Best places to get a salad in Zhongli

When we first got here in 2004, my friend Cole and I thought we would die from scurvy because on the whole Chinese people think eating raw vegetables is dirty or boring and back in 2004 they were only eating iceberg-lettuce salads with “salad cream” and sprinkles on top so who could blame them? Now loads of places have salads on the menu or even offer a salad bar as part of the meal, but you still don’t know if it’s gonna come standard with “Thousand Island” dressing made of ketchup and the kind of mayonnaise that doesn’t need to be refrigerated or if they splurged on unwilted romaine.

I think MU Cafe over by the motor-vehicle registration building has awesome salads, but don’t let them try to tell you that the large one is too big for one person because it is not. I’ve had the mushroom salad as an entree, and I think the salmon salad, too, and they are both respectable. They also have salads with fruit in them but ew.

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The best salad in Zhongli might be at Wild Boar, which conveniently also has the best pizza in Zhongli. The only reason we don’t go here every time we eat out is that we don’t like any of our favorites dishes to think we like them less than others so we have to rotate. But Wild Boar dude tosses his salads with big biceps balsamic vinaigrette, and he also gives some like Ranch-style dip for the “papadam” (dude it’s cheesy bread) that makes everything taste better.

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Sometimes I get salads from David’s Diner on the way to work but…ugh I usually love eating there but I don’t think his salads are that great for the price, but don’t tell him that! I will definitely still go there and I will eat the Mexican pizza like groceries. And I will probably still stop by and get a chicken Caesar salad now and then anyways because this is Zhongli and my options are limited.

Anyway no one has posted a picture of their David-Diner salad on Instagram so what does that tell you? That you should order his beer-ritas instead.

There are also some small salads available at Family Mart and PX Marts all over town but generally they are still doing that sad mix of iceberg lettuce, purple cabbage shreds gone a bit soft, dehydrated carrot shreds, and canned corn and also they are about the size of one bite of regular salad. If you are actually thinking salad cause you want to make a healthy choice, just get an apple because these ones are just vehicles for dressing, and as far as vehicles go, they are like 1990-whatever tan Toyota Tercels. Just not worth it…

I would like to point out that most of the grocery stores here now have Romaine for about NT$100 a pack, some local and some imported. And if you haven’t tried this Japanese sesame dressing yet you are not on our level:

amateur vagrant best salads in zhongli japanese salad dressing

Also for the record fucking Harvest Time has salads, too, but they are literally the equivalent of emptying your sandwich into a plastic clamshell and since the worst thing about Harvest Time is that fucking smug sign about the “perfect ratio of ingredients” and not the bread, I don’t really get the point. And there is nothing perfect about a 6-inch sandwich with two fucking slices of jalapeno and two fucking slices of black olive, dickheads.

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Anyway, if y’all know of places with some good green, drop the details in the comments! Help me help you!

2017 New Year’s Resolutions

From my bullet journal:

Read 110 books
I read 100 books last year, so I don’t think this will be impossible. If you sign up for the Goodreads challenge, you get a handy little meter that tracks your progress and tells you when you’re ahead of or behind your goal. If you’re trying to read at least two books a week, this is invaluable. Also: short books are books, too!

Complete the Yale lecture series on The Novel: 1945-Now (read all the books and listen to all the lectures)
I followed the Yale lecture series on Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Faulkner last year and it was really enriching. Definitely put me on track in terms of trying to read the “American canon”, whatever that might be. I mean, whatever it is, The Great Gatsby, something by Hemingway, and something by Faulkner are on it. I have high expectations for this series and the books I’ll be reading.

Complete the list of 100 things to do in Zhongli and all blog posts
Why? I don’t know. It’s fun for me, gets me engaged with what’s going on outside, and gives me something to say when partypoopers say Zhongli is boring. It’s not Tainan or Hualien or Taipei, but we have a good time.

