Western food and drinking while eating rules - help please

How much western or non-taiwanese food do you consume?

I have found that I can go about 2 weeks until I need a full non-taiwanese meal. The local cuisine is fine, but I can only take so much fried “stuff” and oily substances before I break down and give into my craving for something western. Is this normal? How long before those cravings go away and you become fully adjusted and content with the local cuisine?

My other question is about drinking while eating. It has become apparent that drinking anything while eating is not a common thing here. Drinks are almost always served after the meal, if at all. Some restaurants dont even offer drinks. Some even consider a drink to be dessert.

I was eating at this one restaurant and ordered an ice lemonade with my food. I specificaly told the wait staff that I wanted the drink with my meal, not after. Well, the food came and no drink. I asked again, no result. FInally at the end of the meal they brought my drink along with the dessert. Was my request just too bizzare and out of the ordinary for them to get it right? Or was I breaking a cultural law in Taiwan by ordering a drink with my meal?

Even when I am over at people’s houses, I have been told to resist my western urge of drinking while eating as it can be seen as rude to the cook. They think I want to drink to “wash down” the food. I am just so used to having a glass of water or anything while I eat. I thought I could adjust, but this is one of those things I cant change about myself, damn it :fume: ! (rant over)

Can anyone explain this to me?

Derek order beer and drink that with your meal…its expected. White men are supposed to drink beer all the time…no problem.

On the food side there is no right or wrong. I have been in Asia 6 years and eat predominantly asian food but that does not have to be Taiwanese. Sometimes a bit of sushi or teppanyaki will work wonders but other times it just has to be a big old steak and fries. Just go with what works for you everyone will understand. My gf is just chuffed that I will go to the nightmarket and eat “stuff” as apparently a lot of my country men will not.

Derek -
Q #1 - Not very long. I cook a lot at home.
Q #2 - Freakin’ weird for me also. I want something to drink with my meal. I always ask for it, if it isn’t I ask again more clearly, if it still doesn’t show up, I walk outside to a tea stand - there’s always one close - buy a green tea and bring it back to my table. If they try the ‘bringing it after I’ve eaten routine’, I send it back and refuse to pay for it. It gets the message across.
When at a friend house I just get it myself. If they think its rude…too bad. A lot of the time I do need something to wash the food down. By the way, none of my friends think its rude…they just accept it as my ‘western’ habit.

And then there’s that weird thing about COLD WATER!!!
I like cold water…gives 'em the willies it does…:smiling_imp:

It’s been explained to me that soup, which is nominally served/ordered with most full meals, fills this need (note the use of the verb “drink” with soup, rather than “eat” in English).
Which is, of course, rank bollocks.
If I want a bowl of hot boiled kitchen leavings, I’ll bloody well order a bowl of hot boiled kitchen leavings.
I, like TC, NEED something to drink when I eat, preferably as cold as possible.
Aside from the inconveneience, I’ve never heard this referred to as rude, tho’…

The other weird thing I came accross this weekend: getting scolded for refusing (politely) food.

I was at a barbeque with some people I know. Some of these people were older folks (grandparent age). They were barbequeing taiwanese style just about everything you can imagine. I have tried chicken ass and chicken hearts before, and they are not to my liking.

They were grilling some taiwanese sausages that looked yummy. So, I was patiently abiding the time until they were done being grilled. I was offered chicken ass and hearts many times by many different people. Each time I politely declined and said I was waiting for the suasages. One of the older folks flipped out and started ranting on about me not liking their food. And how I was refusing them too much. Soon another person joined in, and I decided it was time to take a walk and let them simmer.

My goodness, I never realized how touchy taiwanese folk can be about tehir food. Or perhaps they were all set on watching the meigouren eat something strange like chicken ass. I dont like nor want to eat it, thank you. Now damn it, leave me alone!

I got a lecture afterwars when I got home, about how i should never refuse and just eat it, even if i dont like it. THIS IS EXACTLY WHY IT IS GOOD TO HAVE A BOTTLE OF WATER or something handy TO WASH DOWN the stuff that I dont like so I wont be “rude”…oh wait, I cant…drinking while eating is rude too! Ai Yo!

That seems very odd. I cannot imagine anyone getting upset or offended because you did not want to eat something.

My wife always told me that when people push food on me, I needn’t decline, but, I needn’t eat it either. A strange concept for me, but, it seems to work. So long as your plate has some food on it, you can easily decline other offers.


A lot of it comes from the idea that it’s a Bad Thing to consume hot things and cold things at the same time. Stand your ground. Go out and grab a cold drink like TC does if the place doesn’t have them.

A major exception seems to be beer. When I’m out with Chinese, I usually drink beer. It seems normal to accompany greasy, salty, spicy, thirst-inducing foods with a coold brewski. Fruit juices (those sugar-laden orange or guava drinks) seem OK, too. Water is becoming more accepted, though it’s generally served at room temperature. By the way, the custom of automatically serving free iced water with meals at restaurants is very American - it’s not generally done even in Europe (though the idea does seem to be spreading).

