Ketalagan Media recently did a half-hour interview in English with Elizabeth Kao, blogger at Self-Taught Gourmet and culinary writer for Bios Monthly among other publications. She comments on the influences of Taiwanese cuisine, its current challenges, and the state of Taiwanese fine dining. For anyone interested in Taiwanese culture and food, this is a great discussion to listen to. Here are some highlights:
- Choosing to convert from lawyer to culinary writer did not go without an argument with dad 😄 .
- Taiwanese cuisine, defined historically, is influenced by colonizers and Chinese immigrants post 17th century. Aboriginal people, an oppressed population, unfortunately did not leave a lasting trace of their food culture.
- Taiwanese cuisine in the narrow sense, is a combination of southern Fujian and Hakka style, mainly seafood based, light and fresh.
- Early Chinese immigrants (in contrast to those who came over with the KMT in 1945, and the so-called current new mainland Chinese immigrants) brought the traditions of night markets, street food, and street banquets.
- Based on European or Japanese fine standing standards, Taiwanese fine dining is lacking, mostly because it never enjoyed long stable period of time to develop this kind of formal dining tradition and culinary craft.
- Taiwanese cuisine abroad lacks a real recognition, mostly due to weak marketing, economic and branding efforts. In contrast, Korea and its government-supported Korean Food Foundation has the objective of becoming part of the top five cuisine in the world by 2017, and has built a comprehensive plan with adequate funding to achieve that.
- It is complex to brand Taiwanese cuisine, there is no clear identity, Taiwan is a melting pot, so Taiwanese people need to identify themselves first.
- Optimistic road ahead: some Taiwanese chefs make a point to use local produce, and integrate Taiwanese flavors in their style of cooking. Taiwan has a strong agriculture, and a new generation of chefs trained abroad who are fully aware of the global culinary culture, some of them will come back to Taiwan and influence contemporary dining on the island.