Eco-Kitchen (綠色實驗餐廳), an experimental restaurant run by teachers and students, serving food made with mainly organic ingredients grown from nearby farms, and which stresses eco-friendly and fair-trade values, has been opened on the campus of National Dong Hwa University in Hualien.
The idea of the Eco-Kitchen was developed from a general education course, “campus eco-kitchen,” initiated by Sung Bin-min (宋秉明), a professor at the university’s College of Environmental Studies, in the spring of 2010.
During the course, undergraduate students learned where the food on the table comes from as they helped out at local organic farms to grow crops and vegetables, and learned about the value of community-supported agriculture, low-carbon food transportation, environmental conservation and other issues.
The experimental restaurant opened in late February, serving light meals made with organic ingredients and cooked using simple methods that use less oil and salt, with the ingredients directly purchased from local organic farmers to ensure they are paid reasonable prices so they can sustain organic agriculture.
Walking into the Eco-Kitchen, customers are not handed a menu so that they can choose what they want, but they are served a meal containing fresh guava juice, a bowl of salad with various fresh fruits and vegetables, and a main dish of milled rice, stir-fried cauliflower with carrot, black jelly fungus with cabbage, steamed sweet potato, braised dried tofu and stir-fried pork shreds with green peppers.
The Eco-Kitchen insists on providing meals made from fresh local seasonal fruit and vegetables, depending on what cooperating farmers supply that day, Sung said, adding that most of the food comes from more than a dozen organic farms within 30km of the campus.
“We wanted to start a food revolution,” Sung said.
Customers eat healthier, taste the real flavors of the ingredients and at the same time reduce carbon emissions from long-distance transportation, as well as supporting farmers that are using eco-friendly methods to protect the environment and the natural ecology, Sung said.
Pointing to the kitchen counter and students wearing aprons and carefully preparing meals, Sung said the Eco-Kitchen is also a laboratory and classroom for the students to experiment with new eco-friendly and healthy dishes.
“Farmers came to teach the students how to make rice pudding last week,” Sung said.
The Eco-Kitchen also holds three experimental cooking classes each week.
During the starch scandal — in which a banned industrial starch was found in various food items earlier this year — the Eco-Kitchen quickly passed government inspections because it insists on using natural ingredients without any artificial additives, Sung said.
“Before taking this course, I used to eat whatever I liked, but now I have became more aware of the ingredients and eat healthier,” a graduate student surnamed Fan (方) said.