Adventures in DIY Cooking

After Tim’s post on importing western favorites (necessities) such as good beer, cheddar cheese, and peanut butter/chocolate combinations, I feel the need to expand. This is for that I’m-out-of-peanut-butter-what-do-I-do-now moment. I promise, there is no need for panic or despair. There are answers.

Back home, I was already an obsessive label reader, and was quite hesitant about buying things with more than about 5 ingredients, so I got really used to making my own food from scratch. Moving to Taiwan brought my do-it-yourself style cooking to a new level. At home, foods such as peanut butter and tortillas were not only the inexpensive staples that got me through college, but they also became pure comfort foods, and quick easy snacks.

Well, it seems that desire for those comforts of home beats out quick and easy when tortillas are nowhere to be seen, and a 10-oz jar of peanut-only peanut butter costs somewhere around $US 10. This is the point when you are forced to live without, or take matters into your own hands. I’ve chosen the latter option.

Tortillas are the easiest. All you need is flour (1 ½ jam jars full), a pinch of salt, a little water (enough to get the dough to stick together), and oil (one giant glug). Mix it all together, roll it out, and fry the tortillas in a pan. Soooo easy!

Then, the peanut butter problem: When Tim’s parents came to visit for Christmas, they gave me the wonderful, amazing gift of a blender (thank you!). This has helped me to recreate many of my favorite soups from home, which I would never find canned or otherwise, anywhere in Taiwan. Ever. It is also the key to peanut butter. Just throw some peanuts, some salt, and maybe a touch of oil, and blend, and blend, and blend some more until you have yourself some homemade peanut butter (beware of burning engine smell – that’s when you know it’s time to take a break). It’s not quite as creamy as what I’m used to at home, but it definitely serves its purpose.

Other DIY creations that have made their way out of this sadly oven-free Taiwanese kitchen include falafel, peanut butter cups (though I normally just take the low road and spread some peanut butter on a piece of chocolate), and raw “brownies” (dried fruit, nuts, honey, and cocoa powder blended together), and despite the lack of oven, I have also managed to roast a ton of veggies thanks to our magnificent $12 toaster oven.  I’m not stopping there, either. Did you know that it’s possible to make ricotta cheese with just whole milk and lemon juice? I’ll let you know how that one turns out.

Even though I am going to have to keep on waiting for a real chocolate chip cookie, and seeing a taco truck in Yilan would definitely mean I was losing it, there is still a trick or two for getting around a steady diet of fried rice, beef noodles, and more fried rice. 


4 thoughts on “Adventures in DIY Cooking

  1. I had a neighbor when we lived on Orange county that spent a lot of time in his native Taiwan. He always took peanut butter with him on his trips there.
    Here in Oceanside we are feeding peanut butter to our backyard birds.They clean out the feeder everyday so it keeps me busy. We just started on the second jar in just two weeks.I know what you mean that it is a great snack. I sometimes just eat a spoonful – or two- when I am hungry. More next time,
    Grandma Irene

  2. Ha~! I love your blog. I moved to Taiwan from Portland,Oregon in 2010. And I live in Taipei (cuz I’m married to a Taiwanese guy who lives here). Anyway, we can buy tortillas around here, but your innovativeness and spirit of DIY-ness rocks. I too dislike the consumerist aspect of Tw culture, but similarly find the same points you mentioned to be redeeming. I went to PSU in Portland and graduated in 2008 and came here in 2010. I’ve also live in Ashland where I attended SOU. Small world. Keep up the writing. You lend a different point of view that was lacking before I stumbled across this blog. Cheers~^^

    • Thanks! Small world indeed. It’s nice to hear from a fellow Oregonian. Yea, Taipei seems like it has pretty much all of the western stuff available, but Yilan is a little more secluded. Oh well, gives me a chance to really get into local cuisine. Thanks for following, your blog looks really helpful and informative too! Looking forward to reading more

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