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A map of Taiwan’s history can be traced through its kitchens.
Traditional Taiwanese cuisine originates in the aboriginal tribes
whose gastronomy focuses mainly on simple staples such as sweet
potatoes, vegetables and meats. In the early half of the 20th
century, during the Japanese occupation, miso was introduced to the
country adding new flavor and depth to many traditional dishes. In
1949, following the influx of mainland Chinese immigrants, a whole
new batch of regional Chinese dishes were added to the palate of
Taiwan. All of this culinary history points to the delicate balance
of tradition and innovation that makes up today’s Taiwanese
This year’s exhibition was held downtown in the spacious and
accommodating Taipei Exhibition Hall and featured four days of
showcases from Taipei’s most exclusive restaurants; whole pavilions
focusing on regional specialties; interactive cooking classes; and
a televised star chef competition.
Every year the exhibition follows a simple but sensible program;
events and fundamentals mentioned here are all aspects that clients
can expect to look forward to at the 19th exhibition to be held in
The theme of this year’s exhibition was organic food and there
were also four other central pavilions showcasing a range of
Taiwanese cuisine: The New Stage for Taro and Sweet Potato, the
Cuisine of Sun Moon Lake, the Enigmatic Taste of Sichuan and the
Fine Dining Exhibit.
Opening day featured an exciting flurry of Taiwan’s top chefs
placing final touches on their signature dishes, all beautifully
displayed in well-organized booths, each of which visitors could
freely meander through to pause and closely inspect any plate that
particularly interested them.
Chinese caterpillar fungi were so artfully crafted that I was
unable to tell that they had been prepared only moments earlier.
The fine-dining exhibition serves as an excellent venue for clients
to get an idea of the upscale restaurants they most want to explore
on a time-limited visit to the country.
Moving through the exhibition I headed for a large stage near
the back of the hall where the World Culinary Contest was being
held. Although the show was moderated in Cantonese, I couldn’t help
but get caught up in the fast-paced culinary drama, something akin
to the Food Network’s “Top Chef.” In this year’s contest, eight
teams from seven countries competed before a panel of judges made
up of a wide variety of culinary experts from around the world. The
competition focused on innovative Chinese cuisine and had the chefs
scrambling to out-do each other in their dramatic gastronomic
feats. Highlights were televised nightly on Taipei television.
The Cuisine of Sun Moon Lake exhibit featured displays from the
region considered by many to be Taiwan’s heartland. The cuisine of
Sun Moon Lake finds its roots in the land’s fertile offerings of
prickly-ash leaves, bamboo shoots and Assam black tea. The unusual
red-oil-seasoned wild fern entree and sumptuous braised pork with
bamboo shoots were some of the most tempting dishes I saw at the
The Enigmatic Taste of Sichuan pavilion included prominent
displays of colorful chiles and also featured a “spice summit” in
which visitors could engage in discussion about peppers and other
bold Sichuan flavors. The New Stage for Taro and Sweet Potato was
one of the more interesting exhibits, showcasing some truly
innovative recipes such as taro-infused sweet yam and lobster rolls
and double-layer sakura shrimp pastry.
While clients can sample and shop as they tour through the
various pavilions, there is also an extensive and bustling food
court offering opportunities to really please the palate. There are
cooking classes almost hourly where each presenter is an
experienced chef and audience members have a chance to participate
in the lesson. There is also a professional performance area
featuring demonstrations of the latest cooking gadgets, creative
napkin folding, cocktail mixing and cookware durability.
The festival runs over the course of four days and clients
attending next year’s festival should make reservations early as
hotels tend to book up quickly during this time. Next year’s
exhibition will take place Aug. 15-18. Transfer buses run every 15
minutes between the City Hall MRT Station and the Taipei Exhibition
Hall. More information about the 2008 exhibition can be found
through the Taiwan Tourism Board Web site.