Plank for two minute every day (even if it’s not continuous)
Um I am already failing this. It’s not too late to get back on track, though. Just I’ve been having these lower back pains…

Stick with yoga 2-3x a week; if class with Neil ends, enroll in a yoga gym
My buddy has been showing me some of the ashtanga yoga moves and we’ve been meeting up to go through Leslie Fightmaster’s 50-minute ashtanga yoga video three days a week. I am worried that taking Chinese class might make it easy for me to find excuses not to go, but so far, so good. It feels great and I know it’s good for me in terms of mindfulness, too. (That back pain tho…)

Keep hula hooping, even if it’s just five minutes a day
I wish I had some people to hula hoop with because having someone show me what they know would be so helpful, but until then me and my exercise hoop can spin around the living room in between classes. I’m not really committed to the every day thing, but I learned a lot last year just by hooping every couple of weeks, so I want it stay on the menu.

*Pay off all our student-loan debt
This would be so great, but unless we make it absolutely our number one priority, I don’t think it’s possible. I don’t want to teach more than I have to, but I want to the go to the U.S. to see my family this year. Also I want to take Chinese classes at the university, J has some trips in mind, and my scooter is possibly dead now, so I think the realistic thing is just to keep on paying and saving what we can.

Resume studying Chinese with a tutor or at the uni or a language exchange partner
So right before the end of 2016, like literally the last Friday of 2016, I enrolled in a Chinese class. So I have eight hours of Chinese every week now, and I am considering upping it to 12 or 15 hours a week next semester. I know that I always get excited at the beginning of new projects, but I am especially excited this time, and as long as the enthusiasm’s there, why not ride the wave? Also, tutoring is way boring in comparison, and I kinda sorta don’t love language exchanges as they usually end up being either free language lessons or you spend like two hours a week chilling with someone who isn’t actually your chosen friend when you don’t even have enough time for your real friends.

Get back on the Wahls Protocol diet-HFLC, organ meats, no dairy, limited alcohol, lots of fruits+veggies
So that probably isn’t exactly how Dr. Wahl would have described her diet, but that version of it was working really well for me and J in the beginning of this year. We both lost weight and every day it was like a competition of who felt better and had more energy. We rode that wagon until June, when we went to Thailand and Cambodia and decided nothing was off limits. Now we’re back to chasing that wagon as it rolls down the road. But now that holidays are over, we have no more excuses for making or eating hash brown casserole, and I feel like there’s a better chance we can stick to it.

Play the receipt lottery
So in Taiwan in order to encourage businesses to actually provide receipts (and thus keep their books in order and pay their taxes), the government came up with a plan to provide lottery numbers on every receipt. So every time you buy something, you get a lottery ticket. J and I have never really participated, but it seems like you can win a little bit of money quite often, and who are to throw money away? The Rockefellers? Maybe some of that can go towards our student loan payments or helping someone in need…

Give charitably every month
We haven’t figured out like life insurance or our retirement funds yet, but we have more than most people on this planet. I wish we were better stewards of it, to give ourselves a more secure base from which to help others…anyway, start small. Maybe sponsor a grandmother in Cambodia? Donate money to build toilets in India? You really gotta do your homework, too.

Re: writing = measure activity, not results
Yeah I am getting sick of myself talking about writing, too, except that I do write a lot, whether it’s this blog, short stories, memoir, or in my diary. I beat myself up regularly for not finishing more things, for not submitting anything, for never really being published, but all I need to do is write, and anything that gets in the way of that, including self-flagellation, has to go.

Write for myself every day
For me, this kind of means journaling, but also not wondering what anyone else thinks about what I am writing. I mean, blogging, obviously, somebody might be reading it, and I’d like reading it to be a good experience, otherwise I am an asshole/sadist, but anything else, man, worrying about what people think before I’ve even started writing is creative suicide.

Make writing a priority: first thing every morning
Okay, so, no, ten days into January, still not good at this. I am still figuring out how to make time for Chinese class and Chinese homework, so I am not going to beat myself up. However! I know that I am quick to discover things that will distract me from all the complicated feelings I have about writing/not-writing or will substitute for the sense of accomplishment I get from writing, so no excuses: writing has to come before anything else.

