TAIWANfest bridges cultures through culinary experiences — Stir

Let’s Savor Taiwan: Bentogram

This interactive installation at Granville 700 explores ideas of bento through the works of several artists. “There are different stories behind every bento,” says Charlie Wu, ACSEA director, noting that the comfort meal is also a basket for the fusion of different cultural backgrounds. “The concept of this installation is getting people to talk to each other: ‘What do you put in your bento?’ Bentogram features ideas of bento that are environmentally friendly and culturally interesting.”

Consider participating artist Allie Huang, head chef of Taiwan’s The Alley No. 11, who relocated to Tainan from Miaoli. Her grandmother, who helps her at the tiny restaurant, planted roots in Taiwan after leaving Shandong. By sharing stories that detail the inspiration behind each dish, the origins of each ingredient, and the hard work of farmers, Huang believes that the kind of dining experience she offers can make the world a better place.

Huang sources her ingredients strictly from farmers who adhere to eco-friendly practices. Mushrooms from the hills of Nantou and a variety of carrot related to fennel are stir-fried to retain their purest flavor then garnished with edamame—the “green gold” of Kaohsiung. Everything is then wrapped in lotus leaves. The dishes that Huang will be talking about at TAIWANfest reflect an appreciation for family and nature.

Other artists featured in Bentogram will share stories about everything from the Hehe Terrace Fields in Gongliao (producers of culinary bamboo farmed with the assistance of oxen) to sambal, Malaysia’s signature sauce. Then there’s narrow-barred Spanish mackerel, an iconic fish of Penghu.

Also known as Pescadores, Penghu is an archipelago and county consisting of more than 60 small islands that lie approximately 50 kilometers west of the coast of Taiwan, separated from the mainland by the P’eng-hu Channel.

The narrow-barred Spanish mackerel makes for a classic dish in local cuisine, ideally served with beer, the fish sun-dried then wok-fried at high heat with garlic and chili. Penghu Fish Says is a business that aims to educate people through food about how fish make their way from the ocean to the dinner table. Fishing techniques, the stories of fishermen, and the culture of Penghu are also taught. They hope that people will develop a closer bond with the ocean by appreciating the fish they eat and contribute to the sustainability by choosing seafood procured through ocean-friendly methods.

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