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June 24, 2017

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Chinese New Year spirit for all

Just before the Lunar New Year, or Chinese New Year (CNY) as many Taiwanese call it, National Immigration Agency (NIA) Director-General Hsieh Li-kung got together with new migrants to share family stories, pray for bountiful seasons to come and cook an "international" reunion meal.

Berrin Köse from Turkey and her daughter Yağmur Köse prepared fragrant "Turkish stuffing rice," which is stir-fried with raisins, chopped onion, parsley, black pepper, red pepper and peppermint before being simmered to al dente.

Christophe Chevance from France, who is spending his second CNY in Taiwan, made French-style crêpes. He sprinkled sugar and drizzled lemon juice over one variety and lathered blueberry jam over another. Last year his in-laws cooked a feast for him and this year he wants to do the same for them!

Also, actor Helen Thanh Dao from Vietnam demonstrated Vietnamese chicken salad; tossing together Taiwanese cabbage, onion, green onion, red pepper, blanched chicken breast, red hot pepper, peanuts and fried red onion before drizzling sweet garlic fish sauce over the mix.

"The dish goes well with pork stew, the main dish in our reunion dinner, because it refreshes after a heavy dish," she explained. Thanh Dao's late father is Taiwanese while her late mother is Vietnamese. Having achieved recognition in Vietnamese television and films, she decided to restart her career in Taiwan after her mother passed away in 2010. She has already made appearances in TV series and in a new film directed by Hou Hsiao-hsien.

Raul Erazo from El Salvador will spend his first CNY in Taiwan, having recently arrived after majoring in Chinese at an U.S. college. Erazo is now a scholarship student at National Chengchi University.

"New Year in El Salvador is similar to [that in] the U.S. We have turkey and cakes. I helped arrange the shrimp today — they taste really good!" said Erazo after presenting a jade and gold shrimp platter. "I will not be able to spend Chinese New Year with my family but I will celebrate it with my friends here," he added.

Li Yan from mainland China introduced the "wishing yuanbao", dumplings lathered in egg batter and fried to resemble the golden ingots used as currency in Imperial China.

Chen Chu-ly from Vietnam showed everyone how to place mung bean fillings within a piece of sticky rice dough and then wrap the whole thing in a banana leaf into a "Precious Rice Dumpling." According to Chen, the dumpling is prepared for New Year's as well as other festivals to symbolize family loyalty. After steaming, the banana leaf wrapping yellows from green into a golden hue.

Moreover, Zheng Jian-xun, a mountain guide who uncannily resembles Legislative Yuan President Wang Jin-pyng, presented "prosperous lion's head (minced pork balls)." Meanwhile, U.S. musician Devon Lafferty presented the "four-treasure cold platter."

Last but not least, Director-General Hsieh chopped herbs and poured the finishing touch of sweet-and-sour sauce over the pan-fried "abundance fish." After thanking everyone, Hsieh remarked that the Taiwanese tradition for CNY is to gather round the dinner table as a family. Today's event, he said, affirms the place of new migrants in our family. Hsieh wishes for Taiwanese society to be one that respects diversity and appreciates differences, just as demonstrated in today's feast.

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