, with the international airport, with good train connections to the rest of Germany as well as the rest of Europe, and with a lot of people from all over the world. I didn't know that then, but Düsseldorf was even more international than I had thought, and it was to become the place where I feel at home. 

City building and high rises. Bride, RiverTo get to know my new city I went to a lot of museums, and I came across NRW Forum for the first time, NRW Forum that at that time was showing an exhibition called "Radical Advertising" - I saw it several times, and I really enjoyed it. 

When I heard through the grapevine that there was an English "Stammtisch", a regular English meeting at the NRW Forum Friday evenings  I decided to go and check it out - and that's how I first learnt about the English tour that was also at that point taking place at the forum.

September 20, 2014

An Apple A Day

The Return to Münich, Germany 

And so I returned to Viktualienmarkt... 

In Munich (München), Germany for a wedding in August I never the less found the time to both meet up with other friends and return to Viktualienmarkt, the market I have written about before.

There are few things as nice as going to a good market for food shopping and  Europe is nice in the early autumn. The selection is incredible and you can enjoy it just for the aesthetic value, if you are one of the strange souls who don't like to cook or eat - the colours are amazing, bright orange pumpkins, carrots in every colour, from sunset-orange to blood-red, as well as white-yellow like vanilla creme.

Green in every tone you can imagine, brown, yellow, and purple like the aubergines/eggplants.

And then there are all the apples! 

September 03, 2014

Bring Your Kitchen

 How To Make Pizza Where the Customers Are

If you do go to Kenting, the southern tip of Taiwan, don't get your expectations up when it comes to Taiwanese food. There isn't much of it.

If in Kenting, chances are that you will be staying in Kenting Town. Kenting Town, a little village, is a tourist spot and as such full of food for the tourists. As many of the tourists are local tourists that eat Taiwanese every day, the majority of the restaurants down here feature what is considered exotic food; There are a number of Thai places (as in Thailand, not Taiwan), there are European/American style restaurants, not the least close to or in the big and very fancy hotel complexes around – the enormous places where you need a map to find the way to the breakfast room, no, breakfast hall, and where there are stairs and corridors and levers leading you through the labyrinths of pool area, entertainment, reading room, shops, laundry room, hotel restaurants and so forth – plenty of restaurants around there.

There are also various other types of restaurants, but not many Taiwanese; So don't come to Kenting and expect to eat Taiwanese, but be prepared for Italian, American, Thai and so forth. It's not bad - just don't expect the authentic Taiwanese food - Kenting takes pride in being international. 

September 02, 2014

Find your way to Kenting

How to get to Kenting

or A Post on Logistics

Travelling in Taiwan is relatively easy. If you stick to the west coast and if you go from city to city that is.

There are several coach services and buses, and the vehicles are all comfortable and air conditioned. It's also very inexpensive. Since the country is so small, you get very far very quickly, there is a good network of motorways.

There are also trains that takes you between the cities.

And most cities are connected by trains.

Most. Not Kenting.

Kenting, 墾丁, which I wrote about before, can therefore be a bit challenging to get to, but the most common way is to get to Kaohsiung, Taiwan's second largest city, and catch a local bus from there. If you are coming from the east coast however, there are some other alternatives – but they always includes a bus at the end, if you want to use public transportation. It TAKES quite a while, you don't go to Kenting over the day – and that's why it is also important to reserve somewhere to stay before getting there. Kenting in in the backyard of Taiwan but as many backyards, stunningly beautiful and well worth the hours you spend getting here.

August 29, 2014

Things to See in Kenting

Kenting, the Southern Tip of Taiwan

Kenting, the very south of Taiwan. Surfers' Paradise, as far as surfing goes in Taiwan, also the only real part of Taiwan where the waters are shallow enough for scuba diving to pay off, at least when it comes to the mainland – around the small island it outside of Taiwan it is different.

Kenting, 墾丁 in Chinese (Mandarin), or "Kending" in Pinyin, where the climate is relatively comfortable also in the winter, when the rest of the country can get chilly, especially when the cold winds from the north hits.

Kenting town is not very impressive, it is a small village and it reminds me of the tourist resorts in and around Greece, Spain, Turkey and Italy, well, actually the whole Mediterranean area, where the same cheap plastic toys and trinkets are sold in every shop and where the food is adjusted for the tourists. It's not bad, don't misunderstand me, it's just not that special or typical Taiwanese. 

However it is never the less a place that should not be missed – the climate is only one of the advantages, the closeness to the sea is another; But more than anything the whole area around Kenting is the home of what is one of the largest areas with protected and cared for nature in Taiwan; Kenting National Park.

August 22, 2014

With its feet In the salty water

Zeekraal - a Dutch Delicacy

At a recent visit to Den Haag (The Hague) in Netherlands, I walked in to a little restaurant, just because I was curious, and found this, in a little bowl on the counter. It's something I had never seen before, each little part maybe as long as my little finger from top to bottom, but much much thinner, thin as well grown chives, or thin straws. 

Curious as I am I of course had to ask...

