The Taipei City Government has released an innovative “Fotiaoqiang Index” as part of its monitoring of food prices in the run-up to the Lunar New Year, the most important and largest traditional festival in Taiwan.
The index, touted as the first of its kind in Taiwan, indicates price fluctuations for 10 vital ingredients of fotiaoqiang (佛跳牆), a traditional dish that is translated as “Buddha jumps over the wall,” Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) said on Tuesday.
The ingredients in the index include sea cucumbers, pork knuckles, pork ribs, chicken wings, fish skin, chestnuts, mushrooms, dried Chinese red dates, taro and king trumpet mushrooms.
On the basis of 100 points indicating the average price fluctuation of the ingredients last year, this year’s Taipei Fotiaoqiang Index recorded a moderate rise to 106.03, or a 6 percent increase, from the previous level, Hau said.
Huang Hsin-hui (黃馨慧), who heads a civic group representing businesses in the city’s Binjiang commercial district, cited the results of a market survey that showed that among the 10 ingredients, only chestnuts and red dates saw a fall in price from NT$120 per four-person portion to NT$100.
The price of chicken wings increased by 33.3 percent, the biggest jump of all the ingredients surveyed, Huang said.
The dish, created in the Qing Dynasty (1644 to 1912), is known for its rich taste, its use of various high-quality ingredients and the special manner of its preparation.
Its name describes its legendary ability to entice vegetarian monks into jumping over their temple walls to the outside world to partake of the meat-based dish.
In Taiwan, it is considered a must-have dish at home and in restaurants when families gather to celebrate the Lunar New Year.
As a result of its popularity, increasing numbers of specialist stores, restaurants, supermarkets, hotels and Web sites are selling their own versions of ready-to-eat fotiaoqiang in advance of the festival.
Depending on the ingredients used, prices can range from just a couple of hundred New Taiwan dollars to several thousand NT dollars.
According to media reports, a premium version of fotiaoqiang produced by the Palais de Chine Hotel, containing abalone and shark fin, is priced at NT$8,800 per dish (US$303).
At the other end of the scale is a version sold by Carrefour hypermarkets for only NT$208 per portion.