Friday, August 21, 2009

Culinary event in Taipei, now on its 20th year, whets appetite

By Nancy T. Lu
The 2009 Taiwan Culinary Exhibition, now on its 20th year, has not lost its appeal. Far from it.

Colors and forms grab the eye, even inviting experience through the palate, as soon as a visitor enters the Taipei World Trade Center. Dining menu options and banquet offerings in beautiful settings have never looked so appetizing and tempting.

This year’s food celebration is particularly strong in riding on the attraction of places with great tourism potential. Suzhou, Venice of the East renowned for its stone bridges, pagodas and gardens romantically reflected in the water, proudly presents the exquisite refinement of Chinese cuisine in an entire pavilion at Taipei’s foremost food event. Recipes call for stewing, braising, quick-frying, stir-frying, steaming, roasting or deep-frying.

Dishes done Suzhou style are said to veer towards the sweet side. Presentation tends to be classical. Servings of Suzhou cuisine are set beautifully against picture backdrops capturing typical Suzhou scenes. One unforgettable dish consists of tofu finely sliced into strips resembling traditional noodles. In keeping with the Chinese penchant for extending good wishes, gods of good fortune as well as of longevity find their places next to auspicious sayings in the array of Suzhou specialties.

Taiwan’s very own culinary talents from far and wide have been mobilized and grouped for special highlight and ultimately for better appreciation by the crowds of visitors at the Taiwan Culinary Exhibition from August 20 to 23.

Twelve international hotels and restaurants are trotting out their food bestsellers during the period. Landis Taipei’s Tien Hsiang Lo, for example, entices with fine food preparations like braised bamboo pith with shepherd’s purse as well as braised noodles with water eels and Chinese leeks. Tautau makes a convincing sales pitch through a set menu costing only NT$880. Dishes include abalone and scallop.

If the queue is exceptionally long at the booth of the Formosa International Hotels Corporation and Silks Palace, the explanation lies in the incredible offering of a stay complete with breakfast at the five-star Grand Formosa Regent of Taipei for only NT$3,999. The regular price is NT$12,078.

Visit recreational farms and try rural living. An entire pavilion offers tips on wonderful dining possibilities in the countryside and up in the mountains the whole year round. Fresh food ingredients wait to be enjoyed very much in keeping with a healthy lifestyle, according to chefs on duty.

About 50 giant grouper recipes in another section point to how the harvest of this usually exported fish is being returned to the local dining table for the delectation of gourmands in Taiwan. Chefs demonstrate here their creative expertise in cooking it.

As in the past, a cooking championship event gathers experienced teams from Japan, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Fuzhou, the United States and Northern as well as Southern Taiwan to compete against each other this year. The final competition will take place on August 23. At stake is the grand prize of NT$300,000.

Folk entertainment like Taiwanese glove puppet theater on a special stage is a new feature at the food fair. Dough figure items sell as souvenirs for tourists to bring home. Food products sold elsewhere, such as handmade noodles and special sauces to go with them from Kinmen, may be the preferable choices of shoppers, who want to share food discoveries with their loved ones at home.

The Food Street buzzes with activity the whole day. A day at the 2009 Taiwan Culinary Exhibition is not complete without a detour to this corner to actually order some food of personal fancy.

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