The four-day Taiwan Culinary Exhibition opened in Taipei yesterday, with the theme this year centering on tracing the nation’s culinary roots in three places — Tainan, Changhua County’s Lugang Township (鹿港) and Taipei City’s Wanhua District (萬華).
The exhibition will feature fine banquet dishes that merchants in the past — when Wanhua was a prosperous trading area — used to give their guests. It will also showcase sweets and snacks from the old town of Lugang and Tainan, such as the famous pastry phoenix eye cakes (鳳眼糕), which is made of sticky rice powder and sugar, and pengtang (椪糖), which is made from cooking sugar mixed with baking power and is a common sweet treat for children.
Aside from traditional cuisine, a special feature of the exhibition this year is a “feast for the gods (宴王宴)” — a table containing 12 luxurious banquet dishes, including expensive ingredients such as abalone, swallow’s nest and sea cucumber. Such a table forms part of the traditional religious customs in the three old towns and is laid out for worshipping the gods and praying for blessings.
Kuo Hong-che (郭宏徹), a convener of the exhibition, said the ingredients used in the feast for the gods are processed after the worship rituals and made into dishes to treat guests, according to traditional eating customs.
At the opening ceremony yesterday, Premier Sean Chen (陳冲) said that Taiwanese food — from snacks to banquet dishes — is a successful blending of the essence of food from different areas and culture and could be a form of soft power to introduce Taiwan to the world.