The owner of the restaurant told me that this is a dutch speciality, that grows outside Den Haag (The Hague), with it's feet in the water it sucks up the salt in it's surroundings. He went on and explained a bit more how it is used, it can be served raw or be cooked, often steamed, and served, in salads. He then invited me to try a piece, and I was very pleasantly surprised. I lack the terminology for describing the zeekraal, but it is green, relatively firm, and taste of the ocean, the wild and beautiful sea. 

August 07, 2014

Taiwanese Sausages - An Unexpected Little Surprise

Sweet and Yet Savoury

There is something special about Taiwanese sausages.

And it is not just that they are often – normally? - served on a stick. That IS a nice feature though, especially for someone like me who doesn't eat much bread. It's not that I don't like bread now and then, keyword being now and then – but I like my sausage without bread and when it is served on a stick, that's exactly what you get; Sausage without bread. Although when you DO get it in bread it is not really bread either, in Taiwan the sausages are, if they are not served on a stick, served in a a type of bun that isn't really a bun at all, but rather a sausage, a light brown sausage – white, almost – which contains rice. It is a very tasty sausage which is used as a bun.

August 05, 2014

Kaohsiung August 2014 - Sorrow Hits the Country

Kaohsiung August 2014

Late in the evening on a hot an humid day in August, it happened, the nightmare that no one wants to happen. It much resembled what you see in doomsday Hollywood productions, except this time it was no film, and while it was a nightmare, it was not the kind of nightmare you wake up from, your heard pounding, the cold sweat covering your body, chill running down your spine. This time there was no waking up. This time the nightmare was real...

July 17, 2014

The Five Top Strange Things to Eat That I am Now Used To

Top Five Strange Things to Combine that I am Now Used To

or - It's funny how your taste changes

Market stand with lots and lots of hot chillies in different colours, the colour of fire.
In no specific order, here they are, the top five weird taste combinations, triggered by my last post (see link 
  • Mayonnaise with potato wedges/chips/fries 
  • Butter, or anything savoury on pancakes 
  • Sprinkles on bread 
  • Sweet popcorn
Why? Well, here are my reasons 

  • Mayonnaise with my chips, or, as they like to call them in US, french fries (aka pommes frites).
Weird combo for Swedes. We use ketchup! Or nothing. I was completely chocked, and quite repulsed by the question "Do you want mayonnaise with that" the first time I heard it. But since then I have tried and tried again, and you know what; I prefer it to ketchup. Not ON my food, but on the side, so I can dip the fries I want in the mayonnaise. Or maybe a little of both. But mayonnaise has really grown on me. 

July 12, 2014

Flavours that don't marry well. Or do they?

When my friend's now husband moved to Sweden from Turkey he found it weird  - and pretty disgusting - how Swedish food was always very sweet. Even the herring he found sweet. We all stared at him and wondered what on earth he was going on about, and then I slowly started to realise how right he was.

No, it is not sweet as in "American style cakes and cookies-sweet", that's a whole different level of sweetness, but there is definitely a lot of truth in what he said; Even in the pickled herring, so common in Sweden, we have sugar;

  • Cooking vinegar
  • Salt
  • Sugar

Mix, bring to a boil, add the spices you want, pour over the cleaned and rinsed salted herring, let it sit for at least two days before you eat it.

Sauces, pickled gherkins, and of course, the one condiment they say only one other country uses more of; Ketchup. Ketchup that only the Americans eat more of than we do.  All is with sugar. Even much of the bread you buy is with sugar. Turkey is a land of crazy sweet sweet - hello Baklava - but the sweet is generally served in smaller portions. I can understand why a Turkish man feels that Swedish food sweet, because it is, I just never really realised until I left Sweden. 

As you may have gathered by now, food is my passion and of course that means I am also a member of discussion/inspiration group where we discuss food online, and recently we started to talk about different flavours and what they mean to us, and that also helped trigger this blog post. Some are repulsed by cumin, a spice I love to use, others can't stand cilantro, a spice I used to have problems with myself, but now adore. But not in everything, definitely not in everything. 

It fascinates me how different cultures uses different types of spices and condiments completely different, and how one combination can be considered disgusting in one culture can be considered to marry really well in another; One of the girls in my food discussion group said to me how "dill can really only be used with fish".  In my world, dill works well with either crayfish/craw fish or lobsters as well as with fresh potatoes but I can't think of many other areas where I would use it. 

We also serve the same type of food but for the time of day when we would serve it is different. Omelet or pancakes is a typical lunch or perhaps a supper in Sweden, pancakes even more a dessert - in North America this is typical breakfast food, at least for a weekend breakfast. No Swede would ever dream about having pancakes for breakfast, unless there are some over from the Thursday traditional dinner - pea soup and pancakes, you can read more about the tradition here - it's a tradition that dates back hundreds of years. 

June 21, 2014

The Top 5 things I miss when in Asia

The top 5 things - what I miss when in South East Asia

I promised myself once that I'd never do one of those "The Top 5 things I [fill in the blank]" lists.
It's a common trick to get readers to a blog and it's not quite my way of writing.

And then a friend (Joy at My Traveling Joy posted a list of the top things she miss when outside of her native country, USA, and it got me thinking. I quickly realised I can't make the same list or even a similar list – top five things that I miss from home: Home is where I leave my hat and I don't feel a stronger connection to one place over the other.

