Taiwan Day 7: Lihpao Land and My Bikini Tale

 

On a sunlit day where human skin roasted and charred, we drove to Lihpao Land, an amusement and water park in Taichung. The massive theme park is segregated into wet and dry, but with the temperature in the 100s, the dry section was eerily deserted because a hot scar from the metal machines didn’t sound too fancy. Nevertheless, we visited the dry after the wet because we’re dauntless people.

Once we had gotten into the water park, I put on a bandeau-like bikini that zipped in the front. No big deal, right? Actually it was a big deal, and a terrible mistake on my part for several reasons; one being I was horrendously out of shape but more importantly, I was in a more conservative country, in a water park, full of children in one pieces with frills, swim caps, and aqua shoes. Aqua shoes were not required, but swim caps were, so with my bikini on, I meticulously stuffed every single baby hair under the tight-fitting cap, and it was a miracle when the cap finally went over my awfully large, round head. With the top extremely wide, my head takes the shape of an upside down triangle, so while everyone else seemed to function properly with their swim caps, the latex hugged my cranium so tightly, pulling my eyes upwards, and I felt I was going to faint. As I looked into the mirror, the exceptionally unflattering figure staring back at me was cringe-worthy. With my colossal, latex-wrapped head, beer belly, and muffin top, all packed into a teeny bikini, I looked like an unfortunate, rebellious monk. I broke into laughter and took several photos to document the hot mess I was, but I confidently walked out, forgot my looks, and simply had fun. As we went on every attraction through the park, people clearly stared and judged at me for my improper outfit, and I wholeheartedly wished I could lash out at them, but I thankfully kept my composure. Although I did see a few other locals in bikinis, I believe mine looked the most inappropriate since I’m just a tad bustier.

The main attraction at the water park was the “Big Wave” which is constructed to imitate a beach, as a machine generates mountainous waves, sweeping people off their feet. As I waited for the wave to come, I realized I had been in this same exact spot in the big wave 10 years ago, so a rush of anticipation struck me to relive the moment. As hundreds of people eagerly counted down for the wave, my stomach drastically dropped, and instantly the wave worked its way from front to back. When it hit me, I was lifted a couple feet off the ground, and I felt bodies pile on top of me as my swim cap and goggles were knocked off my head. The scene appeared to be an apocalypse where zombie-like bodies were battered by vigorous waves, but once this wave died down, everyone cheered and reordered themselves for the next wave to come. The best part of the big wave is the variability of wave strength, for you may get hit with a weak wave once and then a forceful wave next. Of course we all want to be blessed by that gargantuan, powerhouse wave that causes you to lose your accessories, or even your swim top. When we had been pummeled enough, we changed into T-shirts and shorts and enjoyed cheap grilled squid, savory egg pancakes, and braised pork rice from the food stands. We took a much needed break and trekked through the heat to the dry, amusement portion of the park.

Similar to a horror movie, the amusement park seemed deserted as employees stood by each attraction, on their phones, waiting for a single visitor to go on their ride. There was an aviation coaster, high above us, propelling in circles with just one lonely rider among thirty empty seats. There were no screams and laughter as you would typically hear in an amusement park, but just sounds of silence and the seldom running engine from one ride. We decided to go onto the aviation coaster, which we walked up to and within seconds were buckled and up in the air. The world was spinning rapidly as I gradually rose up into the air with the centripetal force acting upon my body. Scanning below, I saw the deserted scenery, but was also able to see the water park, far off into the distance, crowded with miniature ant people having the time of their lives. With so few people, we were able to knock out most of the daunting and exhilarating rides within a short amount of time. Our invigorating day had come to an end, with our skin three shades darker and our stomachs one pound lighter. As difficult as it was, we gratefully waved Lihpao Land goodbye and swore we would return soon.

Taiwan Day 6: I Made It on the News!

 

The only time that I’ll ever be famous was the day local Miaoli reporters flocked to the elementary school with their load of technical equipment, ready to interview the principal along with its fellow volunteers, such as me. We had known the day before that the reporters would come, so we prepared a simple medley of talents for the camera. I felt composed knowing that the reporters were coming, but the moment I saw the white van roll up in the parking lot with three people hauling out massive tripods, video recorders, and a box of microphones and audio devices, my composure escaped my insides and was replaced with queasiness.

