Thursday, March 22, 2007

Of Egg Rolls, Vegetarianism and Fortune Cookies

Fortunately I haven't really had much in the way of digestion problems when it comes to Chinese food but I know many expats who do complain an awful lot about food poisoning, too much MSG and general cleanliness of street food (sitting in the sun all afternoon, with hair or cockroach legs in it or with scooter exhaust billowing over it).

Could they just be weak stomachs or picky eaters in general? I feel like a stoic compared to them.

Another thing occurred to me about foreign expectations of Chinese food. This occurs especially for newbies to Asia. Particularly they go looking for egg rolls or maybe fortune cookies in the restos here. Well, I hate to break it to you but these are a little different than you think.

Egg rolls can be found but are not to be eaten with every meal like a side dish. I find they are commonly found in vegetarian restaurants in the vegetarian variety. There are also vegetarian non-fried spring rolls too.

I find it amazing how many foreigners come to Taiwan and proclaim they are vegetarian. The percentage of vegetarians here compared to the general population back home is amazing. That being said, most of these vegetarians are probably vegetarian for health reasons while Taiwanese are mostly vegetarian for religious reasons. So don't expect to necessarily find all healthy vegetarian choices. In fact, at vegetarian restaurants, most food is fried to death!

Getting back to egg rolls, they can be found in the dessert variety as well, presenting in tin boxes like cookies on special occasions.

Speaking of cookies, we can't forget our fortune cookie. To this date, I have never seen one on the island. Let's hope it stays this way! If you want your fortune, you'll have to go to the local temple and take your chances with the fortune tellers there! Good luck to you!
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