Whether you are a fastidious gourmet, a shameless glutton, or somewhere in between those extremes, if you enjoy food, your taste buds are sure to rejoice at the Taiwan Culinary Exhibition (TCE).
A celebration of Taiwan’s multifaceted food scene, from fine dining to the simplest of street snacks, the 2023 edition of the TCE will comprise four areas: Gourmet Tastes, Culinary Exploration, Government Pavilion, and Exotic Foods. The exhibition will run from August 4 to 7 at Hall 1, Taipei World Trade Center. The venue is a stone’s throw from the Taipei 101–World Trade Center Station on the Red Line of the capital’s rapid transit system.
The exhibition’s official website is www.tcetva.tw (Chinese only). At the time of writing, ticket prices for the 2023 event had not yet been confirmed, but they are unlikely to differ much from last year’s NT$200 per person.
Taiwanese food in the 21st century is a glorious reflection of the way in which the country’s multiple ethnic groups have come together, learned from each other, and created a modern and dynamic society. At the same time, the distinctive foodways of the island’s Hakka, indigenous, and Southeast Asian minorities are cherished and celebrated like never before, giving international visitors a mouthwatering array of eating options.
Sponsored by Taiwan’s Tourism Bureau and coordinated by the Taiwan Visitors Association, TCE 2023 is a key part of an ongoing branding campaign to showcase the diversity of Taiwanese cuisine and boost its international profile. With input from several central and local government units, the TCE’s organizers have selected a wide range of participants, among them prize-winning chefs who can present dishes that encapsulate the sheer joyfulness of Taiwanese food.
Last year’s TCE included more than 60 cooking demonstrations, nearly 90 expert lectures, and close to 100 sessions at which members of the public could try to make well-known dishes. For Taiwan residents, the opportunity to snag discount coupons is a significant attraction.
Further proof that Taiwanese food enjoys a growing international profile has come from Michelin, publisher of the world’s best-known restaurant guides. The first edition of Michelin’s Taipei guide appeared in 2018. Taichung was added in 2020. Two years after that, coverage was extended to the southern cities of Tainan and Kaohsiung.
It is not necessary to refer to a physical copy of the gourmet’s red bible when planning a personal food tour based on Michelin’s recommendations, because there is so much information in both English and Chinese on the company’s website (https://guide.michelin.com).
In addition to a brief profile of every featured eatery (which includes useful details such as whether credit cards are accepted, and whether the eating area is air-conditioned), the website has mini-guides such as “Recommended Eats Along the Kaohsiung Metro Line,” “The Best Vegetarian-friendly Restaurants in Taipei and Taichung,” “On the Michelin Bicycle Trail in Taipei & Taichung.” and “The Best Sushi Restaurants in Taipei.”
When Taiwan joined the World Trade Organization in 2002 and opened up its markets, several types of farming became uneconomic. In response, the authorities began helping individual farmers and local farmers’ associations branch out into agritourism.
Instead of merely growing crops for sale, dozens of farms up and down the island now welcome visitors eager to learn where their food comes from. Those willing to roll up their sleeves and participate in the production process can pick fruit and turn it into jam, or make tofu from scratch.
Some agribusinesses have introduced crops or animals that few Taiwanese have previously seen. Qingjing Farm has long been famous for its flocks of sheep and sheep-shearing demonstrations. In addition to growing pepper vines, Shishan Pepper Farm in Kaohsiung’s rural interior serves deliciously aromatic dishes featuring meat from its own chickens and vegetables grown on-site. A-Shin Choco Farm in Pingtung County welcomes tourists to see its hundreds of cocoa trees and take part in chocolate-related DIY activities.
One especially popular destination is Ceroh in Hualien County. An outpost of the Amis indigenous people, Ceroh enjoys exceptional community solidarity thanks to labor-sharing traditions known in the tribe’s Austronesian language as mipaliw. Ceroh is known for three crops: rice, arrowroot (which they call alida), and bamboo shoots (kingtol in Amis). Local farmers have joined scholars and students in an effort to bring back heirloom foods.
Arrowroot rhizomes grown by Ceroh’s farmers are powdered and used as a cornstarch substitute, or to make drinks or a jelly-type dessert. Tourists interested in food-related DIY experiences can sign up for an activity, for an outdoor feast, or to join tribespeople as they fish with nets in the nearby Xiuguluan River.
In another part of Hualien County, the Amis residents of Tafalong invite outsiders to their Red Glutinous Rice Field Picnic Table. Because this type of rice has never been grown in large quantities, it is usually reserved for special occasions and honored guests, and served alongside foraged wild vegetables, smoked chicken, and pickled pork, or in the form of mochi.
The Tourism Bureau has recently created a number of “tourism unions” around Taiwan, to leverage the strengths and distinctive appeal of each region by enhancing cooperation between local governments, experts, and entrepreneurs. Ceroh and Tafalong – alongside bike paths and scenic spots – are among the attractions promoted by the Hualien Tourism Union.
East Rift Valley National Scenic Area will be holding the East Rift Valley Festival on August 26 and 27 at the Luoshan Visitor Center in Fuli Township, Hualien County. The festival themes include indigenous cuisine, aesthetics, music, and traditional crafts, introducing visitors to diverse aspects of the East Rift Valley. Each area of the festival offers unique experiences, showcasing the diverse aspects of life and culture in the region.
For all kinds of travel information about Taiwan, visit the Tourism Bureau’s website (www.taiwan.net.tw), or call the 24-hour tourist information hotline 0800-011-765 (toll-free within Taiwan).