The schoolchildren upstairs had been sweeping floors and tidying up the classrooms since the first bell, when suddenly from below I heard thumping footsteps and echoes of children repeatedly hollering, ” 他們到了! 他們到了!” (They are here!) To keep all procedures organized, the principal, calm yet assertive, spoke on the intercom for all students to gather in the foyer and instantly all the schoolchildren frantically raced each other, competing who could sit down criss-crossed applesauce first. When the children had arranged themselves in columns by grade, the principal spoke with authority, “Today is the day, and we are so thankful for our volunteer teachers here. The local reporters have come and are ready to report all that has gone on in the past week at our school. We have been preparing for this for a couple of days so try your best and just have fun! All the yo-yo kids, head downstairs first and let’s attempt the “dragon”!” While the yo-yo kids set up on the grass, me and my fellow volunteer mates were approached by the reporters, who set up audio microphones on our backs and told us to write our Chinese names on a sheet of paper. Having the cameraman clip the audio box onto the back of my jeans and guide the wire to the back of my neck was tremendously awesome. I was about to be on Taiwanese News! Who would’ve imagined my first time on television would be in a foreign country?

After I was set up, I waited to be interviewed. My stomach felt empty because I didn’t know what type of questions the reporter would ask and I had to respond in Chinese, which I am quite good at, but having to spontaneously respond on the first try on camera was frightening. In my head, I predicted some simple questions she could possibly ask, so I repeatedly rehearsed my responses in my head until I was called on. The double emotions of excitement and nervousness was overwhelming, but I confidently greeted the reporter and stood in an area of good lighting. She instructed me to speak loudly and about 2 inches away from the microphone and within seconds, my two minutes of fame began.

Initially, the reporter asked me elementary questions which thankfully I had rehearsed in my head, but I was at the highest extent of nervousness that I even had to ensure I wouldn’t butcher my Chinese name. Eighteen years I have lived with this name and even such pressure could’ve caused me to forget. More advanced questions were thrown at me and the camera was fast and rolling, but surprisingly, I briskly soared past them one by one, and by the end of two minutes, I had only stuttered once. I felt proud at the moment. Public speaking was never my forte and I personally know of my low self-esteem, but the girl that would appear on the Miaoli News later tonight would be someone of full confidence.

But my fame did not end there. I eagerly moved on to the patch of grass where the children were warming up their master yo-yo skills, and boy was I an amateur among the kids, but I had picked up Chinese yo-yo quickly in the past few days so I agreed to join the yo-yo squad on camera. The first trick performed was the “dragon”, which is great for cameras because it shows teamwork, unity, the Miaoli elementary school as one. It took only the second try for the yo-yo to smoothly move down the line of ten people, from one persons string to the next, and the toss back reached great heights and was successfully caught. We all happily cheered and we, as a school, truly were one in unity. Following the “dragon”, we performed toss ups, around the leg, spider web, and throw and catch. I performed around the leg, which can be perpetual for the ultimate yo-yo guru, but as a non-guru I was currently at 21 loops, when everyone, including the reporter and cameramen, gathered around and loudly chanted the counts in unison. I had reached 40 loops when I saw my yo-yo wobble in which I tried to straighten, but once I hit 43, my yo-yo tumbled off and rolled away on the grass. Everybody joyously hollered, clapped, and laughed and I put on a broad smile because 43 was a great number for a dilettante like me.

After the yo-yo portion was recorded, I was approached for a second interview on how I was so talented on the Chinese yo-yo, which, umm… I honestly wasn’t, but because I am an American who had just picked up the sport, it was pretty impressive. They then moved on to the Chinese top acts, which I had no place in because I actually had zero talent in Chinese top.  An hour had passed as I watched these little town children, flawlessly execute impressive top tricks, only wishing I was as skilled as they were. Performance can be exhausting, thus when the medley concluded with one last top trick, a lunch of fried oyster mushrooms, fresh bamboo shoots with Kewpie mayonnaise, bitter melon with salted egg, and leafy vegetables was served for all the hungry performers. All plates were later emptied of their food, and classes resumed as usual.

Taiwan Day 5: Biking and Local Night Market

On a relaxed morning, one of the school’s teacher drove her van up to the elementary school, handed us Taiwanese egg pancakes and soy milk for breakfast, and told us to wear tennis shoes and comfortable clothes for we were going on a bike ride. I quickly threw on a quick-dry shirt to fight off the scorching sun and sloppily tied my shoe laces. During our car ride, we obnoxiously sang Zootopia’s “Try Everything”, a catchy song that soon became annoying from overplaying on the radio. We arrived at our destination unknown, Houli Bikeway, which is an old railway that has now become roads, miles long for bikers only.

