Food show to dazzle the taste buds

Jane Rickards, TAIPEI, Taiwan, The China Post

From grilled lamb cutlets a la Provancale to a Hangzhou pork dish named after a Sung Dynasty writer — Taiwan’s best hotels and restaurants can dish up practically anything and are keen to show off their skills to the rest of the world. The Chinese Culinary Exhibition, to be held in August, yesterday revealed a taste of things to come for its Fine Dining Exhibit, with the exhibit’s 13 specially-selected hotels and restaurants dishing up the wares they intend to display in the exhibition. “Our food is so good, we want the international food market to recognize our achievements,” said Chinese Culinary Exhibition Organization Committee Public Relations Director Sandy Wu. “We want people to know that Taiwan is the King of the Cuisine.” Wu’s claims rang true for many of the dishes offered to the media yesterday. Worthy of note are the grilled lamb cutlets a la Provancale presented by the Sant Want Hotel Queen Alice french restaurant. To use a simple word, they were fantastic.

Being an Australian, I thought I had already knew the best that lamb could offer, but these cutlets were possibly the tastiest I had ever had, even though they had been served up en masse for the media. Queen Alice French and Japanese trained chef Lin Ping-chang said the secret was all in the marinades and sauces. He likes to use garlic and pepper. (The lamb was imported from Australia, though). Also worthy of note were the wares from the Landis Taipei Hotel Tien Hsiang Lo which specializes in cuisine from Hangzhou. Delicate fried shrimp with decorated with “Long Ching” tea leaves graced individual red earthenware pots. Spokeswoman for the Landis Taipei Hotel, Charlotte Chen, said only freshwater shrimp from Taiwan’s rivers are used to make this dish. Hangzhou cuisine relies on fish and shrimp from its freshwater scenic West Lake and the hotel’s restaurant in Taipei does its best to replicate the taste experience. Another dish, “Dong Po rou,” featuring pork marinated in shaoshing wine is named after a famous Sung Dynasty writer, Sung Dongpo, also known as Su Shih, who lived in Hangzhou between 1036 to 1101.

According to Chen, the pork in seven-cm cubes is tied with string and is slowly cooked for four hours in Shaohsing wine, spices and soya sauce. It is then left to stand overnight before it is reheated and served up. In line with the health-conscious noughties, the Landis Taipei Hotel breaks with classical Chinese tradition by scraping off its residual oil several times during the cooking, making its taste much lighter.

Also worthy of mention were the dishes served up by Evergreen Restaurant in the form of a cuisine best described as East-meets-West-meets-individuality. Its mango seasoned sliced fish delicately crossed with two stalks of asparagus, was a mixture of Taiwanese, Japanese and Western cuisine, said Evergreen Restaurant spokesman Chuck Chen.

“You can’t really say which country is comes from,” he said.

Evergreen chef Shih Chien-fa lead a five-member Taiwan chef team to win a prestigious Chinese cuisine contest in Singapore, representing Taiwan with dishes such as Shrimp prepared in a Hibiscus XO sauce and two-flavored Chun Mountain thick soup, made from white and violet yams. The restaurant’s Papaya Agar ice was at once tart, sweet and refreshing

Wu said that the 13 hotels and restaurants had been selected according to their performance in local and international competitions.

They were judged on qualities such as their use of innovation or use of popular ingredients and cooking styles. Wu said the exhibition expected quite a turnout, with at least 1,000 visitors from Singapore already expected along with hundreds more from Australia, Japan and Hong Kong and the U.S.

Aside from the hotels and restaurants mentioned, the other participants in this year’s exhibition include: the Grand Hotel’s Chi-Lin cafe; the Ambassador Hotel Taipei’s Canton Court; Chiou Hwa Shark’s Fin and Seafood Restaurant at the Gloria Prince Hotel Taipei; Bando 8 at the Grand Formosa Regent Taipei; The Howard Plaza Hotel Taipei’s Yangtse River, Pearl River and Formosa Restaurants, Kingdom Restaurant, Dian Shui Lou, the Paris International Seafood Buffet; Taste of the Rover Valley and the Hai Pa Wang Group. At the exhibition, which starts August 12 at the CETRA main exhibition hall area A, visitors can take a map to find their way around and sample the wares from these 13 hotels and the restaurants themselves. The chefs will also give on-site cooking demonstrations and lectures. This particular exhibit, the Fine Dining Exhibit, will run until Sept. 10, 2004.

Displays of regional village and township cuisine will also be displayed at this exhibit, an initiative of the Council of Agriculture.