But there are things I do miss from Europe when I am in South East Asia.

Here they are, in no specific order

    Cheese. Real good, well matured cheese, cheese full of flavour. Especially hard cheese. Sure, you can find it in special stores in Asia, but it is not a part of the normal diet. And I am a cheese addict.

    I crave strong, well matured cheese, I just can't resist it; French cheese, Swedish hard cheese (hard to beat a well matured "Västerbotten" or a strong "Greve", both cheese very special for Sweden), Italian special cheese, a Portuguese Serra de Estrela, a sheep cheese, hard outside, soft inside, best eaten with a spoon and often relatively smelly - in short; Cheese is a passion, and it is difficult to enjoy that passion in South East Asia. But then again, I always found it difficult to find good cheese in Germany as well, the Germans are fantastic at other types of food but don't, is my experience, have a strong cheese culture. 

    June 14, 2014

    Step by Step - the Ruili Youth Trail

    If they point here, don't fall for it

    The road leading down
    I mean it, literally, do not fall.

    Because if you do, it will be the last thing you do, most likely.

    Ruili, high up in the Taiwanese mountains, is absolutely gorgeous, I have been here a couple of times and I adore the area, I can't get enough of it, how different it is from the busy Taichung, my "hometown", or Taipei, the capital of Taiwan. Ruili is almost empty, vibrantly green, and full of stunning hikes and rock formations, similar but yet different from Taroko, on the East Coast. Ruili is in Alishan, the Ali Mountain.

    It's a beautiful area all together, very green, very lush, and with a different climate; the high altitude makes the nights more chilly, even when the days are warm, and the crops that grow up here are different from what you see closer to the sea.  Here I went hiking. With long trousers, as I am a mosquito magnet - others don't see a mosquito but they are all over me - with a top, and with plenty of water and mosquito spray, and with very good hiking boots. This is not an area for anything else but very good hiking boots; Leave the flip flops at home, and don't even dream about heels. There is nothing here that is flat...  And make sure you start the hike from the Yuantan Ecological Park side, close to the waterfall, not from the Ruili side, like I did; It takes you through beautiful green nature, and you will see the sights before you are right under them - this is the best way to experience the hike.

    May 29, 2014

    Down In The Darkest of Dungeouns

    Sake On Manhattan

    It was a hot and humid summer night, and I had finished a great meal on Lower East Street, Manhattan, so I wasn't hungry. It was not the food that draw me in...  I had heard about it through the grapevine, and I was curious to try it out. It seemed too good to be missed. It seemed too interesting to be overlooked. 

    I had walked past it before, without immediately recognising it, but now that I returned to the area it was easier to spot - I knew what I was looking for. The stairs were narrow, but the gate that had been closed when I passed the previous time now stood open.  I carefully stepped down, wondering what I was getting myself into... Me, a woman travelling on my own, stepping down these little stairs, not knowing what to expect. It didn't really look like a bar would be hiding behind the door. 

    The door squeaked slightly when I pushed it open. The room was empty except for a couple sitting in the opposite corner. I was early. And yet the room had a very special atmosphere, it was like stepping in to an old film...   

    May 28, 2014

    It Was That Thing With Parisian Food Markets - Place d'Aligre

    What's Cooking In Paris

    or rather where... Last year I visited Paris and I wrote about the food markets there - click here to get to the old post. In Paris everything is expensive and I am again and again disappointed with the food - and then I realise/remember it is because I go to the super markets.

    In Paris you need to stay away from the supermarket. In Paris you need to go to the local places, to the butcher, to the vegetable shop, to the cheese shop, to the local little chicken roastery. You don't go to the supermarket, you go to the little shops - as long as they are away from the touristy areas - and you go to the open markets, the farmer markets, and you buy what's in season. It is not much different from  any other country although here it is even more obvious, price wise.

    Last time I wrote about Place d'Aligre, but since I didn't include a map, I thought I'd bring it up again.

    Place d'Aligre and the food market, Marche d'Aligre, is not that easy to find, not at the first glance, and I had walked past it several times, without knowing it was actually there - well, not the actual indoor market, but the area where the market stands tend to be.

    May 27, 2014

    Muzeum Gastronomia - Gastronomic Museum - HOW Could I Resist

    When In Prague - Food Museum

    I mentioned in a previous post about the flooding in Europe this year (link from Deutsche Welle)  that I was in Prague last summer, Prague, the capital of Czech Republic. 

    In Prague it rained and rained and rained but I never the less had a chance to see and do a lot - not the least because of the friends who were there too and had organised several dinners and us going to a beer festival; It's great to have friends who like to travel. 

    However as always when I travel, I take the opportunity to see some on my own; In this case also because I arrived before my friends and left later. 

    A little place that I came across was the Muzeum Gastronomia, a gastronomic museum in central Prague; Totally unexpected, I stumbled across it when turning around a corner and trying to find protection from the rain. 

