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Interview with Ivy

Ivy is from Taiwan and has been teaching at The Center since 1997. She also has her own business, Ivy’s Kitchen and has written articles for different newspapers and magazines around the world. She grew up in Tainan but has lived in Taipei since 1976 because she studied here and found the diverse culture in Taipei fascinating. Her book Made in Taiwan, written with Clarissa Wei, has just been published and is now for sale in Taiwan. It is an ode to Taiwanese cuisine with not only 100 recipes, but also fascinating stories.

Congratulations Ivy! I know this book has been a long time in the making. 

When did the idea for a book first appear?

My students have been asking for a book for years, so I had the idea in my mind for a long time. Then I met Clarissa nine years ago when she took a cooking class with me and we struck up a relationship. Clarissa is a food journalist and from time to time we would discuss recipes and dishes. Then when she moved back to Taiwan in 2020 we obtained a contract with a publisher and were able to compile the book.

How did you put the book together?

We spent a year travelling around the country. Clarissa met with many different people, from grandmothers who have cooked for many years to famous chefs to learn about their stories and the history behind some of Taiwan’s favorite dishes. We narrowed down our selection to 100 recipes, which we then tested and tasted repeatedly,taking photos of the finished dishes.

 

What is the aim of the book?

Many people consider that Taiwanese food comes under the umbrella of Chinese cuisine and we want to show that this is not the case. Taiwan’s cuisine has developed over the last 400 years with influences from different countries including the Netherlands, China and Japan. This, along with the fact that Taiwan is an island which grows many herbs and vegetables not easily found in other countries, means that Taiwanese cuisine has its own unique flavors. 

What do you think makes the book special?

Unlike other cookbooks which are categorized by chapters for meat, vegetables, cakes, etc., we display the Taiwanese food in an annual cycle. It starts with Breakfast from rice noodle soup to bread followed by Indispensable Side Dishes served in both small eateries and banquet restaurants. There is a section for Tainan which is considered the gourmet capital of Taiwan and is where Clarissa’s parents and I are originally from. Lunch options range from a simple and quick pork chop to a high end restaurant dumpling soup. Family Style is comfort food that includes all kinds of influences from indigenous to Hakka, to show Taiwan’s diversity, whilst Beer Food reminds us that nothing can beat a glass of beer with tasty food in a hustling and bustling restaurant after a long day’s work. There are also sections on Night Markets which provide the snacks that people crave from time to time, Special Occasions that reflect the festival ritual and celebration of our 400-hundred-year history, Sweets & Drinks, Pickles, with their special brining method and Basic Sauces

 
 

I also like that we met with many different people with intriguing life stories that we have managed to include. For example, Hsu Chiang-Mien, otherwise known as the Pickle Queen who inspired our recipe for pickled mustard greens; and Aeles, who has an indigenous restaurant. Clarissa stayed with her for a month as a volunteer and learned a lot about the indigenous tribes and their knowledge of nature and how it can sustain them.

 
 

Where can you buy this book?

Made in Taiwan is available at Eslite and on Amazon. You can also order it through The Center which is holding a special book launch on December 7th where you can get your copy signed by the authors.

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