Scribbles in the Sand

All About My Life in Taiwan


1 Comment

How To Make the Perfect Cup of Coffee (Using the Aeropress)

While fancy capsules and expensive coffee machines might have been all the rage a few years ago, there is a renaissance in the classical methods of coffee brewing which are much simpler. The Aeropress is a massively successful invention from a company that originally made sports toys! and is the favourite amongst connoisseurs, bloggers and regular travellers. It’s so popular that there is even a world championship.

The other thing that makes it great is that for a fraction of the cost of regular coffee makers, you can make some of the best coffee in the world.

The advantage is that you can control each step of the coffee-making process and tweak it to your taste, changing the amount of coffee used, water volume and temperature, as well as pressure and will give you a fine cup of espressoesque or Americano coffee each time.

I first heard about it in Tim Ferris’, “The 4 hour chef“, and then I started seeing it referenced everywhere online from sites such as lifehacker and the Guardian. After tracking down a seller in Taipei I came home and tried perfecting the art of coffee-making. This required watching many YouTube videos on different methods  but the fun of it is that you can track how each coffee comes out and fine tune them to your taste.

Here are the steps that I use to make the perfect cup of coffee each morning (See pictures below)

1. Source good beans from a local vendor and ask for medium/fine grounds or do it yourself using a Hario burr grinder for the freshest flavour.

2.set the aeropress in an inverted position and place on some electronic kitchen scales and set the weight to 0. Measure out 12g of coffee for 1 cup which is about one large scoop.

3. Boil water to 79 degrees. You can use a kettle that has preset values or just wait for the water to cool slightly. Temperatures between 78-85 tend to reduce the bitterness of the coffee while maintaining the flavour.

4. Pour water into the aeropress  and stir until you get a slightly frothy caramel head and then leave for a total of 1 minute.

5. Add the paper filter to the cap and rinse under water to remove any residual flavour from the paper.

6.secure the cap, flip over the aeropress onto your favourite mug and press firmly on the plunger for 20/30 seconds until your hear the rush of air begin to escape from the vacuum.

7.wait for the last drips to enter the cup, remove the aeropress cap and pop the coffee “puck “into the trash or read up other uses of coffee grinds.

8. Enjoy your cup of coffee.

If you want an Americano,  just add some water to the cup

Advantages:

  • Relatively cheap compared to alternatives
  • Can take with you on holiday and recreate identical coffee wherever you go
  • Can control each step of the brewing process
  • Is a nice ritual that teaches you mindfulness.
  • Comes with hundreds of paper filters that can be used several times if thrifty (You can also buy a metal filter)
  • Quick and easy clean up

Disadvantages: 

  • Inconvenient for more than two cups of coffee at a time
  • (Add 24g for two cups and split the filtered coffee into two cups near the end)
  • Labour intensive
  • Hand grinding can be tiring, (get the coffee shop to grind them for you).
  • True espresso requires much greater pressure than the aeropress provides, but it’s the next best thing.


1 Comment

Why I Dislike Hot pot 火鍋

Our friend arrived late Friday evening and we had arranged to meet her at a fancy hot pot restaurant which my girlfriend and I had been to just nights before. Needless to say, the other, even posher one was booked out so we had no choice.

Now, this is sacrilege to say in Taiwan, but I’m not a massive fan of hot pot (火鍋 huǒ guō) for 3 main reasons.

Continue reading


6 Comments

All About Food….And Stinky Tofu

I’ll be the first to admit that i’m no foodie. My idea of a sandwich is to get a slice of bread, slap some spread somewhere within the perimeter of the crust, and then proceed to fill it with a wet substance (mayo/coleslaw/chutney) an animal product (cheese/meat) and then some texture to top it off,(iceberg lettuce/crisps). I then mash the bread in half and consume.  Food is not something I go to bed thinking about, and is rarely the first thing I think of upon waking, (unless there is Crunchy Nut and/or Coco Pops in the cupboard).

Having been a gym monkey since my gap year (although not this past year), food was just fuel to me, grouping my meals into carbs and protein.  I remember buying my first protein shake in 2007 at Soccer Sports, Exeter. I felt like a criminal procuring steroids, trying my best to hide my purchases like “someone” buying x.small condoms.  Now they are omnipresent and can be bought in every supermarket and are quaffed by anyone serious about working out.  Protein shakes further debased my values of food, and everything since has been compared to a 500ml serving, (one tin of tuna, one pint of milk, a chicken breast etc).

I’ve always known that diet and nutrition were the key factors for achieving your goals in the gym, but the idea of preparing healthy filling meals was never very appealing, especially on a student budget.  This is the main difference between movie stars who get huge for a film, and regular Joe’s who go to the gym each day.  If the nutrition isn’t there, then you can only realistically achieve ~20% of your goals. Clearly no sane person should eat 8-10 small meals a day, starting at 4am like Hugh Jackman did for Wolverine, but this is the way they do it.

 Anyway, I have taken a giant discourse from the initial idea of this post, and that was to talk about Asian food and how concepts are very different over here.

I’ve been told that there is no such word for calorie in asian culture, (This is surely not true considering it is noted on all food in 7-eleven).  The idea of calorie counting is certainly not obvious, although I look around and see very few fatties,(<5%) and women tend to be ectomorphically thin and easily confused for children, (that last sentence sounds a bit weird).  So what are they doing that we rotund westerners are not?