    May 26, 2014

    The Munich Food Markets - Once Again

    Viktualienmarkt - A Favourite Spot

    Last summer I visited Munich, or as it's called in German, München, the capital of Bavaria, the state in Southern Germany, the state known for Octoberfest, the beer festival that takes place in the end of September. In Munich I have several good friends that I was visiting - and when I visit friends I love to cook - it is one of the best treats about visiting friends, having access to a kitchen and someone who is interested in sampling food - and it is a great and fun challenge too, to cook in someones home. 

    And to cook, I of course need to get ingredients, and ingredients I love to go to the market for. I don't like supermarkets, I use them now and then for toilet paper and kitchen rolls and detergents, as well as for flour and oats, mustard and light bulbs and a few other things.

    May 25, 2014

    Europe is Flooding - Last Year it was Prague

      There is a Lot of Water

    A year ago I was in Prague, Czech Republic. It rained, rained, rained and rained. I was visiting with friends, among them Joy from My Traveling Joys (see link).

    I believe the only time it didn't rain was when the others from our group were on a tour and I was seeing another friend who lives in the city, every other day it rained; We went for coffee - we were soaked. We went to the beer festival we were joining; We were soaked. I went running, I had water dripping from me when coming back for breakfast. 

    My friends left and I stayed a bit longer and Prague was more or less submerged, metro stations (underground) were closed, restaurants filled with water and no food could be served. Going home by the night train was scary, we drove through a south Eastern Europe completely covered in water, along the railway the houses that I saw on the way down were not to be seen, or only the top floor or the roof was sticking up. 

    May 23, 2014

    High Up in the Taiwanese Mountains is Ruilie

    Up Up Up - and Then You Reach a Piece of Paradise

    The first time I came here was a warm and humid day in the spring. My hair was curling and was sticking to my forehead, my bag felt enormous, and my legs were tired. I had managed to get a coffee on the way, which had helped a little but far from enough. I had not had time to have a proper breakfast. All I wanted was to have a nap and something to eat, not necessarily in that order.

    I had to get hold of a person but had not been successful, I could not reach him on the phone and while it seemed the first text message I had sent had gotten through the rest were bouncing and I couldn't get through, nor did I have any idea if I had reached the right person. I had no idea if I'd actually be able to find the place where I was going to stay that night, and it did worry me a bit.

    And then I stepped of the train, and realised that whatever happened next, it would be OK, because with a view like that, nothing can ever be anything but OK or better!

    May 21, 2014

    10 000 Buddhas - and 10 000 steps

    When in Hong Kong

    A little while ago I wrote an article on another network about the 10 000 Buddha's Monastery in Hong Kong. Since then I have been going through my travel pictures and I have been dreaming myself away.

    Hong Kong is in itself a bit of an odd mix between extremely Western and very Eastern, or very Chinese, having been a brittish crown colony from 1842, when the First Opium War ended has definitely left it marks, even though it's been back under Chinese rule since 1997, when the Brits returned the country to China. However Hong Kong is still managed under the "One Country, Two Systems" device, and Hong Kong have their own currency, their own border controls and their own visa rules for us foreigners, for example those of us on any of the EU passports can travel to Hong Kong for three months without a visa, whereas in China we would need one. Hong Kong also uses the traditional Chinese characters for writing, just like Taiwan does, also when writing mandarin.

    And at the same time Hong Kong is full of English stores, uses the English power plugs, drives on the left side of the road and in general is very English - and yet not English at all, even though all administration can basically be done in English.

    It is the Asian side of Hong Kong that fascinates me, and the mix - the English side I can see in England. I try and stay away from Hong Kong Island as much as possible, and instead head to Lamma island, to Lantau, to Kowloon and to the New Territories... 

    May 17, 2014

    Did you think New York attracted big crowds?

    Japan Day in Düsseldorf 

    Or it all depends what you compare it to

    2010 I was in New York City for one of my many trips to the country, and I ended up at a big event in Central Park. Well, at least I thought it was big, with about 40 000 participants showing up.

    And then I came to Düsseldorf, Germany...

    And now it is  that time of the year again; The day when Düsseldorf gets filled up with amazingly interesting people and gorgeous food, the time of the year when you look outside and you feel transported to another part of the world.

    The time of the year when Japan Day happens... 

    With one of the biggest Japanese populations outside of Japan, excellent Japanese food is always readily available, there are every Japanese tool you can imagine available, you can buy Japanese books and magazines, you can go to the Japanese temple, it is fascinating and spellbinding.  And on one day every year, the Japanese community comes out and show the rest of the city what Japan and being Japanese is about. 

    May 15, 2014

    National Palace Museum - a Spot You Have to See

    National Palace Museum in Taipei, Taiwan - the other history

    It may not tell the story of Taiwan, but what it does is telling an amazing story of a time long time passed, a story of a culture that has impacted all of us, in different ways, regardless of where we are in the world.

    The museum building, surrounded by green trees, and the path leading up to it.It tells the story of China.

    A China well before it became the People's Republic  of China, a China when the emperors ruled the area, when emperors had the power in the Centre of the World - Zhongguo, 中國, meaning just that - the central country. A China full of mystery, full of traditions, and full of culture. National Palace Museum in Taipei, Taiwan tells a story of China before it opened up, when the Forbidden city in Beijing was inhabited by the emperor and his wives. The air in the National Palace Museum is so full of history that you can't avoid being impacted, draw in to the magic of the old stories.  

