Thursday, April 30, 2015

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Spicy Wontons

I have written about how difficult it is to put a western meal together so I find myself looking for recipes and ideas that use the ingredients that are readily available.  We both like Asian inspired dishes so that really isn't a big deal.  I stumbled upon a recipe a few weeks ago for a Spicy red oil wonton, YUM!  We love spicy and we love wontons, so it was a must try.

I can go to almost any grocery store in the U.S. and buy wonton wrappers.  I live in Taiwan, I assumed they would be a simple thing to find. That was my first  mistake....when in Taiwan, never assume. I tried all of my normal shopping choices and showed a picture I had googled on my phone, no one had them. 

When I explained to John that evidently you can't buy wonton wrappers in Taiwan he gave me a strange look and explained where he thought I should look in the grocery store.  Needless to say my response and the look I gave him are not appropriate for the blog.  Several days later and the idea of the spicy wonton still swirling around in his head he thought we should try the stores again, together.  We did and showed the picture again.  Finally we spoke to someone who told us they did not carry them, BUT told us where to go.  

Evidently we would need to visit a traditional market.  Luck would have it that we had seen and walked through a traditional market not far from where we were  a few days earlier.  The traditional market is open air and you can get all kinds of fresh produce, fresh seafood and the freshest of fresh meats. There are no live animals there, but I promise you, they have not been dead long.

Zane and I had had our fill of shopping for the day and when we were headed toward the market we saw a park and decided that we would let daddy search for the elusive wonton wrappers and we would wait on the slide.  

He was successful!  He bought a package of wrappers that I imagine were made in someone's kitchen that morning.  I will learn to make my own soon, Zane's babysitter has promised to teach me how.  But for now we will enjoy these, all tied up with a pink ribbon.

When we got home I went to work making the filling and sauce and putting it all together.  It turned out to be really good.  The recipe called for boiling the wontons but I chose to steam them.  Next time I will probably try boiling, they were a little tough, but still all disappeared! Here is the recipe if you want to try them at home.  And FYI wonton wrappers are usually in the produce section, but if you have trouble, try your local traditional market!

Spicy Red Oil Wontons


20 wonton wrappers
1 small bowl of water, used to seal wontons
boiling water to cook wontons


8oz ground pork
2 stalks scallion, finely chopped
1 tsp. sesame oil
1/4 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
3 dashes ground white pepper


1/3-1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp Chinese black vinegar
2-3 Tbsp Chilli oil
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp sugar

In a bowl, combine all the filling ingredients.  Set aside

Mix all the sauce ingredients together.  Set aside.

To wrap wontons, place about 1 tsp. of filling in the center of each wrapper.  Dab your finger into the small bowl of water and trace it around the edge of the wrapper.  This will help seal it up. Fold the wontons to make a triangle .  Pinch the edges to seal. Pinch and fold both corners of the wonton downwards.

Bring the water to a boil and gently drop the wontons into the water.  stir with a ladle to prevent sticking.  Boil until they float to the top, about 2 minutes.  Remove from water with a slotted spoon. Add desired amount of sauce to the wontons and toss.  Serve immediately.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Friday, April 24, 2015

What's the story?

It was a beautiful day at a beautiful old temple in Lukang, Taiwan.  We had been strolling the streets and poking through the shops when we found the sweetest little suit for the Tiny American. My mom was with us and she thought we should wait to put it on him until later because he was a little tired and ready for a nap, but Venus and I decided that we wanted his pictures at the temple.  

We dressed him in his new little suit and he was SO happy.  We got some really cute shots of him.  There was a little fish pond in the courtyard and I lifted him up to look at the fish. When he is looking through the slats of something he always presses his little face right up to the gap, he was doing that now while he looked at the fish. 

And then....his head went through the gap.  I thought, no big deal, it went in it will come back out.  It wouldn't !  I freaked out.  I tried to pull his head back through, no luck.  I tried to pull the bars apart, no luck.  I yelled for my mom to help me.  A crowd was gathering....the Tiny American was screaming, I was sweating.  My mom was calm.  She twisted his little body sideways and slid him through the gap and i lifted him back over the top. Whew!!  It was a beautiful day at an old temple in Lukang, Taiwan when I realized you are never too old to need your mommy!

 photo 4d06e438-4e6a-4f3b-88b2-0c1093350397_zps361ad0e9.jpg

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Lunch Box

Most of the posts on this blog will come from Laura.  Occasionally I'll interrupt your enjoyment of her writing with something I feel is worth adding.  This is the first of those.

When I was a kid living in Taiwan, this was THE lunch box, yes Kung Fu the series and I had it.  I loved this lunchbox and the thermos that went with it.  Sadly, I have no idea where this ended up, but I no longer have it.  I also no longer have that super cool shirt.

My sister Chris and I in front of our house at the Grace Compound
with our dog Annie and THE lunchbox

I still have lunch boxes, but the lunch boxes of today are very different in every way, including contents.  First let's take a quick look at the design, not so much about cool, as efficient for mass delivery of some culinary delights at a very low price.  I get one of these everyday, in fact everyone at the office and lab where I work gets one, it's just part of the your employment benefits.  Keep in mind, the closest place to eat is about 20 minutes away, so this is good for business.  Very rarely we will have something delivered from somewhere else, but 95% of the lunches come from Family Fast Food.