Say yes more often!
If it’s not obvious to you, I am generally anxious and always worried about the consequences of my actions, which makes for a very boring day/year/life when you look back on it. I hemmed and hawed about taking Chinese classes for like a year, but so far, I am so glad I just made the impulsive decision to sign up. What else has this year got in store for me?


Eating kelp noodles

So yesterday I posted about finding almost-zero-calorie, no-carb, high-fiber noodles at the grocery stores here. I had wanted to tell you how we have been eating them at home, but I felt like the post was getting too long.

Here is how we eat them chez moi as a noodle soup.

1. Steam you some vegetables.
2. Get you some of this Japanese soup base in a bottle. Or make your own with this recipe from Just One Cookbook.
japanese soup base in a bottle
3. Boil some water in the kettle.

4. Rinse you off a bag of these noodles. Soak them in a bowl of hot, but not currently, boiling water for like a minute or so. You can toss that water out or use it to dilute your soup base.

korean and japanese kelp noodles

4. Pour some of the soup base over the noodles and add some more hot water as necessary. Add the soup base to taste. We make it a little strong, I think, but then we don’t drink it, we just eat the noodles.

5. Add the steam vegetables on top and anything else like spring onions or fresh cilantro if you like.

kelp noodle soup with steam vegetables

In case you noticed, yes, this is like a slightly more adult version of instant ramen. I’ve also used broth/bouillon powder and tom yum paste for the soup base and it’s never not been awesome. Also, you can toss in a little tofu or a hardboiled egg to make an even more substantial meal.

I really find this stuff very filling, like if I have this for lunch I don’t need to eat until dinner time, and even then I can eat sensibly. So, yay!

My fitness plan right now is basically lots of kelp noodles + hula hooping + red wine + green tea.

Super low-cal noodle substitutes

So the other day I was in the store and I found these

I had to have a conversation with my buddy who speaks and reads Chinese waaaaay better than I do to find out that these noodles were made with agar agar, which comes from seaweed. They have nearly 0 calories in a serving, no carbs, and tons of fiber.


So of course they are a bit crispy/rubbery/chewy in texture. But no so bad once you stop wishing they were egg noodles. There are some total benefits, though:

  1. They make a great noodle salad. Mix up your favorite peanut sauce or salad dressing, however you like it, and that’s it. Add whatever chopping veggies you like and you’re done, so great.
  2. They basically never get soggy. It’s been really cold here lately (not the past two days, but all the days before that all the way back to Christmas) and I’ve been like making a bowl of noodle soup, then leaving it out, then eating it the next day (no animal products) and the noodles exactly as chewy as they were the day before. Yay no waste!
  3. You don’t have to cook them. You rinse them when you take them out of the bag, and you can soak them in hot water for literally one minute to take the chill off, but that’s it.

A Taiwanese friend of mine said she went on a diet using these noodles to replace all her rice and conventional noodles, and she lost weight. Obviously, I’m down with that, though for me it might not be quite so easy since we are American and we still get a lot of carbs from bread, cereal, etc.

korean and japanese kelp noodles

I found some Japanese varieties at Carrefour, but it’s all basically the same, made with seaweed and magic. I also bought some of the same stuff in block form because I’ve heard that can be prepared and served as “vegan” sashimi. Why not? Cheap sashimi is basically a vehicle for getting salty soy sauce and nostril-cavity-cleansing wasabi into me, anyway, so why not just eat kelp jelly instead of meat?

In my researchings online, I learned that this is the same stuff that’s used as a base for those tasty fruit jellies the kids always have, especially this time of year.

fruit jelly cups

However I also learned the sad news that because this stuff doesn’t dissolve in water (that’s why my noodles don’t get soggy overnight), it was responsible for a few kids choking to death. Please be careful with the little ones eating these noodles or the jellies!

For folks in Taiwan, you can buy the Korean seaweed noodles at the QuanLian (全聯福利中心) grocery stores. I saw the thinner version of the Japanese noodles at my local RT-Mart and the wider version (our favorite) at Carrefour. In the States, you can probably find them at some Asian grocery stores. If not, Amazon has a many varieties of kelp noodles.

quanlian store

Check out this post from Just Hungry for more information and suggestions about eating Japanese kelp noodles.