Hoang Thi Hoa, a migrant worker from Vietnam, walked away with the first prize in a Southeast Asian cooking competition yesterday. Her dish? A Taiwanese specialty.
“Every Vietnamese knows how to cook Vietnamese food, but I wanted to cook something special, so I made braised meatballs [紅燒獅子頭],” Hoang told judges.
“I cook very good Taiwanese food — whenever my employer invites guests to his house, I’m the one who prepares the meal,” she said.
Hoang has worked in Taiwan for five years as a domestic caregiver and learned to cook Taiwanese food from her employer.
She was one of the 11 migrant workers from Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia to participate in the competition, which was organized by Taipei City’s Department of Labor.
Saisuk Sutita, from Thailand, came in second with her homemade sour and spicy Thai seafood soup.
For Sutita, Thai food is not just food, but also something to assuage her homesickness.
“I don’t get a lot of opportunities to eat Thai food while working in Taiwan because my employer doesn’t like anything too spicy. But I sure do miss it,” she said. “Especially on cold days like this, sour and spicy seafood soup is good for you.”
Sutita, who also works as a caregiver, has been in Taiwan for eight years.
“I put a lot of effort into it and I hope the judges will like it,” she told the Taipei Times while preparing the soup.
“There are lemongrass, tomatoes, fish, shrimps, squid, mushrooms, and I also have tom yum soup paste and Thai chili paste,” she said, pointing to the ingredients.
“To make it more creamy, you add this coconut cream — and by the way, don’t use lemon because it’s too sour,” she said.
Indonesian Sudjiti Ningsih Nur took third place with Rendang Padang, an Indonesian beef curry dish, while Vietnamese Tran Thi Thanh Thuey came in fourth with traditional Vietnamese egg rolls.
“There are more than 36,000 foreign workers in Taipei City,” Commissioner of Labor Su Yin-kuei (蘇盈貴) said in a brief remark. “By holding this event featuring food — something we all consume every day — we hope to encourage cultural exchanges and narrow the cultural distance between Taiwanese and foreign workers.”