My Slowly-Increasing Derriere…

…is a cause for concern. Clothes are fitting me a bit too snugly and I find myself playing with my fat rolls around my hips when my mind wanders. Although it has proven to be a pretty soothing past time, the thought arises: I have rolls of fat that I can fondle. Wow.

I blame it on this goddamn city. So many wonderful eating options, restaurants popping up like acne on a pimply kid’s face and no dearth of willing hands serving you sloppy, cheesy gorgeous tacos, amazing stir-fried goodies, or late-night fried meat buns. Taipei has rightly won CNN’s Asia’s most sinful cities award for gluttony. All tongue in cheek, yeah…don’t want anybody getting their knickers in a knot, but it’s TRUE! Especially, if you live in the city. We get fat.

Now back to those tacos…it’s right up there with pasta, pizza, burgers, soda – all the junk I really don’t like anyway. You know? The kind of food that inspires you to think of your stomach as a separate character from you? “My stomach, my boyfriend and I are going out for dinner tonight so we can’t join you for that peaceful protest. Good luck with…nomnomnom…”.

It all started and ended with the tacos. On my first trip to the States two years ago, my boyfriend and his family were practically salivating when describing the food trucks in Austin, Texas that sold really incredible tacos. I was all meh, show me the raw food cafes and vegan options.

But then, I tasted my first soft fish taco and died. There were no adjectives, no exclamations, no dramatic finales, I tasted it and simply died. I tried an ahi tuna (seared to perfection and like a slab of it, not the piddly tendrils you get in Taipei) with a sour cream so thick you could paddle around in, the freshest cilantro and a gorgeous zesty salsa. The flavour balance was incredible, the textures, the colours and the simplicity of it all blew me away. Clearly, we are doing something wrong in South Africa not to have had this experience. For the rest of that trip, we turned into tacos whores, gobbling them down as often as we could. We were all still thin at that stage.

Fast forward to Taipei where upon our return, I walked around the city, mumbling, “taco…taco….taco” without finding any. Finally, we heard about a place called Macho Tacos. We were utterly excited to have some a taco joint but then we suffered the misfortune of actually eating one of their tacos. I will not waste any more space on Macho Tacos. Consider yourselves warned.

We slowly recovered from our cravings as many more delightful culinary adventures beckoned. But then we heard about Juanita’s. A good indication of the Western standard of a restaurant is when all the expats share information about it, post food pics and post links to the restaurant. Juanita’s was scoring top grades for good quality guacamole, thick sour cream and delicious fillings. But by now my taco obsession had reduced into a passing interest. I went to check out Juanita’s anyway and wasn’t that impressed with it. It was leaps and bounds better than Macho Tacos but then so would be, damp stale bread.

Juanita’s has a great menu but a sloppy serving line where the fillings reach your taco like random insects that splat violently to death against your window screen while driving down an endless highway at a high speed. They were stingy on the sour cream and also thinned it out, double disappointment but… the tacos were tasty.

The Mexican joint that finally turned me on in a way fast/junk food hadn’t turned me on in Taipei before was, Dos Chinos. Situated near the bustling mess of Tonghua Street, Dos Chino is easy to miss. I think the only reason we went in there is because we couldn’t get to our first choice restaurant since we were stuck in peak-hour traffic! We sat inside the restaurant which shouldn’t really be called a restaurant, more like a stand with doors, chairs and tables or a shack that’s been cleaned up, I don’t know…it is tiny. We got there ordered pulled pork and a spicy beef and were completely impressed with how delicious their tacos were. The two guys working behind the counter look exhausted and that’s because they are turning out a large amount of really excellent tacos to a growing number of adoring fans. Generous servings of guac, luscious lashings of sour cream and we were hoovering them down.

So, this brings me to the point of this post: my derriere. I can’t go on eating these tacos or soon my stomach, my derriere and I will be writing stage plays for three. Dos Chinos has set the bar high but ultimately, health should come first.

I figured I would give raw tacos a bash and satiate myself thus.

Heuvo-less Rancheros with Red Enchilada Saouce and Pico De Gallo

Ani Phyo’s Heuvo-less Rancheros with Red Enchilada sauce and Pico De Gallo

Amen. This taco has allowed the three of us (my derriere, stomach and I) to reach ceasefire: Raw corn tortilla with heuvo-less rancheros with red enchilada sauce.

Here’s the recipe:

To make the raw corn tortilla, blend 1.5 cups of corn kernels with 1/2 cup of flax meal, 3 tbls olive oil and about 3/4 cups of filtered water. I would add salt as the tortilla I made, turned out a bit sweet because the corn was sweet.

Once blended, place 1/4 cup rounds on your teflex sheets and dehydrate for 5 – 6 hours at 104 degrees farenheit. Please follow this guide. No short cuts. I took a shortcut and raised the temp so my tortilla came out too dry at the edges. Flip it over after 5 hours then dry th other side for another 5 hours.

If you don’t have a dehydrator, just take your lazy ass to a bakery and buy some already-cooked tortilla:-)

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Delicious!