Now let's take a look inside.  Aside from non Family Fast Food lunches, every box contains rice.  There are days when this is a lifesaver.  I can eat most things and generally do, but there are days when I just don't have the mental energy or desire to eat something very far outside of my comfort zone.  I know I'll always have a little rice.  In addition to rice, there is at least one protein source, usually meat.  This may be chicken, pork, fish, squid or just about anything else you could imagine.  Sometimes I can tell it is meat, but not really what kind.  There are also vegetables, generally greens and then possibly a desert (taro cake) or a spring roll of some kind, maybe some pork blood cake; all in all, just an average lunch for a Taiwanese worker.

This probably is a good time to mention that I have no choice in what is in the box, it just comes.  I honestly have no idea who chooses what is in the box, but it certainly isn't me.  I also have a couple of other "backups" just in case I need something resembling Taiwanese comfort food.  Instant noodles and Apple Sidra.  The instant noodles are fairly self explanatory, just a local variety, the Apple Sidra is something most folks are probably not familiar with.  Please take my word that it is simply bottled awesomeness in apple flavor.

Let me give you an example of what might drive me to reach for instant noodles.  This particular item still has not been conclusively identified.  I did try to eat it, but just couldn't quite get it done.  It was mainly just a chewy gelatinous mass with some minced pork sauce.

Unknown dish with unexplainable flavor and indeterminate texture
Finally just a sampling of my lunch boxes over a few days.  Some of these were very good, some had some iffy dishes, but mostly they were just decent lunches.

One of my favorite lunches so far.  Tea egg, veggies, bamboo shoots, rice and some pork with sauce.

Good, Bad and Ugly...Pork Cutlet, 2 kinds of veggies, fish, rice and some stuff I'm not sure about...Taiwanese Head Cheese?

Middle Ground - fried chicken, veggies, corn, pork belly, squid, spring roll and rice.
It's anybody's guess what will be in my lunchbox today, but rice and veggies for a few days would probably do me some good.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Monday, April 13, 2015

Thursday, April 09, 2015


 In the US we like to go for drives and just see what we see....since we moved here that has not really been an option, we walk a lot and see things that way, but we have not been able to just get in the car and go for a drive.  I have been mostly ok with that, but John LOVES to drive around and has really missed it.  Finally all the right things fell into place and he is now legal to drive here. It has given us some new freedom and has increased our area of exploration.  For our first outing on our own we decided to drive to a place that I had read about and had been wanting to visit. It was an easy drive and we easily found our way.  It is an old fountain that has 2 big dragons in it.  The fountain no longer has water, but the dragons still hang around.  There is also a very pretty park and paths with theses dragons but they were spraying the weeds or the trees with something the day we were there.  With the Tiny American running around and an unknown chemical being sprayed we decided to just visit the dragons.

You can see that they were HUGE!

Just keeping an eye on this one to make sure he isn't sneaking up on us!

No cooperation from the Tiny American.

Zane is roaring like a dragon.

This will defiantly be added to our list of places to take visitors!

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

No Easter Bunny In Taiwan

When we made the decision to pack up our life and move it to Taiwan it was October.  The stores were full of fall decorations and Halloween.  It was easy for me to think about what I would want for the Tiny American for the following Halloween that might not be readily available in Taiwan. What I did not think about was what other holidays would come and go that are celebrated in the States that are not such a big deal here.  The first one we encountered was Easter.  They don't do colored eggs and chocolate bunnies.  I did find some overpriced, although very yummy, eggs and bunnies at Godiva.  A friend that was coming for a business trip brought some egg dye and plastic eggs for us and I was very grateful.  Obviously Z is young enough that letting the commercial aspect of Easter pass by would have been no big deal, it was more for me I guess.  I love dyeing eggs, always have.  Dyeing the eggs with my brother and sister and cousins and then hiding and hunting the eggs the next day are some of my favorite childhood memories.  Easter isn't Easter without the smell of vinegar and boiled eggs!  My mom and my aunt made holidays really special for us and I have always tried to do the same for my kids, so letting it pass by without celebrating with Z was not a real option for me. The Tiny American very quickly figured out the hunting egg part....he loves putting things in his bucket anyway so this was a normal progression for him.   The dyeing of the eggs was mostly for me.  He is still too little to really do it, but it gave us extra eggs to hide and hunt.  Next year we will be better prepared and I think he will be ready to dye eggs himself!

I love the smell!

With his bucket full!

After a very hot easter egg hunt the day before Easter with a friend.

While we were hunting eggs and eating chocolate bunnies for breakfast the locals were celebrating their own spring holiday, Ching Ming Festival, more commonly known as Tomb Sweeping Day.  This is a Chinese Holiday that is celebrated on the 15th day after the Spring Equinox.  In Taiwan it is always celebrated  on April 5 to honor the death of Chiang Kai-Shek.  This holiday celebrates the beginning of Spring.  Translated it is the Clear and Bright Festival.  It is a time to enjoy things being green and fresh.  Spring plowing and planting begins.  People get outside and enjoy family time and they honor their ancestors by cleaning up the cemeteries and grave sites.  They go to the tombs and pray, offer tea, wine and food to the ancestors, burn incense and leave paper money.  Willow branches are often placed on the graves as well as doors of their homes during this time to ward off evil spirits that may wander through during Ching Ming.

At the cemetery.  The yellow papers on the graves are joss paper, fake money.

It cracks us up to see what people carry on their scooters. This couple had 2 very large flower arrangements.  I assume they were going to the cemetery or the temple.

It actually worked out nice that our Easter and their Ching Ming all happened at the same time this year because it meant a 4 day weekend for John.  We hung out and enjoyed our new found freedom that came with his international drivers license!
Our Three Peas
Let's Talk Mommy