COLONIAL UTOPIA – Hybridised Cuisine

Our blog posts aim to Investigate the different ways Taipei works in harmony with its Japanese colonial past in the recent decade. Food is a huge part of one’s culture – it is the bedrock of the people’s daily lives. As mentioned in previous blog posts, Taiwan has experienced its fair share of colonizers and we’ve already discussed how Japan has influenced Taipei’s national identity – its streetscape, transportation system, as well as urban planning. In this particular blog post, we attempt to understand Japan’s influence on Taiwan’s cuisine.

Taiwan’s Japanese colonial history has been the longest and the most impactful. As a result, multiple Taiwanese-specialty foods with hybridized Japanese elements birthed. Said cuisine still exists nowadays and undoubtedly will continue to be a part of the Taiwanese’s lives.

Way back when Taiwan was still occupied by Japan, Japan initiated certain reforms to its new colony. One of which was cultivating and manufacturing rice and sugar crops. The entire idea of using sugar in food preparation and eating Japanese short grain rice originated from Japanese cuisine. (Roy, 2003) Moreover, as a colonizer, the Japanese and its cuisine of course was considered upper class in Taiwan. Therefore, the idea of Japanese cuisine as ‘fine dining’ emerged, and most restaurants were eager to put up Japanese signs and incorporate Japanese ingredients into their dishes as an attempt to become more elite. (Wu, 2015) From there on, more and more traditional Taiwanese dishes were eventually added in with Japanese ingredients, such as seaweed, raw fish, tempura and miso (Taiwan Today, 2011), emerging as a new kind of cuisine – Taiwan’s own hybridized cuisine.

Fast forward to Taipei nowadays, Japanese cuisine is still considered as fine dining, and such Japanese signage can still be found easily on the streets of Taipei, in upscale and wealthy districts. (Pfau, 2017)

An upscale Japanese fine dining restaurant source: https://www.facebook.com/dozo.izakayabar/photos/a.1359362850790190.1073741830.173895052670315/1371607519565723/?type=3&theater

One of these hybridized Japanese-Taiwanese specialty foods is the oyster omelette. Oyster omelettes have existed for long time, and throughout the decades, more and more Japanese elements have been added to this traditional dish. The photo below showcases an oyster omelette with shishamo roe, raw squid, mullet roe and sashimi. (Taiwan Today, 2011) This dish is known as “Eight Immortals’ Treasure” and is common throughout night markets in Taipei.

“Eight Immortals’ Treasure” Oyster Omelette Dish source: http://taiwantoday.tw/news.php?unit=18%2C23%2C45%2C18&post=24443

The Japanese have been influencing Taiwan since colonization, but it’s very fascinating to see that till this day, there are still various traces of its cultural residue. What’s even more alluring about the Japanese-Taiwanese relationship, are all these unique hybridized offspring that came out of their history.

 

Reference

Pfau, Cassidy. “Cultural Identity and Cuisine in Taiwan.” Cultural Identity and Cuisine in Taiwan, 2017. doi:10.15760/honors.450.

Roy, D. Taiwan: a Political History, 2003. New York: Cornell University Press.

“Taiwanese cuisine reflects nation’s historical odyssey.” Taiwan Today. 2011. http://taiwantoday.tw/news.php?unit=18%2C23%2C45%2C18&post=24443.

Wu, D. Re-Orienting Cuisine, East Asian Foodways in the Twenty-First Century, 2015. Oxford: Berghahn Books.

2 Comments on “COLONIAL UTOPIA – Hybridised Cuisine

  1. Having been to Taiwan, I strongly agree that there is an undeniable influence from the Japnese in the realm of transportation system and streetscape. I am, however, uncertain about the idea of hybridised food in Taiwan originating from the colonial period. Taiwanese has a strong historical and cultural background from the Chinese. With the political power, one can reshape the urban fabric, yet, to reshape one’s cultural identity is much harder. Education is, of course, the key factor to reshape one’s identity. In the case of Taiwan, Japnese did not succeed in the cultural reform of the island, which we can see that the language, festival and many other cultural aspects remained as it was before the colonisation. I believe that the hybridised recipes of food from two or more culture are often a result of the globalisation instead.

  2. No doubt Japanese has been a huge influence to Taiwan, which is greatly reflected in its architecture, streetscape and even their culture. Yet, the saying of Taiwan traditional cuisine, or night market’s cuisine is a offspring of traditional Taiwan and Japanese food seems to be a bit too forceful. It is interesting, and it is true that lot’s of colonies have the essence of their respective in control country’s culture. For instance, french quarter in Hanoi, or English speaking being one of the criteria to achieve elite status in Hong Kong. However, such does not imply a complete transformation, or implication that all newly developed culture and built elements are a result of hybridization between the local’s culture and their respective colonizer’s culture.

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