The Taipei City Government yesterday released its “Fotiaoqiang Index” as part of a mechanism to monitor food prices in the run-up to the Lunar New Year and promised to enhance food inspections to ensure food safety during the holidays.
The index indicates price fluctuations for 10 basic ingredients of fotiaoqiang (佛跳牆), a dish that is traditionally served during the Lunar New Year holiday or at wedding banquets.
On the basis of 100 points indicating the average price fluctuation of the ingredients last year, the Taipei Fotiaoqiang Index showed a moderate rise to 103.7 percent, a 3 percentage point decrease from the previous year, according to Taipei City’s Department of Economic Development.
However, the list of ingredients — sea cucumbers, pork knuckles, dried bamboo shoots, pork ribs, pork tripe, pigeon eggs, chestnuts, mushrooms, dried, taro and king trumpet mushrooms — differs slightly from the list used for price monitoring last year.
The change of ingredients sparked complaints that the city government was attempting to cover up the price increases of some ingredients.
The average price of three key ingredients used in last year’s Fotiaoqiang Index — chicken wings, fish skins and Chinese red dates — increased by between 10 percent and 20 percent this year.
The city government replaced those ingredients with cheaper ones, such as dried bamboo shoots.
Commerce Office Director Huang Yi-yu (黃以育) said that there would be a 3 percent increase of the index this year if it used the same ingredients as last year, dismissing concerns that the change aimed to cover up price increases.
“All the ingredients we used in the index this year are also key ingredients,” she said.
Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) said yesterday that the city would continue to keep the average price of fruit, vegetables and meat at reasonable levels by purchasing agricultural products directly from Yunlin, Changhua and Pingtung counties.
The city’s Department of Health will also enhance food inspections at supermarkets before the Lunar New Year holidays, he said.
The dish, also known as “Buddha Jumps Over the Wall,” is famous for its rich taste, its use of various high-quality ingredients and the unique way it is prepared.
Its name describes its legendary ability to entice vegetarian monks to jump over their temple walls to eat the meat-based dish.
According to Carrefour’s public relations manager Margery Ho (何默真), prices for different brands of ready-made fotiaoqiang ranged from NT$188 to NT$1,888 per bowl.