The Tang Prize Foundation announced its nine-course banquet menu at a press conference this afternoon (August 23) at The Grand Hotel, which will be the formal venue for the banquet on September 25, immediately following the award ceremony. During the conference, press were given a chance to see the full menu and the meaning behind each of the nine courses. The overall theme of the banquet is “to reach high and look up to the moon;” thus, the dishes are all named after the lines from several everlasting poems written by renowned Tang Dynasty poets such as Li Bai and Wang Zhihuan as a tribute to the philosophy of the Tang Prize. Besides their poetic inspiration, all the dishes are made with local, in-season ingredients, such as smoked duck from Yilan, squid sausages from Keelung, and aiyu jelly (also known as ice jelly) from Mount Ali to showcase the significance of environmental sustainability which the Tang Prize strongly upholds. The Foundation also invited the internationally famous Taiko drum performance troupe U-Theatre to perform so that all the honorable guests, including the 2016 Tang Prize Laureates, from all over the world can enjoy an evening with powerful music, graceful poetry, and elevated cuisine.
To prepare such a creative banquet, the Foundation recruited Hong-Che Kuo, an experienced chef specializing in Taiwanese cuisine and the current chairman of the Chinese Gourmet Association, to supervise the event. Kuo stated that while designing the menu, he chose many classic dishes often seen at wedding banquets or temple festivals to represent the traditional culture of Taiwan. Kuo also used traditional ingredients like fried Chinese shallot to season the dishes. Yet, the presentation of the dishes remained very modern, as it took advantage of the true colors of the ingredients to create a new style of traditional dining that fit such an important occasion.
Tang Prize Foundation CEO Jenn-Chuan Chern related that it would be the first time for some of the 2016 Tang Prize Laureates to visit Taiwan. It would be both efficient and pleasant for them to know Taiwan by sampling all the great selections from Taiwan’s well-developed food culture. The Award Ceremony introduces the accomplishments of the laureates to Taiwan and the world; on the other side of the coin, the reception, banquet, and concert bring the art, the ceremony, and the style of Taiwan closer to the laureates and the world.
“Surrounded by hills and rivers, The Grand Hotel has a breathtaking view, and that’s why we arranged the laureates of the 2014 and the 2016 Tang Prizes to stay here,” Chern added. By providing accommodation at The Grand Hotel, one of the architectural landmarks of Taipei, the Foundation hopes that all the laureates can have a memorable time in Taiwan.
During the press conference, President of The Grand Hotel Johnson Chiang also noted that the entire staff considered the Tang Prize Banquet not only an important occasion but also a national event. Thus, The Grand Hotel prepared the best-quality local ingredients in Taiwan to treat all the honorable guests with simple yet delicious Taiwanese cuisine. With years of experience in banquet planning and a long cultural heritage, The Grand Hotel, for the second time, will have Chef Bo-Hua Ye, an experienced hand at banquet preparation, in charge of the kitchen to cook all the savory dishes.
The theme of the 2016 Tang Prize Banquet “to reach high and look up to the moon,” is inspired by a line in “Quiet Night Thoughts” by Li Bai that reads “raising my head, I gaze at the bright moon” and another line in “On the Stork Tower” by Wang Zhi-Huan that reads “to see farther, [one has to] go up another floor.” These two lines perfectly depict the spirit of the Laureates and their dedication to go on a never-ending quest into the unknown for the sake of knowledge. What’s more, when having a closer look at the names of the dishes, one can find out that there are even two acrostics on the menu – the first characters in the names of the first five dishes spell out the line “raising my head, I gaze at the bright moon” and the last five spell out “to see farther, [one has to] go up another floor.” By employing such ingenuity, the Foundation hopes that the Banquet can be, besides an evening of great food, an opportunity for international guests to get to know and experience the long history of Chinese cuisine culture.
In addition to the creative cuisine, the Banquet will also be highlighted by the performance of the internationally famous U-Theatre. U-Theatre is best known for its fascinating blend of traditional Chinese martial arts, drumming, Tai chi-inspired body movements, and ritual dance. It often includes different elements of music, drama, literature, and religious rituals. The principles of harmonious coexistence behind its performances coincidentally match those of the Tang Prize philosophy. With such sensational delights to the palate as well as to the eyes and ears, the guests will surely have a wonderful evening at the banquet.
Tang Prize Week 2016 will kick off on this September 22. The main event, the Award Ceremony, will raise its curtain on the 25th at Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall. Other exciting events in Tang Prize Week include a welcoming reception, banquet, concert, as well as a number of speeches given by the 2016 Tang Prize Laureates and other pioneering professionals.
From the left: Tang Prize Foundation CEO Chern, Chinese Gourmet Association Chairman Kuo, The Grand Hotel Chef Ye, and The Grand Hotel President Chiang.