2015年3月18日 星期三

Taiwanese cuisine

The success of the world-renowned food tourism in Taiwan has been attributed to the import of dishes from Japan and China in the past, and more recently, from SE Asia. While it is true that outside contribution has enriched the food culture, a recent postulation, that Taiwan never had developed its own and that the colonization of Taiwan was therefore in part via cooking, truly deserved a closer look. It is an interesting angle, for it argues for deliberate suppression of Taiwanese identity, when in fact, it may border on over-reading of the past.

First, we can examine menus from 2 popular Chinese restaurants in Taihoku/Taipei, compiled by the Taiwan Customs Research Society in around 1901-07:

瑞成春菜牌-- 什錦魚羹鍋、什錦火鍋、紅燒腳魚、馬蹄雞、野雞餅、炒魚片、炒魚崧、紅燒蓮子、八寶飯、掛爐雞、毛菰雞、塔鴨餅、清湯鴨、加里蝦、大五柳駒、什錦野雞鍋、川湯鱔魚、塔雞餅、八寶鴨、鱔魚絲、冰糖蓮子、如意蝦、炸花雀、清湯雞、紅燒爐魚、洋毛菰、炒蝦仁、小五柳駒、清湯腳魚、野雞丁、洋豆山雞丁、紅燒莿魚、加里魚、紅燒莿參、八寶菜、炒野雞、炒鴨崧、掛爐鴨、川湯蝦、洋鮑魚、塔蝦餅、馬蹄羹、川湯肉、牛肉絲、小炒雞蔥、洋黃梨、塔雞丸、過燒雞、金錢雞、炒下水、杏仁豆腐、荔枝肉、牛肉餅、洋水桃、洋荔枝、栗子雞、栗子鴨、大炒雞蔥、金錢肉、燒豚肉、炒肉片、牛肉扒、洋水梨、炒雞片、雞蛋包、鹹盤鴨。[Note: beef was imported from Japan probably for Japanese customers. Not many Taiwanese ate beef, not until the 1950s.]

聚英樓御料理-- 生燒雞、煮雞扒、煮雞餅、炒雞片、冬筍圭、雞生鍋、桔利雞、清湯雞、高麗雞、八寶雞、燒全雞、蔥炒雞、咖梨雞、栗子雞、毛菰雞、炸雞丸、咖梨鴨、炒鴨片、燻燒魚、咖梨魚、炸蝦丸、八寶菜、紅燒鱉、紅鱔魚、煮蟳餅、七星蟳、雞羹鍋、煮鴨餅、會鴨羹、高麗魚、魚羹鍋、煮蝦餅、洋鮑魚、清湯鱉、炒鱔魚、什錦火鍋、清湯魚翅、洋荳雞、蔥燒鴨、冬菜鴨、炒魚片、魚生、桔利蝦、洋毛菰、紅燒鰻、樣蟳盅、八寶丸、雞絨魚翅、紅燒魚翅、鳳吞魚翅、丘屋雞、錫篤雞、葡萄雞、菊花雞、炒雞崧、布袋鴨、冬瓜鴨、步油白鴿、淮山白鴿、山雞片、紅炖冬孤、銀侯翅參、炸梨丸、葡萄餅、螃蟹魚翅、草菰雞、大腿鴛雞、凍煮雞、拉金雞、水品雞、炒鴨片、陳皮鴨、蓮蓬鴨、炒白鴿崧、山雞甫、火腿筍、樣冬孤、燒翅參、五福蓬萊藕、雪花丸、龍舌魚翅、大腿蔭陽雞、三味雞、玉常雞尖、路箏雞、鳳眼雞、爛蒸鴨、淮山鴨、過燒白鴿、炒白鴿片、山雞丁、金銀筍、冬爪合、蓮蓬盤菜、盤龍羹、伊甫麵。

