Two of Taiwan's top chefs have been sent by its government to help improve Taiwanese cuisine and restaurants here, Gordon Ramsay style.
Until Friday, Taiwanese master chefs Chia-Cheng Lee, an associate professor of culinary arts, and Po-Chang Huang, deputy food and beverage director at Jin Shan High, will visit and rate Auckland Taiwanese restaurants, and act as troubleshooters to help improve the businesses.
Taiwan Business Association president Jerry Shih said despite Taiwanese cuisine being considered among the best in the world, including in a CNN poll last year, it is not the most popular food choice in New Zealand.
"Maybe it's because there are not many Taiwanese restaurants here, or maybe because our community is too small to popularise our cuisine," Shih said.
"The two chefs, who have great experience in Taiwanese cuisine, will be giving tips and sharing ideas with establishments on how they can improve their techniques, food and promotion."
The chefs have been sent to New Zealand as part of the Taiwan Overseas Communities Affairs Council programme.
Tomorrow, the Auckland Taiwan Food Festival kicks off with Lee and Huang doing a Taiwanese gourmet cooking demonstration at cookery institute NZMA, and a Taiwan Gourmet workshop at the Parnell Community Centre on Friday.
The festival will conclude with a "Gourmet Taiwan" dinner on Friday night, where the chefs putting their culinary skills to the test in an attempt to produce the best of Taiwanese dishes using New Zealand ingredients for about 100 invited VIP guests.
Janet Lee, president of the Chung Hwa Women's Association, said food forms the "centre of life" for most Taiwanese people.
"Taiwanese food is mainly about xiaochi or small eats, we love our food and we eat all the time," Lee said.
"Back in Taiwan, you can find restaurants and food stalls open 24 hours serving lots of interesting cuisine, many of which have still not been introduced to New Zealand."
The island's cuisine is a mix of Hokkien, Teochew and Min Nan Chinese communities and influenced by Japanese cooking.
Signature dishes include Taiwanese beef noodle soup, stinky tofu, braised pork belly and lu rou fan or braised pork on rice.
However, food that will be introduced by the chefs during the festival include crab with sticky rice, five taste seafood and a creme brulee dessert using oolong tea.
Besides visiting restaurants, Chef Lee said his role was also "like a matchmaker".
"I am here to marry New Zealand ingredients with Taiwanese cooking, which I believe can produce some amazing dishes," Lee said.
At Bubble Tea Cafe in Albany yesterday, Lee said he was impressed by the quality of the dishes served there.
"You can tell that the food here is being cooked with a lot of passion, and it is close to what you get at some of the better restaurants back in Taiwan," Lee said.
"Taiwanese restaurants here do stick to traditional taste and are generally quite good, but there is still much room to experiment, update and improve."
A new food map, featuring popular Taiwanese restaurants in Auckland, will also be launched at the festival.
Auckland Taiwan Food Festival 2016
(With master chefs Chia-Cheng Lee and Po-Chang Huang)
- Taiwanese cooking demonstration, Sep 1, 10am at NZMA cookery school, 56 Carbine Rd.
- Taiwan Gourmet workshop, Sep 2, 10am at Parnell Community Centre,
- Gourmet Taiwan dinner, Sep 2, 6.30pm at Parnell Jubilee Hall (by invitation)