As is common for students or singles in Taiwan, my flat doesn’t have a kitchen or any built in cooking facilities. In England this would be the end of the world - eating out on a daily basis would be either prohibitively costly, prohibitively unhealthy or just nasty. Basic home cooking facilities are essential in the UK, but in Taiwan the array and convenience of food options is amazing. Eating a good variety of reasonably healthy, yummy, hot meals “out” is not problematic. That said, there comes a time when you really want a change, without venturing further from home.
Cooking at home takes much more time than buying pre-prepared, but does work out cheaper especially if you’re cooking for two or more. Not to mention that you can cook enough to create the next day’s lunchbox too. So how to cook without a kitchen? …carefully of course, otherwise you’ll get food bits everywhere! The key has to be a 大同電鍋 (Tatung electric pot, commonly translated as “a rice cooker”). A Tatung can be used to steam, boil, stew, “hotpot” and even fry. These pots are ubiquitous in Taiwan and known for their reliability - it’s common for a Tatung pot used daily to last ten to twenty years. They are easy or difficult to use depending on your point of view. There is only one switch and no other buttons, timers, lights or displays. You put your ingredients in, flip the switch and wait for the pot to switch itself off again - which it will do automatically by magic when the food is cooked. Amazingly easy as that is, the difficulty comes from knowing how much of what to put where in order to get the desired cooking method! For example, to cook rice, you’d put the same volume of cold water as washed rice in the inner pot, the inner pot directly into the outer pot, one cup of water in the outer pot and the lid on.
A 電磁爐 (single pan portable induction cooking hob) makes for easy frying and poaching and lets you cook in parallel while the Tatung is busy. With these, a cutting board, knife, cutlery and such, 意茹, 熒 and I have been able to prepare a some lovely dinners, with dishes including: 秋葵, 彩椒炒肉絲, 絲瓜, 炒龍鬚菜, 炒蔬菜, 沙茶金針菇, 紅蘿蔔炒蛋, 炒豆腐 and 蘿蔔乾炒蛋. Some photos of the dishes below: