Chef in Taiwan shares his secrets on meatless specials
Li Jun Xian is a vegetarianism enthusiast, but not a vegetarian himself. The head chef of Fu Shan, an acclaimed vegetarian restaurant in Taipei, Taiwan, says he tries all sorts of foods in order to make the best possible vegetarian cuisine. He recently visited The Westin Chosun in Sogong-dong, central Seoul, where he hosted a vegetarian gala dinner.
Why did you become a vegetarian chef?
A. I actually learned Western, Japanese and Chinese recipes. There is a high population of vegetarians in Taiwan. Two to three out of 10 people are vegetarian. But while there are many vegetarian restaurants in Taiwan, upscale vegetarian restaurants are rather rare. I wanted to try high-end vegetarian cooking that is appropriate to serve to important guests, so for the past six years I have taken on vegetarian cooking as my specialty.
What do you focus on the most when cooking?
For a good meal to be completed, everything has to be set, from the food’s color, smell and taste to the table setting. If there is a story in the meal, it’s better. It’s also important to keep a balance in nutrition. Vegetarian meals can lack in protein and iron. So I try to enhance those elements through beans, tofu, coral reef and red vegetables like beets. Also, vegetarian meals can be dull and limited, so I try to diversify tastes as much as possible. I also focus on emulating the taste of meat.
Do you think vegetarian meals should try to imitate meat diets?
Those who have opted to become vegetarians for religious reasons tend to not miss meat. But those who had to become vegetarians for health reasons cannot easily forget the taste of meat. I think it’s a meaningful approach to try to emulate the taste of meat and at least give some sort of satisfaction. Also, 15 percent of vegetarians in Taiwan have become vegetarians because of religious beliefs. And they have never tasted meat in their entire lives. So I think it’s also necessary to recreate the taste of meat and let them know “meat tastes something like this.”
By Lee Ji-young [firstname.lastname@example.org]