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Green Living: Start with What You Eat (TAIPEI Quarterly 2024 Spring Vol.35)

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Post date:2024-03-11

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TAIPEI #35 (2024 Spring)

Green Living: Start with What You Eat  


Author Rick Charette, Ellie Chueh
Photographer Yang Ming Spring, EMBERS, Little Tree Food, HoSu, Plants, Jeremy Kuahn

fs-1▲Green-dining meals curated by fine-dining establishments are nothing less than artistic in their presentation, making use of natural, healthy, seasonal ingredients. (Photo・Yang Ming Spring)

Nestled within the lively streets of Taipei, a culinary revolution is unfolding, moving the city towards a more sustainable and eco-conscious way of eating. This transformative approach goes beyond the mere act of serving delicious dishes; it's a mindful choice to extend kindness to the environment through sustainable dining practices.

Green dining, also known as sustainable or eco-friendly dining, refers to the practice of adopting environmentally conscious and socially responsible principles within the food and beverage industry in all areas of food production and service, from sourcing of ingredients at the front end, to such items at the back end as minimizing food waste and use of cleaning products and packaging supplies.  

The MICHELIN Green Star, highlighting a restaurant's culinary excellence with outstanding eco-friendly commitments, also plays an important role in fueling the trend of green restaurants in Taipei. 

The link between fantastic cooking and environmental responsibility becomes clear as Taipei's dining establishments embrace sustainable practices. It's a change where restaurants aim not only to satisfy your taste buds but also to make a positive impact on the planet. 

Every dish served in these environmentally-friendly spots tells a story of sustainability, echoing Taipei's collective effort to embrace a greener and more responsible future, one plate at a time. 

As Taipei's food scene develops, the rise of green dining signals a move towards a more thoughtful and Earth-friendly way of enjoying the city's diverse food offerings. Now, let's explore some of the leading green-dining restaurants in Taipei!

Yang Ming Spring

Yang Ming Spring (陽明春天) was one of the first two restaurants in Taiwan to win a MICHELIN Green Star back in 2021, and has maintained this recognition for three consecutive years. Deeply rooted in the connection between humanity and nature, it unfolds an immersive experience encapsulated by the "art of food, art of tea, art of green, art of culture, and art of creation." Founded by Chen Chien-hung (陳健宏) along with his long-time trusted executive chef, Hsueh Yung-hung (薛永鴻), Yang Ming Spring places a primary emphasis on the art of green dining. 

Chen envisions and cultivates a dining space where the inherent bond between individuals and the environment is celebrated. The restaurant champions four foundational principles: the avoidance of processed foods, the celebration of ingredient characteristics, the use of ingredients as reflections of environmental phenomena, and the promotion of healthy eating.

fs-2▲▼The combination of high-quality cuisine and aesthetic environment makes for a one-of-a-kind dining experience at Yang Ming Spring. (Photo・Yang Ming Spring)
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According to Chen, the key to crafting exceptional dishes lies in using the most natural and fresh ingredients. The restaurant has no menu; its dishes, such as Royal Premium Monkey Head Mushroom (御品綻放山伏茸), all depend on the freshest available ingredients at the time, guaranteeing both the quality and a tantalizing element of surprise. These ideas resonate throughout the culinary philosophy of Yang Ming Spring, creating a unique gastronomic haven. The restaurant employs creative approaches, presenting fusion cuisine that transforms any dish into a vegetarian masterpiece. Regardless of the dish's origin, the fundamental goal remains unwavering — to ensure customers' delight in high-quality vegetarian food.

Chen and Hsueh's commitment mirrors a deep dedication to offering not just delicious but also environmentally conscious and healthy dining experiences. In fostering this unique blend of culinary artistry and sustainable practices, Yang Ming Spring stands as a beacon, inviting patrons to savor not only the flavors but also the ethos of a mindful and eco-friendly culinary journey.

EMBERS

From the ingredients to the decor, EMBERS intricately weaves itself into Taiwan's natural ecology and environment, earning itself a MICHELIN Green Star every year since 2022. The design inside might seem simple, but it shows a deep respect for the island.

fs-4▲▼EMBERS' menu is based on solar terms, with their dishes rotating regularly. The image above shows "Umami, Carrot, Seaweed" and the image below is their signature "Teńas." (Photo・EMBERS)
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Above the bar, there's a decoration shaped like a bird's nest made of Japanese cedar. This is a nod to the hunting lodges of the indigenous people and an epitome of the natural beauty of Taiwan. EMBERS steps away from the usual modes of Western cooking, getting much of their ingredients from the mountains, forests, and local tribes. Things like betel nuts, marinated fish, millet, and jujubes, all local ingredients, are stars on EMBERS' menu.

fs-6▲EMBERS' decor is made primarily from rice and sandstone, filled with serenity and warmth for customers to immerse themselves in. (Photo・EMBERS)

Owner-chef Wes Kuo (郭庭瑋) changes their nine-course menu regularly, making sure to use the freshest produce of each season. Dishes such as "Rice crust, Bamboo shoot," "Bottle gourd, Loofah, Clam," and "Beans, cocoa," all come highly recommended. EMBERS isn't just a place to eat; it's like a storyteller wholeheartedly sharing Taiwan's food culture. Whether you're from another country or a local, EMBERS takes you on a tasty journey, connecting you with memories and experiences. With its focus on using local ingredients and keeping up with the seasons, EMBERS shows the wonderful tale of Taiwanese food in a way that's easy for everyone to enjoy.

