The Globetrotter Cookbook

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Cooking with Couchsurfers: Victor from Taiwan

Victor is a wine aficionado from Taiwan, and the first Couchsurfing guest to appear in the Globetrotter Cookbook blog. He spent a month travelling through Spain, staying mostly with generous hosts who showed him the best places to sip the country’s famous vinos – from fruity red Rioja in Logroño to the dry Fino sherry in Jerez.

Victor couchsurfing taiwan

Meet Victor!

Txokos: The secret societies of Basque Country

Naturally, wine pairs best with food. While planning his trip to the Iberian Peninsula, Victor stumbled upon the secret world of txokos (pronounced tcho-koh): private gastronomical societies scattered around Basque Country. Members gather to cook, drink and socialize in restaurant-grade facilities. To participate, members bring the ingredients, and under an honour system deposit dues into a wooden box. These fees are put toward cleaning and maintaining the basic stock and supplies.

A typical txoko in Basque Country

A typical txoko in Basque Country

Victor was disheartened to learn that txokos are exclusive societies and do not open their doors to tourists. By chance, his Couchsurfing host in San Sebastian, Antonio, was a txoko member, and invited Victor along to cook with him and his friends. His  Couchsurfing experience was transformed into something even more special and authentic, proving that connecting with locals is the best way to travel!

Cooking in a txoko in Basque Country

An exclusive look into the txoko kitchen.

Couchsurfing dinner in the txoko.

Couchsurfing dinner in the txoko.

Vegetarian food in Taiwan

Sharing is my favourite part about hosting travellers – and Victor shared many interesting things about food culture in Taipai, Taiwan. I learned that not only is Taiwan home to many vegetarian Buddhists, cooking at home is not so common because kitchens are small and stocking cupboards with ingredients is less economical than eating out. Cities offer many street food stands that provide cheap food and lots of vegetarian and vegan options.

In the Couchsurfing spirit of sharing, Victor cooked me up two Taiwanese vegetable recipes straight from his mum’s kitchen.  Now, prepare for your mouths to water because I’m going to share them with you.

Taiwanese vegan rice bowl

Taiwanese veggie rice bowl

Print Recipe
Victor's Taiwanese Cabbage and Mushrooms
These vegetable side dishes were shared by my Couchsurfer friend, Victor, and are a staple in Taiwanese cuisine. Eat them alone with rice for a vegan option, or put an egg on it for extra protein and deliciousness!
Taiwanese vegan rice bowl
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Taiwanese Cabbage
Taiwanese Mushrooms
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Taiwanese Cabbage
Taiwanese Mushrooms
Taiwanese vegan rice bowl
Instructions
Taiwanese Cabbage
  1. Heat the oil in a wok or large pan to high heat. Throw in the halved garlic cloves and sautée until they are brown in colour, but not burnt (about 1-2 minutes)
  2. Add in your chilli and minced garlic and sautée for 2 more minutes, stirring frequently.
  3. Toss in your cabbage and mix together. Sprinkle with salt to help the cabbage cook down. Cook until wilted, but still crunchy (about 3 minutes). Serve with rice.
Taiwanese Mushrooms
  1. Marinade your mushrooms in the alcohol for about 5-10 minutes. This step is optional, but it will give your mushrooms a sweeter taste.
  2. Toast your ginger on medium heat for about 2 minutes, then add the sesame oil and cook for another 3 minutes.
  3. Once the ginger is tender, add in your mushrooms and sautée until cooked through (about 5-7 minutes).
  4. Season with salt to taste, and serve with rice.
Share this Recipe

These recipes are a great addition to your travel-recipe arsenal because the ingredients are cheap and easy to find. You don’t even need soy sauce because the garlic and salt bring out all the flavour you need – I was skeptical, but trust me on this one! Both dishes are vegan, but if you are vegetarian, I strongly recommend topping your dish with a fried egg with a runny yolk. No explanation needed.

put an egg on the veg

I was a little upset that I broke my yolk for the photo, but my tastebuds sure didn’t complain!

Do you Couchsurf? What have you cooked up for your hosts? Let me know in the comments!

52 Comments

  1. Wow! What a story, Victor is one lucky guy to have met a txoko while couchsurfing and to be invited to one of their secret cooking parties.