Among a selection of hundreds of bicycles, I selected one with a squishy seat that was also low enough for my rather short legs. Nobody wore helmets, so I placed my snapback on my head, giving just the feel of protection. We rode for about two hours, through an array of scenery that was all so breathtaking, and the most spectacular aspect about the bikeway was that within two hours, we saw farms, wineries, rushing river waters, industrial sites, and tunnels. It was all one pathway, but we saw much more than just one view, it was like riding through the city and countryside. For heat relief, there was an extended tunnel, dim with only a few lights installed, that was about 10 °C cooler than the outside. As I rode rapidly, a cool breeze glided through my hair and shirt to dry the sweat off my neck and armpits. The cool breeze was too good on my skin that I sped up to increase the breeze, only to crash on the bike in front of me and foolishly tumble onto the side of the tunnel. People nearby quickly hopped off their bikes to aid me, but truthfully I wanted to be left alone and get up on my own because I was too embarrassed from my unpleasant fall. Nonetheless, I thanked the unnecessary crowd of people around me and brushed off the bloody scrapes on the palms of my hands and knees. We rode back to the starting point of the trail, where the bike owners offered large bowls of chilled ai-yu soup (black gelatin in brown sugar water), which we thankfully devoured.

On the hour ride back to the school, nobody sang and instead snores were heard. For dinner, we drove 30 minutes to the Miaoli night market at around 8 PM, which was packed with only Miaoli residents because this night market is the only one in the vicinity. It is also so local and lowkey that it only runs on Saturdays, unlike all other night markets which operate every night. Due to this “rare” event, the night market was crowded with hungry locals and I instantly saw around ten students from the elementary school, accompanied by their family members. As if I were a celebrity, multiple schoolchildren charged towards me, yelling my name, and gave me hugs. Of course, I was introduced to several parents, and as I shook their hands, I peeped several strangers nearby with faces wondering who I was and why I was receiving such great attention. When all attention died down, I straightaway knew what I wanted to eat: stinky tofu, O-a zhen (a gooey oyster, egg pancake doused in red sauce), and takoyaki (octopus balls). These three dishes are the epitome of Taiwanese street food, and have been my favorite dishes ever since I was 8 years old. I purchased all three for an unbelievable price of 110 yuan (approximately $3.50), showing just how cheap Asian street food is. Spending only $3.50 felt too little, so the last thing I did was go on mini go carts, operated by the family of one of the school’s children. A tiny enclosed area was available for go-kart riders so I only got to drive in small circles, but the throwback of being a child was well worth 30 yuan. The night ended all in smiles at the night market and our wallets just slightly lighter.

Taiwan Day 4: Trying Hakka Food

 

Food served at the elementary school was relatively the same throughout the weeks. There was usually a broth-based soup with leafy vegetables and meatball pieces, white rice, and tempura-fried vegetables. I was grateful for the school cook, a friend of the principal, who came daily at around 11 AM to prepare sufficient amounts of savory food to feed the mouths of all 50 people at the school. However, on a Saturday, I was treated to a lavish meal of traditional Hakka food. Miaoli is the only county in Taiwan that is predominantly Hakka people, a group of Han Chinese people who came from Hakka-speaking areas in South China. Since my first visit to Taiwan when I was just 9,  I heard of the Hakka culture, but I never really fathomed what it truly was, but here I am 12 years later, immersed in the culture, ready to sample the delicacies of Hakka cuisine. Hakka food tends to be salty and spicy, extremely bold in flavor because Hakka migrants toiled lengthy days under the intense sun farming, resulting in salt content loss in the body so food intake regains the salt.

We entered a semi-fancy restaurant, decorated with strawberry wallpaper about 25 minutes away from the school. The locals recommended 1.) the Hakka stir fry (Xiao Tsao), a traditional dish composed of dry tofu, preserved meats, peppers, and green onions, 2.) Dragonfruit pork, fried pieces of pork topped with dragonfruit jam, and 3.) water lily (shui lian), crisp straw-like vegetable strands sauteed with garlic and peppers. Devouring the food, yet still showing class, I went through 3 bowls of white rice, pairing with the 3 dishes. And no, 3 bowls of white rice is not an exaggeration; the dishes were extremely palatable and salty that it was necessary to pair the dishes with rice. The tanginess from the preserved meats paired so well with the relatively bland dry tofu and the sweet dragonfruit jam complimented the crispy pork skin. And lastly, the lightness of the water lily vegetables toned down the two other salty dishes.

