Tradition is key for China and Taiwan

Although diners in China are fascinated by fusion food, traditional recipes dating back to the Qing dynasty have kept the Family Li Imperial Cuisine restaurant chain alive.

The family business is run by fourth-generation co-owner Ivan Li, 51, who opened the first Family Li Imperial Cuisine in Beijing in 1985. He runs the business with his Hong Kong-born wife and three older sisters.

"I've been training my whole life and the recipes are engraved in my mind," says the Beijing-born chef. "It's about the feeling and taste."

Chefs who work for his establishments are trained for at least three years to ensure consistency in the food.

Now, the family has restaurants in Shanghai, Tokyo and Melbourne. Two more are opening this year - in Taipei and Paris. The Shanghai branch, a new entry on the Asia's 50 Best Restaurants list, debuted at No. 46. Chef Li also received the Diners Club Lifetime Achievement Award at Monday's awards ceremony.

On current dining trends in China, he says: "With Western influence, there is a lot of fusion cuisine. Restaurants want to cater to all tastes and have food from all the provinces. So they have large menus for large crowds of 100 tables. It's becoming a stock market."

In Taiwan, the Western influence on cuisine has helped to raise the standard of restaurants in a foodie destination known for its street food.

Taiwanese chef Lanshu Chen, 33, says: "Taiwanese restaurants are working towards more refined presentation and sourcing higher- quality produce. Customers know more about authentic fine-dining concepts and care more about how the things they eat change them."

She received the Veuve Clicquot Best Female Chef Award. Her five-year-old French restaurant, Le Mout, in Taichung, debuted at No. 24 on the Asia's 50 Best Restaurants list.

Chef Chen, who trained in the Ferrandi School of Culinary Arts and Le Cordon Bleu, both in Paris, says: "Being a female chef in Taiwan is no different from anywhere else. There may not be many female chefs in Taiwan, but I don't think I have to prove more because of my gender. Every chef needs to prove himself or herself by doing his or her best."

Weighing in on why Taiwan was not represented on last year's list, Chen, who has worked with the likes of Pierre Herme and Thomas Keller, says: "The essence and charm of Taiwanese cuisine lies in small family dishes and street food, which are harder to find in restaurants. It is quite normal if it takes more time to be recognised."

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