2013 / 5月
the editors /tr. by Chris Nelson
“Despite several trips to Taiwan in the past few months, I haven’t tried ‘stinky tofu.’” These words reveal the ambivalence with which Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist Rina Jimenez-David approaches one of the more pungent representatives of Taiwan’s culinary heritage.
Gourmet culture evokes a particular resonance as a medium of international exchange.
According to the ROC Tourism Bureau, a record 7 million international tourists visited Taiwan in 2012, and food was a prime motivator. Last June, the American website CNNGo reported on “40 Taiwanese foods we can’t live without.” Street food featured heavily, including xiaolongbao, fried chicken cutlets, mango shaved ice, three-cup chicken, and hotpot.
But Taiwanese food isn’t limited to street eats. In mid-March, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in the Philippines (TECO) invited six Taiwanese chefs to give a seminar on culinary arts for students and faculty at the Lyceum of the Philippines University, for whom they prepared a feast of delights for the eyes, nose and palate.
The elaborately designed menu highlighted dishes made with Taiwanese produce, such as Formosa Bell Apple and Shrimp Salad. The featured fruit, also known as the wax apple, is grown copiously in tropical countries such as Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan. Cultivars from Kaohsiung and Pingtung such as Black Pearl and Black Diamond, with their high water content and crisp mouthfeel, were fashioned into a creative Western-style salad.
On tasting the Stir-fried Pumpkin Rice Noodles, many of the guests were surprised at the pumpkin’s rich flavor profile and its harmony with the noodles. One of the main dishes, Hakka Style Ham Hock Braised Spring Bamboo with Essence Soy Bean Sauce, boasted plump ham hocks broiled until tender. When held with chopsticks one could see the fatty meat quiver as if dancing fluidly; it was a dish that demonstrated true culinary skill.
TECO representative Raymond Wang, when asked to comment on the Taiwan–Philippine gourmet food cultural exchange, quoted Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw: “There is no love sincerer than the love of food.” This instance of food diplomacy, a delight for guests and hosts alike, bore witness to this fact.