In Europe, it is said that the French live to eat while the British merely eat to live. But on a global level, many people in Taiwan show a passion to eat well that exceeds even the legendary culinary enthusiasm of the French. When greeting each other, Taiwanese people often ask, “Have you eaten yet?” rather than “How are you?”
Step into a popular restaurant in a Taiwanese city and you will find people not only thoroughly enjoying their food, but also taking notes and photos so they can share their experience with other foodies via blogs. Renowned roadside vendors are often surrounded by throngs of people queuing, ordering, and waiting for portions of the fare for which the hawker is famous. Some of these customers are blue-collar folk getting around on bicycles, while others are professionals who arrived in expensive sedans. In Taiwan, great food crosses all social boundaries.
Taiwanese cooking is characterized by a preference for rice over noodles. Yams and taros are additional sources of carbohydrates. Soups – which may contain more meat than vegetables – are served with almost every meal. Pork and chicken appear more frequently than beef or mutton; duck and goose are also popular. As you would expect on an island, fish and seafood are very common. Even though Taiwan's mild climate ensures that vegetables are available year-round, pickles are also popular. Greens are usually fried (often with garlic or ginger), rather than boiled or steamed.
The majority of Taiwanese trace their ancestry to Fujian, the mainland Chinese province closest to the island, yet Fujianese cuisine is not the only cooking style to have strongly influenced the way Taiwanese people cook and eat. Japanese food is also commonplace, a consequence of the 50 years Japan ruled Taiwan. Seaweed is widely used, and Japanese standards like miso soup appear alongside thoroughly local dishes. In addition, refugees from every Chinese province followed Chiang Kai-shek's Chinese Nationalist government when it relocated to the island; to earn a living, many of these migrants began cooking and selling hometown-style delicacies. A good number of these eateries are still in business, and more than a few have reached the top rank of the restaurant trade.
Each year, gourmets look forward to the Taiwan Culinary Exhibition (TCE). Since 1990, the TCE has been celebrating and promoting the cuisines of Taiwan, the Chinese mainland, and ethnic Chinese communities overseas...
This is part of an advertorial text, sponsored by Taiwan's Tourism Bureau, that appears in Taiwan Business Topics' Travel & Culture special issue. Go here for the whole text.
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