Cooking for Yourself in Foreign Environments.

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Cooking for Yourself in Foreign Environments.

Post by MrMan »

When I was about 21, I moved to South Korea. I knew little of cooking, and the grocery store had a lot of unfamiliar items. Markets could have weird stuff that came out of the ocean, and it wasn't clear whether it was plant or animal.

I was earning more than a lot of engineers there at the time, a fairly standard US college graduate wage at the time, $1600 a month. That was $2782.12 per month in today's dollars based on a CPI calculator. So I would eat out just about every day I was there. But I worked a split shift, which meant early mornings and late nights. I had to eat breakfast and dinner at home, and it had to be fast.

I would have maybe 7 hours between the night shift and early morning classes. Jet lag is bad in your early 20's, especially the first time. Maybe aage or experiencing with it made it less severe. But I really needed my sleep, especially those first few months. I needed to eat food that was quick to make.

I ended up buying lots of cans of tuna fish (in oil) at the corner store. If it's in oil then if you dump it into ramen noodles, it tastes like the noodles. Brine gives it an awful flavor. I remember buying bread and the one decent brand of slice cheese I could find from Denmark. Mainly I wanted fast stomach-filler. I would eat nice meals, Korean, usually, but sometimes French, or European for lunch. I'd eat burgers, too.

I can cook a little more now. In the US, there are cans of things, instant foods, and all kinds of time-savers when you have to prepare food really quickly. These seem to be less common in Asian countries.

In Indonesia, I usually ate food cooked by my wife or maid. I rarely cooked.

How have those of you who aren't good cooks handled cooking in strange environments with strange foods at the grocery store?

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Re: Cooking for Yourself in Foreign Environments.

Post by flowerthief00 »

Food in southeast Asia is so cheap that when I go was planning on just eating out most of the time. But I bet I could make it even cheaper if I cook myself. I wonder how much cheaper? Maybe $200 or 300/month on food can go to $100/month? Maybe even $50/month? (Yes of course it depends on the city)

Having done some research online, the estimates on what one should budget for food seem to vary wildly. They say that one way to reduce costs on eating out is to eat local food instead of Western food. Well duh. Why would you want to eat disgusting fatty Western food when you could be eating Asian food.

Some of the best food I've had in my life was also some of the cheapest food I've had in my life. That was in Bangkok. I doubt I would be cooking at home much if I wind up in Thailand. But I probably will not wind up in Thailand....
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Re: Cooking for Yourself in Foreign Environments.

Post by xiongmao »

The last time I ate out in China I found a shard of glass in my soda. So now I cook even more of my own meals. I still trust the American Embassy (McDonalds of course) but I am wary of everywhere else.

I brought loads of herbs and spices with me which are the key to cooking food you want to eat.

I spend a lot on food but I make the expensive imported stuff last a long time. Now I can make a tin of kidney beans last for 3 meals. I cook pasta and a lot of slow cooker stuff. I found a good(ish) source of fish this year so I cook that too. I use a lot of eggs too. I am trying to cut down on the carbs a bit.

If you avoid one food in Asia then the thing to avoid is rice. It sucks up heavy metals like a m***erf*cker.

So far this month I've spent 120 RMB/day (on everything, not just food). My salary's only 9K a month so I need to be a little careful this year, especially as the RMB is going down in flames.
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Re: Cooking for Yourself in Foreign Environments.

Post by yick »

I remember my first trip to the supermarket in Asia - South Korea - like you, Mr Man. It just looked like a weird mixture of foilage and strange weird shit in tins - I ate spam, spicy tuna, very sweet white bread and cheese slices for the first few weeks until I worked out what is what.

I live in China and my diet has changed a hell of a lot since I first came out here. I just eat what's available. You can get (Australian or New Zealand cheddar) cheese but I don't eat a lot of it, I eat a lot more tofu and eggplant than before, a lot more rice - I eat out a lot too and can afford to. I also eat a lot of mung beans and adzuki beans - for some weird and strange reason - they don't sell lentils here and they're hard to get hold of but mung beans are a great substitute for them.

I have now accquired a taste for Antarctic Toothfish that they sell in Wal-Mart here - it's absolutely lovely but expensive - 100 RMB or thereabouts for not a lot but it is divine with lentils/mung beans!

As for fast food - I was one of the few foreigners who preferred Lotteria to Maccies - I loved their burgers, here in China - I like Dicos! You get a pretty good burger there.
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