From which, we know that except 魚生 might resemble 刺身sashimi, no Japanese dishes were included in these extensive menus. Japanese cuisine, kaiseki or otherwise, was largely confined to Japanese restaurants, even now. It can be argued that the menu dishes shown above were pan-Chinese in origin. Indeed most are still recognizable, some even indistinguishable from those from China. The only difference is that delicacies such as pheasants, shark's fin, pigeons, horse meat, and some fishes are now disappearing or gone. But this is a minor point. Because they were not part of the Taiwanese cuisine anyway. Taiwan's own was rooted in Hokkien of the 1700s [which can still be found in Malaysia and Singapore now], modified necessarily to fully utilize local agricultural products. Whether this is still regarded as Chinese is akin to arguing pizza served in the North End in Boston is Napoli. 
The famed 江山樓 in DaDaoChen in Taipei featuring
“Taiwan (actually Foochow) cuisine",opened in 1917
Did the Japanese invent Taiwanese cuisine for Taiwan? The Goto Shinpei Administration (1898-1906) had adopted a "leave the natives be" policy as far as the societal and cultural aspects. The 1903 Osaka National Industrial Exhibition featuring produces from Taiwan was intended as a showcase of fruits of the 1895 victory, and sample dishes prepared by Taiwanese chefs onsite were in name only, still Chinese. In fact, the theme of the display was Taiwan as part of China that had prospered under the colonial rule - despite the still prevalent foot-binding and opium abuse. With the all-out efforts, the Taiwan exhibition had nevertheless failed miserably, unable to generate much interest from mainland Japanese or change the latter's view of Taiwan as a land of barbarism and diseases. So much for the invented "Taiwanese" cuisine indeed. [Note: This mainland snub had infuriated the Japanese ruling bureaucrats, the young descendants of samurais from the Northeast, who would later become closely identified with Taiwan.] Essentially, the restaurant scene in Taiwan had continued on unmolested, in establishments such as 江山樓 and 蓬萊閣 both in Taipei. These were usually frequented by Taiwanese gentry, the upper class.

The true Taiwanese culinary identity is hiding in plain sight, on display as the often derided as being "土earthy" food preparations. 土 is in the sense of being inferior and provincial, a word uttered mostly by the Chinese elite. Most non-Taiwanese would not have sampled (or cared to even try) the uniquely Taiwanese dishes such as pig lungs simmered with pineapple chunks, shark's fin stewed with marble pork and bamboo shoots (this is not the starchy soup served in restaurants today), or whole Ming shrimps served with mayonnaise, etc.

Known for being simple and light (as opposed to heavily flavored), the main course often includes boiled chicken and pig liver, no special skills needed, except that the food is to be enjoyed with especially prepared sauces, which in effect define the individual dishes. These dishes and sauces are not readily available as they are more commonly served in outdoor banquets, i.e., in the hosted 辦桌 (table management) parties overseen by famous chefs known as 總鋪師. Invitations to these special occasions were not usually extended to non-Taiwanese in the old days, Japanese and Chinese alike. Missing-out bred ignorance, followed by contempt abetted by conqueror's superiority complex. The menus, however, have always been around, and some items occasionally show up in boutique eating places today.

Were there deliberate attempts at obscuring Taiwanese culinary culture? Possible, but unlikely. Restaurant business is part of free enterprise and people vote with their taste buds. In fact, the 辦桌 beat always goes on despite multiple regime changes. Neglect from ignorance, more benign than malicious, is probably a more accurate description. Then again, Taiwan cuisine having been denigrated to be 土 and banished matter-of-factly into the peasant food category, it would have no hope of joining the ranks of the far more recognized 8 schools of Chinese cooking, so it has remained in the shadows but not forgotten. Although, to casual outside observers, it would seem to have never existed, ever. A systematically organized, well-written book on Taiwanese cuisine will certainly set the record straight.

Source 1: 台灣慣習記事 part 5: 中國菜餚之名稱價格 - series published starting on Jan 1, 1901
Source 2: Sae-Bong Ha: Taiwan and its self-images: The case of Osaka Exhibition in 1903, 台灣史研究 Vol 14, pp 1-39, 2007

2 則留言:

  1. I've had pig lungs boiled in plain broth before, but no pineapple chunks that I can remember. This was at a food stall that sold rice noddle soup 米粉湯 in a Keelung open food market. That rice noddle soup stall was so popular that it's us kids' drop-off place when mother took us to shop for daily food. And truly never got invited to an outdoor Taiwanese banquet 辦桌. Though I've seen on TV that there are such outdoor banquets in Taiwan and in China. I've only seen banquets indoors in a restaurant. And my father called his own hometown dialect in Zhejiang as 鄉下土話, not something he's too proud of.

  2. Indeed some Taiwanese dishes, often abbreviated versions, are served in these stalls. And I am pretty sure at that time when your were in Keelung, 米粉 was still made from rice, not corn starch.
    Indoor banquets are mostly held in restaurants where dishes are prepared in Chinese/Hokkien style. Outdoor ones are done in traditional Taiwanese; it is now known appropriately as 辦桌文化.
    I also know others using 土 to describe their mother tongue. Of course we all know 普通話/國語 is a dialect,i;e;, 北京話. To the Cantonese, that is 土 also.