Thirty minutes passed, and we all held our hands to our stomachs, gently rubbing our food babies. Each plate was clear of food and the looks on our faces indicated we needed a nice nap after our feast. Indeed, we all plopped on our beds and napped for a good 2 hours until a few school children banged on our doors and politely hollered at us to venture with them. We totally could use some exercise after today’s fine eats so we agreed, quickly got dressed, and headed out. We took an insanely steep and winding path up the mountains that was later alongside running waters downhill. The three energetic schoolchildren sang, ran, and gently pushed each other while I and the other teens were red in the face and lethargic as hell. Clearly, I was getting old. We reached the highest point of the pathway, where only one house resided. It was a polished, wooden house that seemed too nice to belong in the area. The house overlooked a vast part of the town and was surrounded by greens and tall trees. I assume because of the kids’ loud chatter, a 50 something year old man walked out the wooden doors and greeted us so kindly, asking where we were from, and cordially invited us to the back for some tea and snacks. Smoke arose from his grill, where charred bamboo lay, chickens ran around the backyard, feeding on bamboo scraps, and a beautiful german shepherd rest on the grass, eyeing the children frantically chasing the poor chickens. Everything about the house was so homey and down-to-earth with its all wood furniture and calligraphy on the walls. It was absolutely beautiful. The man told us that the house is actually a Bed & Breakfast but not many people come, so he and his wife (both now retired) just relax in nature and have no future plans apart from that.

We said goodbye to the kind man and his chickens and walked the steep, winding roads to return to the elementary school. Our feet were sore and our bodies were covered in sweat so we took our showers and had movie night in our little hostel.

Taiwan Day 3: A Long Hike Up

 

Up a narrow, winding, steep road, a farmer’s pick up truck propelled vigorously with me and a few other people in the back. The back of the truck, open to the outside world, with no buckle and nothing to hold on to. It was as scary as it sounds. There were multiple times when I felt my body about to fling out the back and onto the road, but I gripped on for dear life to the tiny ledge of the truck. Exhilarating and terrifying at the same time, the ride was one thing I would never forget and I was bummed out when it came to an end once we reached the top of a mountain in Miaoli. During the ride, the lady driving hollered to us in the back, informing us that riding in the back of the truck was illegal, so immediately we tensed up a bit. However in a nonchalant tone, she calmed us down and told us not to worry because all the farmers ride in the back, and that this area of Miaoli is so rural that police officers do not care at all. No rules. No regulations. I was really enjoying life here!

As our muscles burned from trekking up steep roads and sweat beads rolled down our skin, the beauty of Miaoli took my breath away. The view was so satisfying because there was more green than concrete, not yet dominated by human greed. No engines could be heard, no car horns, and the slight flutter of butterfly wings next to my ear was soothing. Feeling lethargic, we finally reached the top, where a beautiful Buddhist temple was located. A couple monks wandered around, minding their own business as we went into the temple, scanned the complex art and architecture, and said a few words of prayer.

The temple overlooked a big area of farms and houses all in between colossal mountains. Great gusts of wind swept through the trees around us, making a hollow, howling sound and hummingbirds zoomed past, visiting one flower to another. After a calm hour of appreciating nature’s gifts, we made the less-tedious hike down the steep roads, running speedily and holding our arms out parallel to mimic an airplane. We acted like innocent children, competing who could run down faster, and it was insanely dangerous but we were too caught up in the moment to even care about our safety. There were a few close calls when a car drove up as we charged head on to it, but in the end no one got hurt.

Once we returned to the farmers truck, we plopped into the back and prepared to become jello, swaying along with the truck’s motion. On our way back, we stopped at a small food stand and 7-11 to purchase lunch items, which included a typical Chinese lunch box for around $2 and a waffle ice cream sandwich to cool ourselves down. The Chinese lunch boxes were nothing exceptional, but the simplicity of its contents was so satisfying and delicious. All it was was tasty and convenient authentic food for a low cost. Our box contained Taiwanese cabbage, preserved black beans, chicken, pickled celery, dried tofu, sausage, and a hard-boiled egg. We consumed the contents quickly and returned to the elementary school, relaxing for the rest of the day.