Next we work on the filling.

Marinated onion

Finely chop 1/2 a white onion and marinate it in 1 tbls of olive oil and 1 tbls of liquid amino. let it sit for about 10 minutes.

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Pumpkin seeds, tumeric and paprika

The filling is a combination of a pâté called Love-The-Chicks Pâté and tomatoes, onion and bell pepper. The original recipe asked for:

2 cups almonds (I used pumpkin seeds – much cheaper)

1 cup sunflower seeds (I Ieft this out)

1/2 tsp salt

2 teaspoons tumeric powder ( for colour)

1 cup of water (I used 1/2)

Blend everything together and you should get this:

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Next, drain the marinade from the onions, add them; some finely-chopped yellow bell pepper (1/2 cup) and tomato (1 de-seeded).

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Mix well.

On to the red enchilada sauce:

2 cups seeded roma tomatoes

2 tbls extra virgin olive oil

1 tbls lime juice

1 tsp minced garlic

1/4 to 1/2 serrano chili or jalapeno, seeded, diced

1 tbls fresh, chopped cilantro

2 tbls chopped onion

a few drops of liquid smoke if you have this (I don’t)

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Blend. Taste. Die.

The last step is making the pico de gallo. I must admit, that b this point I was tired and wanted out of the kitchen so I chopped tomatoes, cilantro, added salt and called it quits. But here’s the recipe anyway:

2 cups diced roma tomato

1/4 finely chopped white onion

jalapeno to taste

1 tbls fresh lime juice

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1/ tsp salt

mix everything together.

layer your taco with the pate, then enchilada sauce and finally the pico de gallo.

For an exciting additional filling, grill some tofu in lime and cilantro.

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Layer the taco with tofu, enchilada sauce and pico de gallo.

Hmmmm….yummy good!

Winter Indian Food Workshop

The cold Winter months bring on cravings for heavier foods like pumpkin, dhals and flatbreads. One of my favourite Winter staples is dhal which is a soup made from yellow split peas or smaller red lentils. Since I have been living in Taiwan, I have started making dhal with whatever local beans and peas I can find like red adzuki beans which is good for the urinary tract, or black soybeans which are high in fibre and polyunsaturated fats, urad dhal which has a fabulous nutty flavour and a teeth-cleaning feeling when you chew (like apples:-)

A lot of people in Taiwan love Indian food but to be honest, the Indian restaurants in Taipei aren’t that great or if they are, their prices are way too high. Teaching an Indian food workshop was a great idea and one that was well-received by everyone.

For the first workshop, we made adzuki (red bean) dhal, paneer sour chutney and and finally we made a bit of an improv dish which was a roti with a thin layer of tamarind chutney, stir-fried sweet potatoes with pan-roasted ginger and a hit of garam marsala (perfume, I tell ya’!) on top of that with a large handful of freshly-chopped cilantro.

All the recipes were a hit. Lots of red wine made its merry way around the room and two journo friends managed to get the footage they needed for their respective shows. The windows steamed up, laughter was loud and bellies were warmed. After the workshop, we  slowly made our way to my favourite spice shop so that everyone could buy what they needed to make the rest of their Winter as comforting as possible!

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Paneer is made from bringing milk to the boil and separating with fresh lemon juice whilst stirring. (photo by Masha Ostasheva)

 

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While being careful not to burn your fingers, squeeze out the excess water, twist the bag into a knot then place something heavy over it for about an hour. (photo by Masha Ostasheva)

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This is what the finished cake of paneer will look like. After this, you are free to improvise with chutneys, curries or sauces. (photo by Masha Ostasheva)

Adzuki-beans

These are adzuki beans. They warm the body. Green beans cool the body so it’s best to eat red beans in Winter. To cook this, soak the beans for 2 hours, boil in clean water with a large hand of ginger and a roughly chopped onion.

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Thereafter, add fennel, cumin and coriander seeds. First, dry-roast in a pan, then crush in a spice grinder or by hand… (photo by Delicious Taipei)

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Next add some chili powder and if you like, some garam marsala… (photo by Masha Ostasheva)

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Heat some oil, then add your spices and salt and cook them, slowly stirring to prevent them from burning. (photo by Masha Ostasheva)

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Finally, pour the spice mixture into the pot of cooked dhal (don’t drain the water off the dhal, you want a rich soupy texture). Let the mixture cool, then blend until smooth as in the picture. (photo by Masha Ostasheva)

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The sweet potato and dry-roasted ginger is extremely easy to make: after dry-roasting julienned ginger (lots of it), add the cubed sweet potato to your pot or wok, add 1.2 cup water and let it simmer until almost soft. Then add salt and garam marsala. Delish! (photo by Masha Ostasheva)

Tamarind chutney with sweet potatoes and dry-roasted ginger

This is what the finished dish should look like – a layer of tamarind chutney, sweet potatoes and ginger on top, then a handful of cilantro:-) (photo by Delicious Taipei)

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Sante!