    The National Palace Museum in Taiwan deservs your time

    National Palace Museum in Taiwan is one of the biggest museums in the world, and it has the largest number of Chinese artifacts, without any doubt.

    May 10, 2014

    The Modern History of Taiwan - a Complicated Affair

    The modern history of Taiwan, the way it was told to me

    I started writing about the history of Taiwan a billion times, and every time I get lost in my own
    words, because the history is so long and so full of twists, so this time I thought I'd get right to the point – the modern story of Taiwan, and some historical insight to why the relation to China isn't an easy one...  I wrote about it before, both here on the blog and on "The Stinky Tofu" - but to connect the dots, I need to explain about about the history of Taiwan. 

    And to understand the modern history of Taiwan, you have to understand the modern history of China. This is a story that needs to be told as it lays the foundation to the understanding of what is going on today.

    China, or as it is officially referred to, "The People's Republic of China" (中國人民共和國 – Zhongguo RenMin GongHeGuo in Pinyin) has in its current shape and form existed since 1949. October 1 that year Mao Tsedong, aka Chairman Mao proclaimed The People's Republic of China and China the way we know it today was born. But before Mao came to power, there was a civil war, or a revolution going on – and this is where you need to pay attention;

    China had been ruled by emperors under a long long time but 1911, just a few years before WWI started in Europe, the Chinese party KMT – Kuomintang – started a revolution which lead to the last emperor of China stepping down 1912.

    The revolution threw China into turmoil and during the years following 1912, China was anything but a stable country. KMT, founded by Dr Sun Yat Sen, and the communist party of China, CPC, lead by Mao Tse Tung (Mao Zedong) were fighting over power. 1925 a man named Chiang Kai-Shek took over KMT, and this is where it starts to get really interesting, if you know anything about Taiwanese history. You see, it is not a coincident that the name KMT and the name Chiang Kai-Shek appears first in China and later in Taiwan, as you may have guessed already it is indeed the same party and the same man – a Chinese party, a Chinese man.

    May 07, 2014

    Don't Talk About Politics – But if You Don't, it May Be Too Late

    There is an elephant in the room

    -Don't talk to the Taiwanese about politics!

    It was the first advice I was given after I moved to Taiwan. "Do not talk to the Taiwanese about politics; It will make them uncomfortable and it is not polite to make your hosts uncomfortable. Talk about food instead, or something else.".
    No, this is not the elephant in Taiwan
    I had been to Taiwan before but visiting a country is not the same as living in it. I knew Taiwan to be a wonderful country, full of interesting people that were all very sweet; So far so good. And talking about food is easy - it is my passion as well as theirs; TV, Radio, newspapers, it is all full of food - recipes, discussions about food, restaurant reviews - but very little politics - and it is not because it's not allowed, Taiwan is a democracy and as such, have free press. Still, the politics don't really make the media, not the way we are used to in Western Europe at least.  

    Learning the hidden cultural rules is part of moving to a new country. I was lucky enough to get the advice early on which means I immediately started to observe what was going on around me, and it was true; The Taiwanese in most cases avoid what may make the next person uncomfortable, often a great treat, but also something that can be very dangerous - if you don't talk about what is going on around you, how are you going to be able to have an influence on it? When politics was brought up, normally by some foreigner not understanding better, the Taiwanese as a general rule seemed to switch topics.

    May 05, 2014

    Spend Your Time Wisely - spend it around good people

    Parc de Bastions, Geneva, Switzerland
    In Gothenburg, Sweden they are in the basement of the central library.

    In Geneva they hang in the park, and the chessboards are big and part of the pavement – and unlike in the library, there is no silence, but a constant chatter of voices, there is continuously a sound of people chit chatting, the bystanders commenting on the games, the sound of children playing in the park nearby, and occasionally you may hear the players themselves comment on the game as well.

    Just like in the library you are not allowed to touch your pieces unless you are actually moving it, but unlike the library, you do touch the board. You have to. Your only way to reach the chess pieces is to walk on the board, and the pieces will reach to you the knees or higher. Because in the park you don't sit at a table.

    April 30, 2014

    Today on "The Stinky Tofu"

    Today on The Stinky Tofu - I believe we watched history being written, about the demonstrations in Taiwan March 2014. Follow this link to read the article.

    Chinese dumplings for the Chinese New Year

    Chinese dumplings – JiaoZi – in Taipei

    Take a special holiday, bring a group of friends together, add passion for food, a splash of beer and a big table and you can do it. 

    In January I took the train from Taichung -台中- to Taipei -台北 – to go and visit my friends. It was a chilly day, he who says Taiwan is always warm has not visited in January. When I went up, it was shortly before the Chinese new year, which follows the moon and hence varies a little from year to year, compared to our western calendar.
    This year the old year ended in the end of January and we stepped in to the new year, the Year of the Horse – but before we could do that, we wanted to do something special.

    We wanted to cook together. 