Taiwan Day 2: Arrival in Miaoli

 

Taiwan is a miniature sweet potato-shaped country, that takes only 5 hours to travel from the most Southern to Northern tip. Thus, my grandfather always said “you can see the sun rise in the North, drive down and back up Taiwan and make it in time to see the sunset in the same spot you began at.” It is a magnificent country, with mountains to your left and the sea to your right, and I had realized that my previous trips to Taiwan were mainly focused in the North, where popular cities like Taipei are located. I had actually never gone past Hsinchu, which is less than a quarter on the way down South, and in that case, there were so many aspects of Taiwan I had never encountered before. There was so much more than Taipei 101, and so I rode a bus to Miaoli, a Northwestern county of Taiwan that is known mainly for providing strawberries for the entire country, along with its betel nut trees. This county is known for being one of the poorer counties in Taiwan, but don’t get me wrong, there is still a downtown with businesses and development. It’s a farming county though, and I stayed at the rural part, where I rode an hour in the back of a truck, up the mountains, away from civilization, to a school where clouds shrouded the rooftop. Instantaneously, I fell in love with this less-than-spectacular place, but that is what I love. Nothing materialistic. Just a life of simplicity.

I was immediately greeted by a soldier who was serving at the elementary school as part of his military duty. He kindly escorted me to the principal’s office as I tensed up slightly at the thought of having to put my Chinese skills to the ultimate test. Unlike Taipei, the English proficiency level here was much lower, for education is not as strictly enforced as it is in the city. As I sat down on a chair, the principal and a few other ladies began to chat with me, graciously serving me decadent fried sweet potatoes and eggplant in five spice powder along with celery and meatball soup. With these lovely people still strangers to me, I politely placed the foods in my mouth and chewed slowly when 5 minutes passed and the principal stated, “Please don’t be shy. You are our guest and you have only eaten so little!” I took her words to heart as I gobbled up half the platter of fried sweet potatoes and eggplant, and mind you, this platter was gigantic, about the size of an XXL pizza. After a superb meal and learning about life in this rural area, I settled my belongings down in my room and was very pleasantly surprised at how nice the amenities were. Obviously nothing fancy; I was just pleased to see an air conditioner and available wi-fi (these are luxuries that I did not expect to have). There was an outside living room with a TV and a mini kitchen equipped with a convection oven, a stove, a sink, and a microwave. I honestly could not believe how much was provided, and I couldn’t contain my excitement!

Full of joy, I spent the rest of the day wandering around the neighborhood, approached by vicious wild dogs and stares from people who wondered who this stranger could be. A few kids played tag in the corn fields as their parents, dark from the blazing sun, tend to their crops. My thighs began to burn as there was no flat land. River water was flowing, cranes were picking at rice crops, and the sense of serenity around me was pleasing. No electronic device in sight. This is spectacular. If only more people could enjoy what nature has given, rather than spending a majority of life, double tapping or sending “streak” snaps.

Taiwan Day 1: Nostalgia and Bread Galore

The last time I stepped foot in Taiwan was more than six years ago, so when I booked my flight to Taipei in February, a rush of excitement and memories inundated my mind and all I could think of was being on Eva Air’s economy green seats, sitting through an extensive 18 hour flight. But I always enjoyed my time because the flight attendants were classy and respectful and they pampered to my needs.

This time, with my essentials: journal, chapstick, and GoPro, I waved goodbye to my parents and rode up the escalator until their faces were out of sight. A sad moment, but exhilarating at the same time to be a lone traveler. With my soft miniature pillow and throw, I wrote in my journal, watched a couple movies, played “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”, and time instantly flew by. Little did I know, I had flown across the globe to my beloved country, with mountains and blues below me. It was unreal. I was finally back, and I could already feel the blazing sun and slight humidity that reminded me of home.