Rice

First off, rice is very much their staple carb, much like pasta is to a student and chips are to a fat kid. However, in the home, it is rarely fried like we see in the UK, and is often eaten plain. In restaurants, it is scarcely eaten, making room for other sumptuous delights instead. Also, the bowls used are about half the size of cereal bowels, so you are limited to how much you can have.

Second, vegetables are not tacked on to a meal to satisfy your guilt, but rather central to the meal.  Steamed cabbage, spinach, and other dark greens are present at each sitting, and fruit is always within easy reach for afterwards.

Dessert

This is where I miss the UK. Dessert, milk and cheese.  Three things that probably account for my ever diminishing BMI. I dream of mince pies, chocolate gateau’s, cheese toasties, milk moustaches,spraying whipped cream directly into my mouth and spooning brandy butter straight from the pot. Here, desert is either fruit, or recently, hong dou tang (red bean soup).  Imagine pouring the contents of a kidney bean tin into a saucepan, heating, and adding sugar to taste.  Surprisingly nice and warming, but somehow negates to fill the metal requirement for some form of chocolatey stimulus.  A trip to the bakery will result in buns that hint of a chocolate centre, only to be deceived by this very same filling of red bean curd. The kids eat this stuff without any resistance and obviously don’t know what they’re missing (Fruit n’Nut Cadbury chocolate and Toblerones).

Drink

And now for drink. There are no rows of Dr Pepper, Coke, Sprite, 7-Up, or VK and WKD for the kiddies.  Although you can purchase Coke and Sprite, these are confined to two lonely fridge spaces, and the majority of shelving is given over to every cold tea under the sun.  Green,black,red, oolong, with every flavour combination for each.  Next to them are the soy milks (my new favourite drink), and finally some form of pro biotic containing bifidus digestivum and L.cassie immunitas. I drink at least one Yakult a day which in the UK would result in bankruptcy pretty soon.

Stinky Tofu

Lastly, they have this substance known as chou doufu (stinky tofu) which anyone who has travelled to the East will surely have encountered, and probably put them off visiting again.  It’s sold on many street corners, and is infamous amongst foreigners who detest the smell.  The locals don’t seem to care, but it would be the first thing I would ban if I were in power.  Imagine concentrating the combined smell of 5 day old Camembert with a pungent Stilton.  Heat this smell in your brain to volitise it, and you are someway to how repulsive it is.  However, I am ashamed to say that I haven’t tried it yet, (much like line dancing) but I hear that it’s not that bad,(much like line dancing).

So it is clear how they are all so thin and have legs like supermodels.  Small portions of rice, copious supplies of fruit and vegetables, and fresh fish eaten regularly.  As long  as you limit your trips to street vendors, you could easily live to one hundred (and look 40) if you can successfully dodge the scooters.

 

 

 

 


4 Comments

Bloggers Block and Sandwiches By Fiona Potter

As a co-founder of “Scribbles in the Sand”,(SITS) my absence and contribution (I have written 2 blog to date) has been appalling.  I have suffered from an extreme case of ‘bloggers block’. I hope to rectify this from now on and shall gently get into a habit of blogging.

To be honest, I think once Gwil was on his 7th post I felt a of pressure to write. Also, Gwil likes to play role of ‘editor’, demanding posts off me, which I obviously rebel against. Anyway, now that most of the admin/application phase of TalkEasy is over, and Gwilym’s editorial requests have subsided, I can take a little breath and get into a ‘scribbling’ mood.

So…what has happened since my return to Taiwan? Well, quite a lot, actually, really quite a lot has happened as I’m sure you guys can imagine (here comes a ‘I told you so’ moment from Gwilym – “you should just blog regularly so things don’t become out-dated and overwhelming to sum up” in an annoying voice). So I think the best thing is for me to break it down.

Iv got quite a few little bits saved up for SITS – yummy recipes, Taiwanese cultural facts, personal reflections, business updates and other stuff – which I’ll hopefully ‘scribble’ down in the next couple of weeks.  For now I’m going to get into the swing of things with a short piece about Taiwanese sandwiches.

“WHERE ARE THE CRUSTS?”

As lovely as Taiwanese food is, I do always crave a nice sandwich for lunch. “Crave sandwiches? Don’t you have them in Taiwan?” I hear you say. Sure, of course we have sandwiches, and a lot of them at that, but they just ain’t no British sandwich. Those of you who have been to the Far East will know, while sandwiches are readily available, the bread is totally different and the fillings are just a wee bit peculiar compared to ones at home.

In Taiwan, sandwiches are actually more of a breakfast thing. They are made with bread that is far sweeter and jammed with about ten different fillings (okay maybe I’m exaggerating).  The sandwich fillers I don’t mind so much (there is this awesome spicy Korean chicken sandwich at 7-eleven that I like to have every once in a while), but it’s the overly sweet bread and the overly sweet mayonnaise that gets my goat. I find myself standing there wishing that the Korean Spicy Sandwich will magically turn into a salmon & cream cheese,  BLT, Tesco finest pesto/mozzarella/tomato or just a simple ham and Cheddar cheese sandwich…mmmmmmmm. Ahh how I miss British sandwiches so.