    And we decided to make dumplings; But not just any type of dumplings, we were going for Jiaozi, 餃子, the type of dumpling, usually filled with pork and leek, and made of wheat, a dumpling so common in the Beijing area for New Years. It is a very nice traditions, a nice tradition that comes from China, not Taiwan, but there is nothing wrong with adopting nice food traditions from other countries, as long as the food is good – I did my best when I lived in Germany to teach my international friends the concept of Swedish pea-soup followed by pancakes for dessert on Thursdays, an old Swedish tradition.

    April 24, 2014

    Green and green and green and green again

    The many tones of green

    There is something breathtakingly beautiful about spring in the northern hemisphere, something someone who never were can't fully grasp. When the nights are getting shorter and the days are getting longer, when the evenings seems to last forever and ever.

    When you the first time can feel that yes, the sun, it is not just up there, being big and yellow, it actually warms your face, if ever so little.

    There is something about when the soil, black and without visible life, is starting to sport little straws of grass, straws you can't even see to start with, but straws that bit by bit, little by little, win over the winter.

    Something about the smell when the rain hits the asphalt on the first day when the asphalt actually has been warmed up enough to be warmer than the rain that hits it.

    April 18, 2014

    Amazed in the Taroko Gorge

    Fascinating Taroko Gorge 

    or See the traces from when Taiwan was born

    Hualien - 花連 -the town in Taiwan where the earthquakes can be felt most often. A nice little place once you find your way to the city centre and know what to do. But the best thing about Hualien, this little city on the east coast of Taiwan, is what the earthquakes created.

    Namely the Taroko Gorge - 太魯閣  (TaiLuGe in Pinyin)

    More or less everybody who comes to Hualien the first time comes for this, the Taroko gorge, or the Taroko ravine, if you like. Here you can really see how Taiwan came to exist, when earthquakes and other geological movement pressed the landmass out of the sea and created what we now know as the beautiful country of Taiwan.

    The nature is magical here – but do not take the warnings about falling rocks lightly, Taiwan with it's high peaks and deep valleys is very much a country still shaping, and the earthquakes ARE frequent, so what was a rock that seemed well anchored yesterday may not be anymore. The rains, especially when it's typhoon season but also at other times (it IS a tropical island after all, and tropical rains... Well, have you ever seen tropical rains?) may also move the earth...

    March 28, 2014

    Kenting and the sound of the waves

    Currently very busy touring Taiwan for work - yes, some are that lucky from time to time - I haven't had chance to post much lately. I haven't forgotten you, I have been collecting notes, taking pictures, tested restaurants, seen highlights and photographed. I have stories to tell and adventures to share, I have experiences to tell about.

    Down in Kenting (垦丁), the very south of Taiwan, I had a chance to stop and relax, had a chance to wander the beach and smell the sea. I can't share the smell of the sea, but I can share with you the little clip where you can hear the sound of the ocean.

    Sorry about quality which is limited, but I couldn't resist posting a little film which gives you a first glance of how things can be in Kenting.

    February 24, 2014

    Green oranges

    Did you know that Taiwanese citrus fruit are green?
    Me and my classmates in Taiwan were wondering when we'd find ripened oranges and mandarins in Taiwan.

    Green citrus fruits, looking like they are unripe and very sour. The colour of small lime fruit in Europe, or of very early spring leaves
    Green citrus fruits, ready to eat. Sweet!
    It was in August and all we could find were the green fruits with a few yellow spots, and we all kept wondering when we would find the ones that were ready to eat. All the ones we found looked like bigger versions of limes or green lemons, and we all imagined them to be very sour. That is, until two of us gave up and bought the green ones and, to our surprise, found that they were just as sweet as the ones we would normally find in Europe and North America, but in Europe and North America they would be bright orange.

    Because I am curious I bought one extra and kept in my little room, and eventually it started to change colour too, to some type of more yellow, but not orange.

    February 18, 2014

    Hotsprings. Is there any better way to warm up?

    Hotsprings - another good reason to be in Taiwan

    Taiwan is cold.

    If you don't believe me, visit Taiwan in the winter.

    It fascinates me how 13 degrees in Europe can be warm while 13 degrees in Taiwan makes you shiver – the simple answer to why is that wherever you are you are close to the sea – the humidity and the wind from the sea goes through everything. The stone houses and the lack of insulation like in most of South East Asia doesn't help either.

    Yes, of course, it's not cold ALL the time, the winter short and you get gorgeous days too, but the nights, oh, the nights. They are not always fun. Better be prepared!

    When it was really cold just before Christmas and temperatures at night dropped to around 10 and the temperature inside the houses was about the same a woman from Canada who lives in Taichung, said:

    "I opened my fridge and thought it was broken because it felt warmer in there than in the room"
    It's no wonder that the hot springs in Taiwan are so popular! Partly an inheritance from the time Taiwan was under Japanese rule the bathhouses are common and spread over at least the main island, but particularly common on the east side, where the majority of the natural springs are.

    In Taipei the most known and most easily accessible hot spring area is in Beitou, 北投, in the north of the city. Technically Beitou at least used to be a separate town but nowadays at least the tourists and travellers don't know how to tell the difference.