My intention for day 1 was clear. Eat, eat some more, and eat. Taipei is not the ideal place for spectacular, cheap food since it has become more cultural and modernized, but the food options were still quite amazing. I took a quick taxi cab to Taipei 101 and wandered around the streets, buying $1 tapioca milk tea, red bean pancakes, and daikon sesame buns from street vendors. I had devoured carbs on carbs on carbs and the food baby was about to burst, but I entered Wu Pao Chun Bakery, Taiwan’s most famous bakery, greeted by the scent of sweet, savory gluten. Forget about a candy shop, a bread shop is where you should be. I was encompassed by creamy cheese bread, pesto sausage bread, taro swirl bread, Portuguese egg tart, mango souffle, ALCOHOLIC CUPCAKES FOR THOSE 21 AND OVER!!! As you can tell, I could not contain my excitement. I was rather annoyed by the massive crowd of people in the petite shop, but with bread this aesthetic, everyone was just as thrilled as I was. I hastily piled my tray with my selection of breads, and patiently waited in the check-out line for what felt like an hour, but was probably actually only 5 minutes. I found a seat outside and shamelessly devoured my bread with little to no self-control. It was only day 1 of my trip, and if I continued engulfing everything I saw, I may return to the states unrecognizable. No shame though. Who knows when I will be able to return? Ignoring that thought, I trekked through the streets and examined the locals’ behavior in this bustling city. Businessmen and women speedily slithering through crowds juxtaposed tourists with cameras and visors, strolling and pointing at objects. The hustle and bustle was overwhelming, and so I settled down on an egg chair in Taipei 101’s Chen Ping bookstore and “read” through a few cookbooks for 3 hours, mainly bread-baking books. “Read” because I mainly looked at the photos. Yup. I looked at bread pictures for 3 hours!

As the sky began to dim, I made my way to my hostel and plopped onto the bed provided. I turned my Spotify playlist on and relaxed with my legs crossed, thankful for being here. It was only day 1 and there was more to come.

 

Sweet Soft Taro-Filled Flatbread

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My previous post of the savory pork filled pancake looks somewhat similar to this taro-filled flatbread, but they have completely different textures and different flavors, one being savory and one being sweet. This is a bing, where the dough on the outside is semi-crispy whilst the inside is soft and fluffy. It’s kind of a mix between a pancake and a flatbread, but there is really no English word to accurately describe what a “bing” is. Bings are typically seen in China and Taiwan, being sold as a street food, and are commonly stuffed with red bean paste, sesame paste, or custard. I have rarely seen taro paste in these types of bing, but taro is used in sweet breads, mooncakes, and pastries, so stuffing the taro in this bing was a great idea! So without further ado, I present you my recipe to this delicacy:

Ingredients

For the dough:

  • 2 c. all purpose flour
  • 3/4 c. warm milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp. cold coconut oil or any solid fat
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 c. sugar

For the filling:

  • 500 g. taro
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 1/3 c. any flavorless oil

Instructions:

  1. In a small bowl combine yeast, sugar, and warm milk and set aside for 10 min, until the mixture becomes bubbly.
  2. In a large bowl combine flour and salt. Pour the yeast mixture into the flour and add the egg and coconut oil. Combine w/ hand or in a stand up mixer w/ dough hook for 10 min. until the dough is smooth and even. Cover with a damp cloth and place in a warm environment for 30 min.
  3. Meanwhile, cut the taro root into chunks and steam until soft (around 20 min). Place the taro chunks into a food processor and process with sugar and oil. The taro paste should become smooth and pasty, easy to spread.
  4. On a floured surface, roll out the dough into a log and cut into 12 equal parts and roll them into balls. Let the balls sit for 10 min.
  5. For each ball, roll out into flat circle and paste about 1 tbsp. or more taro paste on the inside and pinch the middle. Place the pinched middles on the bottom and flatten the dough or roll with a rolling pin into a circular shape.
  6. In a pan on medium heat, place the flatbreads in without oil- I fit 3 or 4 into each batch and place the lid on. Cook for about 7 min on each side until they are brown. After cooking each side, just flip back and forth to ensure the dough is cooked evenly. You can add a little bit of coconut oil while pan-frying if you would like.
  7. Place the flatbreads on the cooling rack for about 3 min and enjoy them while hot!

I hope you enjoy making and eating these flatbreads! I couldn’t help myself and right after I made my batch of 12 flatbreads, I devoured 3 of them. (devouring 3 at once is not a good idea and I do not recommend it!!)

-Jamie

Traditional Chinese Pork and Spring Onion Crispy Pancake

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As you bite into the crispy pancake, the layers of the flaky crust crumble and cake your lips. Then you bite into succulent, savory pork that is balanced out with fresh, green spring onion and you know there is a party going on in your mouth. How does this pancake pack so much flavor and texture? It’s no secret. These traditional Chinese pancakes are a very popular street food in Asia. Although it takes a couple hours to make, it is completely worth it. Difficulty level? Easy to medium. You can make it, and you should make it right now!

