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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A food interlude

I used to cook and bake all the time when we lived in America.

Here, Sean and I worked out a rotation of cooking + grocery shopping + dish washing duties because everything is so.much.harder here.

Grocery shopping often requires a scoot to three stores and can become absurdly expensive if you have a taste for all things Western.

Cooking is a challenge in and of itself when all you have to work with is two burners, a toaster oven and microwave in addition to two baking pans and two pots.

Dish washing is so painful because you have to do it all by hand and cooking any meal usually means you've used up every single dish and piece of cutlery you own.

To make the best of our circumstances, Sean and I brainstormed and came up with a plan:

I'm allotted 1500NT, which is roughly $50USD, weekly to go grocery shopping for three meals that will need to produce enough left overs for our lunches the following day. The same goes for Sean. In total we spend 3000NT or $100USD on groceries weekly. I shop on Sundays and cook/clean on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday evenings. Sean shops Wednesday and cooks/cleans on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings. We indulge and go out to eat Saturday usually with friends.

I know, I know.

That sounds so regimented.

And it is. Totally.

But when we first moved to Taiwan, we did not cook for an.entire.year. We went out to eat every night. We didn't really get how to make meals here. Our kitchen in our first apartment was even more limited than the one we have now. In the end, we spent a ridiculous and unnecessarily large amount of money on food while at the same time completely absolving ourselves from the duty of cooking/shopping for ourselves.

This summer, we decided for financial reasons that we had to come up with a better system. But beyond that, I was tired of eating out. I love food. I love cooking. I love eating what I want to eat and the best way to do that is to make it yourself.

So for six months now Sean and I have been sticking to this system and it's worked great. We've saved tons of money. I always have delicious food left over for lunches. And we have fun making meals together and for each other.

One hurdle we have had to clear to stick with our system is missing ingredients. We have become substitution masters and great experimenters. In that spirit, we decided that we would try to make homemade corn tortillas sans a tortilla press or warmer/holder. Corn tortillas are our favorite kind and we cannot buy them at a store in Taiwan. The only choice is the Costco flour tortillas and after 1.5 years, we are entirely sick of them. As we eat some kind of Mexican dish at least once a week, we decided: why not try?

So today I scooted to City Super, a Western grocery store downtown, and scoured the aisles and found masa flour. Now, I have never attempted to make homemade tortillas of any kind before. I had done some research and knew that to make corn tortillas, all one has to do is mix the masa flour, water, and salt.

No prob.

So that's what Sean and I did. Here's how:

1. Mix 2 cups of masa flour, 1.5 cups of hot water and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
2. Mix until the dough has a play dough consistency. It should not crumble in your hands or stick to your fingers. If it crumbles, add a little more hot water. If it's sticky, add a little more flour.
3. Separate out into 2-inch balls.
4. Lay out one piece of saran wrap. Lay one of the balls in the center. Cover with another piece of saran wrap.
5. Take a circular pan (we used a sauce pan) and press down on the ball. You will notice the tortillas will be thicker than normal. We used our fingers to flatten a bit more and smooth out the circular shape.
6. Heat up a pan on high. Do not add any oil or butter.
7. Remove the tortilla from the saran wrap and place on the hot pan. Cook for 1 minute. Flip. The bottom should have brown marks. Cook the other side for 15-30 seconds.
8. Remove tortilla from the pan and put on a paper towel. We used paper towels to separate them and keep them from sticking together.
9. Repeat with the other balls.

... and viola! You have tasty homemade corn tortillas. Doing this is possible for so many meals. Not making tortillas, of course, but being creative to find ways to make what you want despite limited options.

Next up: homemade Mac & Cheese! I wish my big brother Joel would give me his recipe because it is still one of my absolute favorite things to eat in the whole wide world!

Add your comment

  1. you and I are having a blog mind meld... posting spinach artichoke dip recipe tomorrow.

    so when are we opening Taco Casa Taiwan?

  2. Mmmm, spinach artichoke dip. What we need to do is have dinner. I'll bring the tortillas, you bring the dip.

  3. this is a great idea, esp. since it is super hard to get corn torillas here in germany!

    rae from lovefromberlin

  4. Cooking in my tiny kitchens in France have been a challenge to say the least. You would think that a country as renowned for their cuisine as France is would have better kitchens but it took me three houses before I got my oven!
    Your tortillas look great! I'm always craving Tex-Mex :)

    1. I know! This was a seriously good find for us! We've had tacos many times since we stumbled upon this recipe. Although, we discovered that the longer you fry them on the pan the more pliable they are. At first, ours were breaking apart so easily so I'd recommend leaving them in the pan a little bit longer :)