    Beitou is very green, and lush, not just because it is Taipei, which is probably the rainiest corner of Taiwan, but mainly because the hot springs, full of natural minerals. There are a lot of very nice hotels in the area, just like everywhere where there are hotspings, with fantastic spas and excellent service, but this is not where the average Taiwanese goes, especially not to warm up in the winter; Going to the hotel spas is not cheap, if you are on a Taiwanese budget. But there are options everyone can enjoy.

    February 05, 2014

    Taiwan food markets - a little piece of heaven

    Taiwanese food markets - a little piece of heaven for foodies like myself

    Dadu traditional market, Taichung City
    When you arrive in Taiwan one of the first questions you will hear is "Have you been to the Night Market" – and then the person who asks will ask what you think about it.

    And the night markets are fascinating, at least a few times – packed with people and stand after stand after stand with various cooked dishes and snacks, not the least the famous pigblood cake, zhuxue gao -豬血 - and 臭豆腐 - chou doufu, stinky tofu, as well as the special, slightly sweet Taiwanese sausage, often served in what looks like a bread but turns out to be another sausage, a white one.

    But what I really love about Taiwan is the traditional markets! The traditional markets that may be on the way to die out as the people of Taiwan cook less and less at home – read more on my post about that worry in this post – the traditional markets that are equal to what we recognise as Farmer's Market in the English speaking world; The market where you go to get your ingredients to cook yourself, normally or often an open market full of little stands where fresh products, very often locally produced, are sold.

    The first months in Taiwan I didn't have a kitchen, but I would still go to the market to get fruits and maybe a snack, and after I moved to a place with a kitchen I would go more or less every morning, or at least several times a week, to get my inspiration and my ingredients for the meal(s) of the day.

    There are few things that are as interesting to me as strolling through the open market, looking what is available, what looks fresh, and what inspires me – and in Taiwan, a country where close to everything grows it is very easy to get inspired.

    Special about the traditional markets is that unlike supermarkets the traditional markets are keeping open only a certain time of the day. Many markets with fruits and vegetables are open only in the morning (meaning from early to around noon), while yet other ones are open towards the afternoon/evening.  If you go there outside of the opening hours, well, then you may not even be able to find the market; At the morning market the sales men come in early, start setting up and then open up for sales; And when the market closes for the day they are equally fast at cleaning up everything and removing every trace that there was once a market. It's quite impressive – a whole market leaves without a trace, only to be set up again the morning after. 

    January 15, 2014

    Immortality in a bowl - XianTao (Canistel) for dessert

    What you can do with a Peach of Immortality
    Dessert with canistel (and it is vegan too... Without a pinch of sugar)

    I found an interesting fruit in the market the other day, and one of my readers helped me find out what it was - a "Peach of Immortality", XianTao (see link for the blog post).

    I promised to publish a recipe of what you can do with it and here it comes - I simply call it

    Immortality in a bowl

    仙桃 (XianTao) - if this is immortality I like it. 
    Immortality in a bowl


    • 1 Canistel, aka XianTao (Peach of Immortality), ripened
    • Ginger, about 2 cm
    • Two small oranges - or 1 big
    • 1/3 soft tofu, neutral
    What you need
    • A carving board
    • A knife
    • A blender
    • Something to serve the dessert in

    How to

    • Peel the canistel.
    • Cut it in pieces, take out the seeds and get rid of them (or save them if you want to plant a canistel tree...) 
    • Peel the ginger and cut it in fine pieces. 
    • Wash the oranges. This is VERY important! Always wash oranges before using them (they are often sprayed quite heavily so it is better to be on the safe side.)
    • Put the canistel in the blender, add the ginger. 
    • Add tofu, I used 1/3 of a soft type of tofu, the kind you can buy in the supermarket, without any added flavour etc. Just normal plain tofu.  
    • Start blending. When it is starting to turn into a mash, pause the blending for a bit.
    • Cut the oranges in half and press/squeeze the oranges so that you get as much juice as possible, and pour it into the blender. If you have big oranges you may want to start with one and add the second only if it is needed. Continue to blend into a pure. It doesn't have to be completely smooth, I like some small pieces, but it needs to be relatively smooth, the whole thing. 

    Once you have a fine pure, but still thick (careful with the oranges) you simply put it into a nice serving bowl, decorate each bowl with something green just for the looks, and serve. It's that simple. But it doesn't have to be complicated to be good! Notice that this is quite filling so if you already had a big meal, go easy in the size of the servings...

    This is not going to become a blog full of recipes but this was so simple that I couldn't keep from posting it, it was simply too good and too easy to make...

    Note: XianTao, 仙桃, is the same as 蛋黃果 - DanHuangGuo, there are many names for it. It may not be so easy to find in the market though; First it needs to be in season and second; Not all shops and markets have it, it is simply not so well known. It is a great fruit though, so try it if you happen to find it! Just make sure it is properly ripen because otherwise the texture is quite special and doesn't work well raw.

    January 14, 2014

    Peach of Immortality - Canistel, Pouteria campechiana.

    Peach of Immortality, XianTao - or DanGuangGuo for those who prefer that name... 

    仙桃 (XianTao), where 仙 - xian, fourth tone - means immortal according to my dictionary, and 桃 - tao, second tone - means peach. 

    Peach of immortality.