Ingredients

For the dough:

  • 1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
  • 1/2 c. + 1 tbsp. water
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • For oil paste: 3 tbsp. oil and 3 tbsp. flour
  • 2 tbsp. sesame seeds (optional)

For the filling:

  • 1/2 lb. ground pork (a less lean % is preferable for this recipe. This is NOT a healthy recipe)
  • 1/2 c. chopped spring onion
  • 1 tsp. five spice powder
  • salt and white pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Combine 1 1/2 c. all purpose flour, water, and 1 tbsp. oil in a bowl and knead with hands until there are no lumps. Do not over knead. Cover with a damp paper towel and place on the side for an hour.
  2. Combine all the pork filling ingredients and set aside for a minimum of 1 hour to marinade. You can prepare the meat filling as early as you want because the longer the meat marinades, the more flavor there will be.
  3. In a pan on medium heat, heat 3 tbsp. all purpose flour until slightly brown and then add the oil until a paste forms. Set aside.
  4. Roll out the dough onto a floured surface into a rectangle that is 1/2 cm. thick. Spread all of the oil-flour paste onto the dough, covering all of the dough. Roll up the rectangular dough, rolling so that the dough is horizontally longer. Once the dough is rolled, cut the dough into 8 even parts.
  5. For each dough ball, flatten and roll flat into a circular shape, about 1/2 cm. thick. Try to roll so that very little to none of the oil flour paste spills out. Scoop about 1 1/2 tablespoon meat mixture in the middle and bring all sides of the dough to the middle. Pinch the middle so the meat mixture is completely sealed inside.
  6. Roll out the ball of dough into a flat oval so the dough is 1/4 cm. thick. Do this step carefully so the dough does not tear.
  7. Sprinkle sesame seeds on the dough and press  into dough w/ fingers or rolling pin.                              IMG_8592
  8. In a nonstick pan on medium low heat without oil, place the pancakes inside. I fit 3 or 4 in my pan so I made 2 batches.Cook for about 10-15 min. or until the bottom is golden and you begin to see the layers of the crust. Flip to the other side and cook for about 10-15 min. Once both sides are cooked, repeatedly flip back and forth about every 2 min to ensure the pancake is fully cooked. The whole cooking process should take about 35 min.
  9. Place pancakes on a cooling rack for 3 min. and eat the pancakes when they’re hot.                           IMG_8597

Wow… yes that’s a lot of steps, but the entire process is quite fun if you love working with dough. The steps seem tedious but they are actually simple to follow and you end up with a lovely pancake that you can use to serve, and surprise your friends and family!

-Jamie

 

 

Healthy Lunch Idea #13: 3-Ingredient Vegan Sweet Potato Pizza Crust

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So, sweet potato pizza crust doesn’t really taste like your typical pizza crust, but if you like sweet potatoes, you will fall in love with this recipe. It’s extremely filling and guilt-free, and for all you vegans out there… this recipe is completely animal friendly. For this simple recipe, you only need one large sweet potato, oats, and flax seed. Chances are if you are vegan or health-conscious, you probably have these ingredients in your kitchen right now. And if you do not have flax seeds, you could bind your dough together with other vegan options such as hummus or any vegan dairy product such as vegan cream cheese. If you are not vegan, you could use an egg or dairy products. Nonetheless, the outcome will still be more nutritious than a flour pizza crust.

Ingredients

  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 3/4 c. oats
  • 2 tbsp. flax + 4 tbsp. water = 2 thick flax eggs (don’t put too much water because you want your crust to crisp up in the oven)
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • salt + pepper to taste
  • Toppings: hummus, vegan cheese, and roasted asparagus

Instructions:

  1.  Peel sweet potato and cut into chunks. Place in a food processor and pulse until the chunks look like shreds.
  2. Add the oats, oil, salt and pepper, and flax egg and pulse until the mixture is well combined.
  3. Pour mixture into a bowl and stir with a spatula to ensure all ingredients are incorporated.
  4. Spread onto a pan to where the mixture is 1/2 cm. thick. Place in the oven and back at 400 degrees for 30 min. Check on the crust once in a while to make sure the sides are not burned.
  5. Once the pizza crust has crisped up, meaning most the moisture has been taken out, place your toppings and back for an additional 5 min.
  6. Take pizza out and place out for about 5 min. Serve and enjoy!

This sweet potato pizza crust is a great way to get veggies into every single bite. I ate half the pizza in one sitting but no worries; it’s just like eating a baked sweet potato with toppings.

-Jamie