  2. Wow! I came for a travel story and got a recipe as a bonus ;p Definitely going to make it for the family this week!

    Victor seems like a super interesting guy. Haven’t couchsurfed, but I’d sure love to someday. I would probably cook some classic Filipino dishes for my hosts.

    • I like to think that food pairs well not just with wine, but with a good story (or two!).
      It’s nerve-wracking to start Couchsurfing (it took me years to get comfortable with it), but my best travel experiences by far have been through this way of traveling (fun fact, I even got my current apartment through a Couchsurfing host’s friend, and its freaking luxurious AND cheap!).
      What is classic Filipino food? I have to admit, I’m not that familiar with that cuisine.

  3. What a wonderful experience! We love veggies and I’m definitely trying the cabbage and mushrooms. As a side note…both are so good for you all the health gurus suggest you eat both every single day! We try to bring back a recipe or a dish from each destination. Most recently I fell in love with a lentil dish we had in Turkey. I bought the spices at the local spice market and love how that dish brings back memories!

    • I am so curious about that lentil dish! Please share it with me (or the world on your blog!). I love Turkish spices, and those markets are basically the gourmand’s pornography… I love food, what can I say?
      If you make the recipes, I’d love to see a photo!

  4. Looks yummy. He was definitely lucky to be staying with someone who was a member of txoko.

    • Crazy chance! I’m so jealous… I’ll have to look up his his host when I go to Basque Country!
      Please try the recipes – they’re really versatile and a great base when you don’t feel like going shopping 🙂

  5. Victor sounds like such a legend!! Loved hearing about his couchsurfing experiences – I’m sure you meet so many people that way!

    • Victor really was an amazingly cool guy! So happy to kick off this series with his story and recipes!
      And yeah, couchsurfing quenches my wonderlust when I’m too broke to travel – bring the other countries to your own living room!

  6. Connecting with locals is a wonderful way to travel…you get so much more…..

  7. The recipe looks delicious. And I love the fact how members gather together to cook and eat. This is such a great way to socialize

    • I know, right? It’s really too bad that only locals can enjoy it… but I suppose the exclusivity is what makes it so enticing!
      Please let me know if you try out the recipe!

  8. OMG! That dish is looking delicious! Thanks for sharing the recipe! I’ll try to do it though I’m not even close to Victor’s skills!

    • These recipes are seriously SO easy! Victor by no means titled himself as a skilled chef (although I beg to differ) since in Taipei he eats out for almost every meal. Please try them out, you’ll be surprised by yourself!

  9. I absolutely adore couch surfing! I usually cook something traditionally English for my hosts as that’s where I’m from.

    So they can usually expect a pie or a roast dinner or fish and chips.

    Pretty much comfort food! It always goes down a happy treat 🙂

    • Ah, Sunday roasts – something I miss since going vegetarian (most of my family is British, although I’m Canadian)! I love that you do couchsurfing. It’s so fun to cook and be cooked for as part of the culture exchange!

  10. You just combine my two favorite things in one–travel and food. I wish I was there!
    I absolutely second your opinion that meeting local is the best way to travel.
    It helps you to immerse yourself into the culture more and experience the city from a local viewpoint!

    Thanks for sharing the recipes. I took notes!

    Happy travels 🙂

    • Food + travel = everything to me!
      I would so much rather just going for a stroll or a coffee with a local than doing a bunch of tourist stops. Meeting people and learning is what makes travel so fun!

  11. I’ve never heard first hand accounts of couch surfers before, so this is definitely interesting! Those recipes seem amazing too!

  12. I’ve never couch-surfed but Victor’s experience is so inspiring – how lucky for him to join an authentic txoko!

    • I really recommend it! I actually prefer hosting because when I’m not able to travel for whatever reason, I get “travel” coming into my home so to speak with travelers from all over the world visiting me and sharing their culture! Helps calm the wanderlust.

  13. I’ve never couch surf, but it seems like a great way to connect with the locals. I’m envious how he get to be invited to a txoko gathering!

    • Isn’t it cool? Couchsurfing is such a great network!
      If you’ve never tried it before, but you feel uncomfortable staying at a stranger’s house, you can also find people to hang out with in the city. Definitely great when you’re traveling solo and want to share some of your experiences with someone!