    This is the fruit I had found in the market the other day and asked about here on the blog (follow link to see the previous post).. Another name for it is 蛋黃果 - DanHuangGuo. 蛋 - dan - is the word for egg, and 黃 - huang - is yellow. Guo means fruit (you will see this word it with other fruits as well). Eggfruit is also another name this fruit is known under when you Google it. And the colour of the fruit meat is really yellow like yolk.

    Peach of immortality - XianTao (Canistel)
    Pouteria campechiana, canistel. Native of South America - follow the link to learn more (this one to Purdue University in US but there are plenty of others out there).

    If it wouldn't have been for a great reader I wouldn't have known, but now I do, and now that I know I had to do some more experimenting. This time I let my XianTao ripen a bit more - and if the name - Peach of Immortality - has anything to do with what it really does, I may just have added a few years to my life. I created a dessert yesterday and got a fantastic result - recipe to follow. I will have to make this again!

    January 13, 2014

    Banana and Sweet potato pancakes

    Banana and Sweet potato pancake (and they are vegan too)

    or There is so much to do with sweet potatoes part 1

    Vegan banana- and sweet potato pancakes
    I came up with the recipe a day in Taiwan, after having read about friends eating various types of pancakes. Being Swedish we of course have our traditional pancakes too - but my friends kept posting on Facebook and other forums and it made me hungry… And since sweet potato, 地瓜 (Di Gua) is in season here in Taiwan I thought I would use some of it in my pancakes.  

    I rarely use exact measurements, the most important skill to have if you want to be serious about cooking and baking is anyhow to learn to read the food or the dough, so many circumstances play in; The size of the fruits involved, if the flour is dry if there is more humidity in the air, draughts, oven and so forth. So take my measurements as a guideline but follow your instincts.

    January 09, 2014

    What on earth is THIS fruit?

    A nameless fruit - the beauty with Taiwan is learning

    One of my favourite things to do in Taiwan, well, in most places in the world that I visit actually, but even more in Taiwan, is going to the market. The traditional market, the market that would by many be called the Farmers Market. Interesting food, you can watch what the locals are buying and you can get inspired. And inspired I get... 

    Fruits and vegetables in Taiwan are amazing, I have mentioned it in several posts before. I love to go and pick out what's in season and see what I can do with that. Today I came across a challenge though, a fruit that I don't know what it is. It was inexpensive, which indicated that it is something that grows locally in Taiwan and also that it is in season - Taiwan is all about what's in season. I never saw it before though (or didn't pay attention), so I suspect the season just started. But what is it? 

    Of course I bought it and took it home to investigate. I thought I could perhaps use it in my smoothie - I am very much into smoothies as a snack at the moment - but after I had tried it I realised it wasn't really the right thing to do. At least not right now

    The peel is thin, not as thin as a potato, but thin. Thinner than on a citrus fruit, and it also has a very different flavour compared to citrus fruits.

    It's big like a lemon in size, or a mandarin/clementine.

    The texture is almost like chestnuts. 
    I was thinking persimmon when I cut it but it wasn't sweet the way I know persimmons from how they taste in Europe. Sure, it may be a different type but still be a persimmon, but I have the feeling that this is something different. Maybe related to the persimmons we see in Europe though.

    This one has two beautiful brown seeds, seeds that almost have the same colour as chestnuts, before they are peeled, but it's only two. 

    What I did with it in the end? I made a really good vegetarian pasta sauce with chillies and pepper and a bit of salt. I cut the fruit up in small pieces after I peeled it and let it boil with spices, a bit of ginger, a bit of olive oil and water until it had all gotten very soft. It was full of flavours. 

    The one I have left I will leave for a few days, to see if it changes texture and flavour with a few more days ripening time. Also, I am curious to whether it can be eaten raw or not, because the texture today wasn't inviting. You can have a few bits raw but it felt like something was missing, the texture was too, well, almost a bit sandy, if you understand what I mean. 

    But if you know what this is, the name of the fruit I would be happy to hear from you! I want to find out the name in English but preferably also in Chinese, especially the characters. If it turns out to be something good and healthy I am going to make the most of the season and experiment with new recipes. It is difficult to search for recipes for inspiration if I don't even know the name... 

    January 08, 2014

    A very simple snack - Sweetpotatoes - di gua - 地瓜

    A very simple snack - and there is no processing involved

    What you see here is one of my favourite snacks. 

    And there is no processed food involved, there are no artificial ingredients. No food colouring, no artificial sweeteners, no light products.

    And because of that it may be one of the most healthy snacks there is out there... 

    Di gua - sweet potato. An excellent in-between meals snack.
    It is the one thing that Taiwan was not named for but at least is nicknamed after. The sweet potato. The island is shaped as a sweet potato, sweet potatoes, di gua - 地瓜 - is grown across the country and is a relatively common staple. 

    The sweet potato. So much you can do with it, but in Taiwan one of the more common ways it is done is roasted, or grilled. I got from a lady who had a little "oven" set up next to one of the bus stops on Taichung Port Road here in Taiwan, but you can normally find roasted sweet potato in just about any convenient store, be it Seven 11 or Family Mart or something else.