For some reason, many women refuse to drink anything iced. It’s Chinese medicine related, but I don’t understand it. Thought it had to do with trying to get pregnant, but many of these women are young and unmarried and obviously not ready to have families.

Derek -
Can’t help ya with this one…I eat everything…except that hideous foul stench thing called ‘cho do fu’…smells like the breath of a sh*t wagon buzzard on a hot day.

good verbal picture painting with that one TC. Ewwwwwwww…I will never look (smell) at chodofu the same way ever again. haha :stuck_out_tongue:

Maybe he bet money on whether you’d eat it! Hence the rant - he lost his bet!

As for odd foods - try it once. Then you’ll get a free pass for refusing to ever eat it again. If it’s too disgusting, a few belts of Kaoliang will take away the inhibitions and the gag reflex!

When at a table, try to avoid sitting next to the elderly, and make sure to sit next to your GF. This is for practical reasons only, not out of disrespect. That’s because the elderly are the most touchy about food, having grown up with food shoratges, famines, etc. The elderly will often watch intently to see what you didn’t eat, and grab some of that and place it directly into your bowl. This is the height of rudeness in the west, but they’re being hospitable. Your girlfriend, sitting next to you, should be able to smooth things over if necessary.

Call me naive or pehaps uneducated in this regard, but what is “a few belts of Kaoliang”?

A kind of booze.

aka…Gao Liang…Taiwan moon shine…Tunnel 88…ask NamaHottie about the stuff…woo hoo!

…try it…heh heh heh

It is quite normal to drink orange juice with an expensive meal here, especially at a wedding. Why? search me, maybe something to do with getting rid of the oil? The idea of taking a sip of water to cleanse the palette is unusual.

People look at me when I walk into a resturant and plonk a bottle of water on the table, but I smile sweetly and enjoy my meal, rather than going through the uncomfortable feeling of food stuck to the back of my mouth. I was at a wedding the other day. On the table was red wine and oj, you had to ask the waitress for a glass of water. She bought me an embarrassingly small glass, which I had to ask her to refill. Wish I’d remembered the water that day. You will usually get water in a western-stlye resurant…

Which nicely to this one. As far as eating local goes, I eat less and less the more I stay here. I was a complete noodle freak two years ago, but I gained a lot of weight. I spoke to a personal trainner (Hi Sasha!) while hiking one day, he suggested mixing the diet up more.

Now I rarely eat local food. I cook in the evenings and eat a salad and sandwich for lunch. I snack on fruit, and occassionally chocolate or something from 7-11. I do have a problem at the mother-in-laws place where it is greasy, as you would expect. Hey, they even give me water now, and don’t look at me weird. I love my mum-in-law! But the diet is just so different.

I don’t want to appear to be rude but cheap food is made cheaply, you don’t know what goes into it, how long it’s been sitting in the pot, or baking in the sun. I’ve noticed an improvement in energy, abilty to sleep and contentment since deciding to prepare my own meals. It maybe harder to do if you are living with your in-laws, but if you wanted to change speak to them and come to some arrangement. They might even enjoy your cooking.

Hope this helps.


I came accross a gag reflex food this weekend too. Caught me by surprise. I was eating some home made pork curry stew and came accross what I thought were a bunch of mushrooms in the stew. I ate them…gag reflex ensued and I nearly lost my dinner on the floor.

End up that they were not mushrooms, but duck eggs that had not been fully formed inside the duck. They were in a small cluster and had the most terrible taste you could possibly imagine. Yuck!

When offered more, I declined…and offered it in turn to each person sitting there. They ALL declined too…making scrunchy faces of disgust. So, this leads me to believe that we westerners are often times the subjects of jest while eating. An experiment, or something to wager on, if you will. It is cute or funny the first couple of times…but after a while it gets old and down right annoying.

For some reason, many women refuse to drink anything iced. It’s Chinese medicine related[/quote]

My better half refuses everything cold during he period. Ice cream, cold water, cold friut even. Apparently it makes the blood thinner and run faster, making her more uncomfortable.

“Gao Liang”…I will have to remember that. However, after 2 shots of JD I’m a goner. Is it as potent as a couple shots of JD? (Im a light weight when it comes to drinking)

Sure, but some people actually like the taste of that stuff. Take chou dou fou for example!

Imagine you were at home and you fiancee screwed up her face at your mum’s cooking. How would your mum feel? Like crap? Of course. Why should it be any different here. Smile, take -eat - swallow- smile again. Ho Ja! Hao chi!..get the water if needs be.

One man’s meat and all that.


These 'duck eggs’where not dug eggs or mushrooms probably I guess they were probably rooster balls (testicles), very expensive and soooo yummy.

I’ll eat everything except for intestines that are not cleaned inside, koriander leafs, ginger by the whole root as done here too many times and bitter gourd … all else no problemo …

Drinks, we did put water on the table and if we had foreugn guests I always pushed my wife and other staff to put the requested beer first on the table … didn’t work all the time but I tried to have them a change in thinking …

More potent. 53% alcohol. I believe JD Old No. 7 is 45%.