Buying groceries in Taiwan

I feel a little silly writing about this stuff, but it interests me and I haven’t had a lot of success finding answers online and in English to my questions about trying to eat healthy, especially in ways that I recognize (as in I will probably not be avoiding tea and fruit when I have a cold because that seems crazy to me). So I have this post and a few others to share, and maybe it will help someone else who is looking for answers or ideas about eating healthy and cooking healthy meals as a foreigner in Taiwan.

Here are my groceries for the next couple of weeks:

may groceries

Obviously the greens are going to have to go in the next couple of days. I take it as a challenge! I bought them at A-Tan, which is about as close to an open market as a grocery store can be. The produce section takes up the largest part of the store by far, and the fruit and veg are always fresh and colorful. I went a little overboard because I didn’t see the gai lan/Chinese broccoli at first, so I bought chayote leaves (called dragon’s beard vegetable here, how fun!) and fiddlehead ferns, and then I found what I was looking for.

may vegetables

What I really wanted to say is that ALL THESE FRUITS AND VEGETABLES COST LESS THAN US$10. My total was NT$280, and at the moment, that’s like US$9. No matter how long I live here, I don’t think I will get over how low the cost of living is, in so many ways.

I also hit the organic store for some coconut oil, multigrain rice, and soba noodles. They sell quinoa, but it’s about US$13-US$15 for a sad little bag, and even the owner of the shop admitted it was too expensive. But it seems the buckwheat used to make soba noodles is a pretty powerful little psuedograin itself, and so very much cheaper, so I’ll stick with that when I am looking for subbing out my carbs and starches. I did see straight up buckwheat in the bulk bins at A-Tan (but strangely not at the organic store), and I’ll have to get some next time.

I couldn’t find out what percentage of buckwheat was used in making the noodles I bought, but the only ingredients are buckwheat, whole wheat, and salt, and I am okay with all that. You really do have to pay attention to the labels when you want to eat healthier. On top of cooking, meal planning, and grocery shopping, trying to eat healthy is a lot more involved than allowing yourself to eat out all the time or heat up processed foods at home.

Last, I went to Wellcome just to get some things for the pantry. We’ve been using a lot of black bean sauce instead of conventional soy sauce. We aren’t trying to be gluten free really, just cutting back on carbs, but this sauce has such a tasty funk on it that I use it instead of salt whenever possible. As in I ate two bowls of Chinese cabbage with just a little butter, black bean sauce, and lemon juice on top the other day. Simple stuff, and so good.

I got some goji berries and red dates (jujubes) at Wellcome, too. To be honest, I would have been slightly more comfortable buying them at the organic store, but they are three times the price, and I don’t entirely trust the “organic” labels, either. There was a big cooking oil scandal here, and now there are pesticides showing up in the tea, real olive oil is hard to find (and I assume it’s damn near impossible here), there’s all sorts of weird additives being put in the fast food in the States (one of a million reasons to avoid it). Anyway, I feel like I can’t assume the organic red dates would be any better, coming from China, even though they cost more, so I’ll buy the cheap ones, rinse them, and pray. I mean, I smoke when I drink, so how uptight can I possibly be?

After I put away the groceries, I made soba noodles and topped them with steamed bok choy, kimchi, seaweed, and this crazy addictive miso dressing from Smitten Kitchen.

Now if I can just get someone else do my push-ups for me…soba noodle bowl

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