  14. Sounds like kismet, and everyone’s stomachs are the beneficiary. There is nothing like sharing food to add authenticity to any travel experience.

  15. It was fascinating reading about the secret Basque Txokos. Never knew they existed. So another reason to connect with locals. Being vegetarians, great to know that Taiwan has options for vegetarians. Will try out the Taiwanese curry.

    • I’d never heard of Txokos either, even after living in Spain for almost four years! Now I’m definitely going to have to work my way in 007-style to check them out.
      Isn’t it nice when you don’t have to make a huge effort to meet your dietary needs when going out? Taiwan definitely interests me for that purpose. Please try the veggies! They are more like a stirfry than a curry, but still so flavourful!

  16. I have not tried couch surfing yet, but this proves it is probably the best way to connect with the locals.

    • Key word – YET!
      I really recommend trying it – even if you’re not keen on staying with someone in their house, you can message locals to meet you for a coffee or show you around a little bit. When traveling solo, this has been a lifesaver for those lonely times when you want to share an experience, and it’s also lead to my best travel memories.

  17. That is why following the locals is the best strategy! I am so happy to learn about Victor’s adventures in Spain! Yummy 🙂

  18. Mmm. I think im going to try this recipe out. It is interesting that you say that most people in Taiwan eat out. Its the same thing in Thailand where we travelled last year. Food is so cheap and someone told me half the population voojs for the other half.
    This sounds like it was a great experience

  19. I hate mushrooms but this recipe looks so good it’s making me rethink my stance!!

  20. Thats cool, the first couchsurfing story I heard of and actually such a great one 🙂
    I love that you not only show up the yummi results of the dishes but also share the recipes here, this is truly cool.
    The Taiwanese Cabbage and Mushrooms looks delicious, I will probably try this out.

  21. The vegetarian food sounds quiet delicious. I am glad Victor had a connection on the inside and he was able to cook with them and enjoy the whole experience. Otherwise, it would have been so disappointing. Why don’t they open their doors to the tourists?

    • Basque Country is known for a large separatist movement and wanting to become independent from Spain. My guess is that the txoko doors are kept closed to tourists to preserve the authenticity of that part of their culture, which happens in protectionist societies.

  22. I worked in Taiwan in 2003 and loved the Taiwanese food. We lived out of hotels and ate out all of the time. Victor was lucky to have gotten his backdoor invitation into the exclusive txokos society. Great post. Thanks for sharing!

  23. This looks delicious! I love mushrooms, and especially with eggs. It sounds like Victor had an awesome experience in Spain! And what an awesome thing to do with couchsurfers.

  24. Victor was incredibly lucky to get in with the txoko society, they look very welcoming of him in the photo too. The veggie rice dish look delicious, I love how they cook their rice in Taipei it tastes so much better. These 2 stories show the power of couch surfing, I’ve got to try it.

  25. I love Couch Surfing. In fact I couch surfed in Taiwan with a guy called Victor but not the same one as you. At first in Taiwan, I struggle to find vegetarian food but once I was shown the symbol for the vegetarian restaurants and street stalls, I had less of a problem.
    My best meal with a Couchsurfer is in South Korea. I stayed with the host amazing chef who cooked me lots of amazing things to eat. That said I have also cooked many things for guests who have stayed with me with my own home grown vegetables however I wish I was a little better at cooking.
    Thanks for sharing the recipes. I am looking forward to trying to cook them.

  26. Never heard of txokos, but seems like an awesome society to be a member of! So glad Victor had the chance to join in. This is why Couchsurfing is so great. I have done it once in Spain as well and was invited to a house party in a villa with a bunch of foreign teachers and I can tell you this much-this lot knew how to party! If it hadn’t been for Couchsurf, I would have never been able to meet these lovely people..

  27. Don’t fret the broken yolk! The photo still looks great and yummy 🙂 These dishes look great and so simple, especially good that the ingredients are easy to find in many places when you’re traveling. The txoko experience looks incredible and delicious!

  28. Coachsurfing terrifies me! I know I would end up with the weirdos lol. I’m not a vegetarian but I am enjoying many more vegetraian dishes lately.

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