fs-7▲Made from a 25-meter-tall piece of Japanese cedar, EMBERS' decoration showcases the ecological beauty of Taiwan. (Photo・EMBERS)

Little Tree Food 

Little Tree Food (小小樹食) is the only restaurant in Taiwan to have been awarded a MICHELIN Green Star and a Bib Gourmand at the same time, and it has proudly held this distinction since 2022. It staunchly upholds the use of over 90% Taiwanese ingredients in its raw materials. Simultaneously, there's a strong emphasis on the ingredient's freshness, and the restaurant adamantly avoids excessive stockpiling for sales to prevent food wastage. Some signature dishes include "Roasted Mixed Veggie Salad" made with seasonal veggies, "Truffle Mushroom Risotto" that fully utilizes Taiwan's vast selections of indigenous mushrooms, and a variety of amazing seasonal desserts that are the perfect end to any meal.

fs-10▲▼Little Tree Food promotes flexible vegetarianism with their light meal dishes such as Mexican Grilled Corn and Korean Fried Chicken. (Photo・Little Tree Food)
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In terms of cuisine, Little Tree Food employs a fusion of Eastern and Western light cooking techniques to nterpret vegetarianism. As head chef Tim Hsu(徐兆麟) has experience in crafting Sichuan cuisine, his menu features eclectic highlights like spicy dumplings with tofu filling. This innovative approach aligns with their promotion of "twice a week" vegetarianism, wherein founder Jeffrey Liu (劉千瑞) believes that sustainability practices can be integrated into one's daily routines. The flexible idea is both accessible and effective. It allows more people to try out the new eating habit without much inconvenience, ultimately encouraging full-scale green dining.

fs-9▲The decor of Little Tree Food is full of greenery, like bringing a forest into the restaurant. (Photo・Little Tree Food)

HoSu

HoSu (好嶼) is a newcomer to the MICHELIN Green Star, earning its first recognition in 2023. The menu here revolves around four themes: mountain, sea, river, and pasture. It adapts to seasonal changes, extensively utilizing environmentally friendly ingredients, and employs a chargrilling method. Owner-chef Ian Lee (李易晏) pledges his love to his homeland by complementing this culinary experience with in-depth explanations, allowing diners to grasp the establishment's ecological spirit. 

fs-13▲Crafted with locally sourced ingredients, the cuisine of HoSu exudes the flavor of Taiwan. (Photo・HoSu)

The interior design dynamically transforms with the seasons, aiming to narrate the story of this island —Taiwan, through its culinary offerings. Bread made with Taiwan's own sweet potatoes, a hot appetizer made with steamed fish fresh from the stream, and different main courses like Goose from Yunlin, Amaebi from Daxi, and Oysters from Matsu, all bring the freshest natural ingredients from around Taiwan straight to the dining table. 

fs-14▲The interior design of HoSu adapts to the seasonal menu changes, creating a unique atmosphere. (Photo・HoSu)

HoSu's commitment to eco-friendliness extends beyond the plate, creating an immersive dining experience that harmonizes with the natural rhythm of the environment. Through its emphasis on seasonality, sustainable sourcing, and culinary craftsmanship, HoSu is a testament to how gastronomy can intertwine with environmental stewardship, offering sophisticated meals flavored with the landscape's rich narrative.

Plants

The dietary philosophy at Plants revolves around a plant-based, gluten-free, and whole-food approach. The use of locally sourced organic ingredients is considered a fundamental requirement. The restaurant places a strong emphasis on buying local produce and supporting small-scale farmers, actively promoting ongoing education in green dining. This commitment is evident not only in the meticulous preparation of dishes but also in a comprehensive dedication to sustainable dining practices. As such, unprocessed foods are prioritized. 

fs-16▲Flamingo Bowl is an all raw, plant-based, gluten-free, and refined sugar-free dish. (Photo・Plants)

The menu presents energy bowls, wraps/salads, rice, noodles, and pea/bean mains, along with delectable raw desserts. Among the bestsellers is the colorful Papaya Party Bowl, featuring silky papaya and banana puree topped with seasonal fruits, signature rawnola, maple chia pudding, and chocolate sauce. 

fs-15▲Missing having good falafel in Vancouver, co-founder Lily created her own version, which has since become a staple at Plants. (Photo・Plants)

The whimsically named Beet Tartare sharing treats are presented on raw toast, which is bread made with pulp remains from the house mylk-making process. Meanwhile, the hearty Lentil Falafel entrée comes with mung-bean hummus, sunflower seed tahini, and other house-crafted goodies.

Taipei's Green Dining Revolution

Taipei has launched itself with full enthusiasm and resources toward becoming one of the world's leading smart and sustainable cities, and works hand in hand with myriad organizations to create green living momentum in the private sector. In this green dining revolution, restaurants are showcasing how we can savor fantastic food while also taking responsibility for the planet. 

fs-18▲Raw Papaya Wrap at Plants is prepared under 45°C to retain the most nutrients and enzymes. (Photo・Plants) 

As consumers, each and every consumption decision we make has an impact, leading us incrementally and immediately either toward or further away from achievement of a sustainable future. The innovative eateries introduced here are just a few of the fast-growing forest of places in Taipei where you can be sure you are eating right. 

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