About 40 international chefs will be in Auckland this week for a "master chef" culinary competition.

The challenge for the chefs - to create the best Taiwanese fusion dishes using New Zealand ingredients.

Taiwan is a nation that loves its food and where xiao chi, or small eats, are a big part of life.

The International Master Chef Challenge will be taking place in New Zealand first time with competitors who are professional chefs from Taiwan, Australia and Hong Kong.


Organiser Joanna Cheng, president of the Chung Hua Women's Association, said it was a major coup to have secured the competition.

However, distance and cost of travel to New Zealand had resulted with cancellations from a judge and several competitors from South Korea and Canada.

The head of the event's co-organiser, Taiwan Junior Chef Association, also owns a television channel where the event is expected to be televised.

"The competing chefs must think outside of the box, and come up with inventive offerings using local ingredients," Cheng said.

"New Zealand has a reputation for safe, quality and fresh ingredients, and this is one of the rare opportunities that we get to promote it there."

Cheng believed "anything to do with food" will be a hit for the Taiwanese.

The competition had previously been held in Canada, Japan and Korea and will be held here as part of the annual Auckland Taiwan Food Festival.

The one-day affair will be on Saturday, August 19, at the Fresh Factory kitchen at Eden Terrace.

Janet Lee, the association's immediate past president, said the Taiwanese food philosophy is "eat often and eat well".

The island's cuisine is a blend of Hokkien, Teochew, Minnan and Haka dishes, along with Japanese cooking techniques.

Signature dishes include Taiwanese beef noodles, braised pork rice, stinky tofu and gua bao meat bun.

"For us Taiwanese, eating is serious business," Lee said.

"So I think understanding the Taiwanese food culture is important for anyone wanting to do business with Taiwan."

Dr Chung-Hsing Chou, director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Auckland, believes having the event here will benefit both Taiwan and New Zealand.

"It will not only enhance the economic, but also cultural aspects of our relationship," Chou said.

"In Taiwan, we blend the best traditional Chinese food from the different provinces, with Japanese and Southeast Asian . . . and after this, hopefully with New Zealand ingredients."

Chou said the Taiwanese food scene has become increasingly sophisticated, and the competing chefs will bring skills and inventive offerings to bars and cafes here.

Two celebrity chefs from Taiwan, Rod Sun and Ken Hung, will be demonstrating the art of cooking Taiwanese delicacies such as Buddha Jumps Over the Wall, crispy red vinasse pork belly and fermented rice dumpling soup.

The competing chefs will also be introduced to cooking local and western dishes like garlic crispy lamb chops, scallion salmon salad and smoked mussel balls, using New Zealand produce.

The festival will run from Wednesday at various locations, culminating with an invitation- only "Gourmet Taiwan" dinner on Saturday evening.