Article originally published on Xinmedia 3.14.2023 by Ryan Lin 林廷璋
(The following is an English transcript of the original in the Chinese language)

The high-ceiling eaves help construct a feeling of openness and calm plus the ingeniously placed vintage furniture further creates an air of secrecy. The Experience itself changes with the theme of each season, as if having its own consciousness and life. The branding is also refreshed every once in a while.

The semi-outdoor patio on the rooftop is a mini-forest of trees, giant plants, pots of flowers and fragrant herbs, very much like a hidden peach blossom garden in the noisy Shilin Night Market. Every new season, colorful purples, orange and reds cover the entire swath of vibrant greenery. The whispers of nature and seasons can be heard here throughout the day. Birds, frogs and bees all buzz around as they too find a nice respite from their journeys in this hidden oasis. 

Selected as one of the MICHELIN Guide 2022 Restaurants of Taipei in Dec 2022, the Experience welcomes guests to savor their delicious cuisine and experience their stories.

Monsoon is made up of just 2 guys, namely Ted, a chef whose memories from childhood to adulthood are related to cuisine and taste, escaping from the standard kitchen space and cooking techniques. And the other is Phil, a global creative director with more than 20 years of experience in the advertising/marketing industry in the United States and Singapore. In Dec 2022 they were recommended by the MICHELIN Guide 2022 Taipei, but the Hakka fusion multi-sensorial private dining Experience “Monsoon” (ocated on the 3rd floor of an old building in Shilin) have been quietly doing what they do best for a while now.

Chef Ted and creative Phil have planned and held more than 100 lectures in different cities and towns across the country since 2014. Guided by “taste”, through dinner parties, workshops or exhibitions, they bring their Hakka heritage to everything they do, through creative cooking techniques, presenting elegant yet unforgettable tastes in their“Monsoon” way. Just like their brand concept, they hope to take guests on a journey filled with imagination, of feeling free and unaffected by the wind of the season in an unrestrained manner, blowing to every corner of Taiwan and outlying islands.

Ted believes that “people should not be constrained by style, and cooking should not be limited by space alone.” In addition to the cooking counter, their open concept kitchen still retains the former brick kiln. In order to let every customer enjoy the best dining experience, Monsoon adopts a reservation only system. From the moment you step into the space, it’s like a fully-produced stage play. What you see with your eyes, eat with your mouth, and smell with your nose, re-stimulates all the senses, from your taste buds to your body within, including your soul. It’s as if you’re being thoroughly cleansed and purified by exquisite soulful dishes. Regarding being selected as a MICHELIN Guide recommended restaurant in 2022, Ted said, “I am very happy that what I do can be seen and understood, it also allows me to regain my strength. I’m more stable on this road, and I have a new direction for our Neo-Hakkanese cuisine. A clearer, more definitive answer.”

Using “Hakkas of the World” as a concept to discover the Hakkanese flavors that have traveled across the globe

“I’ve collaborated with the “Alishan National Scenic Area Management Office” for three consecutive years, and held two Alishan King Cooking Competitions at the mountain’s vibrant community. I believe I have somehow grasped the psychological state of Taiwanese people, and used competitions to promote the vitality of the region, so we may attract more visitors. The response has been overwhelming and many have participated. They get to live in a local farmhouse during the event too – you have to get to know the local area first, then select the ingredients, and only then can you create a dish with a distinct local flavor.”

“There is no other place in the world like Alishan. It’s so special. It’s only 70 km, up the mountain from the city of Chiayi, and there are four climate zones.” The tourists especially the ones who’ve traveled from overseas, are all amazed at Alishan. The beauty of the sea of clouds and the sacred trees in the mountains all leave a deep and lasting impression. 

The biggest reward is the establishment of a relationship between people and the community – a fundamental change that has a huge impact on everyone. It’s challenging for the people from the cities to travel up the mountain to effect changes and develop the community. Alishan has unique natural resources, but it has never been well organized, planned and appreciated enough.

The reason why I’ve used the concept “Hakkas of the World” is because I want people to have a lasting memory of the “taste” of Hakkas and highlight (even returning to) the Hakka way of life. Oft times it’s a lifestyle that’s considered frugal by others, but it’s actually about “cherishing things old and new, loving them“”. Ultimately, Monsoon represents this spirit of the Hakkas in a bold new way. A small shop that has a deep social responsibility but manageable in size, expressing this spirit more willfully and clearly.

Hakka TV's new travel show : A Meal and a Meet (ENG working title)

A brand new travel and food show on the Hakka TV channel “A Meal and a Meet” features Ted as the host and chef, getting to know and discovering the different Hakkas who’ve settled in various parts of Asia.

Ted, who’s also known as a “Food Artist”, grew up in a Hakka village in Miaoli, and always had a great interest in food and cooking from then. His knowledge and experience were honed from having the opportunity to travel around the globe for the past 20 years, exploring and discovering new ideas and tastes. “Cooks shouldn’t just remain in the kitchen, they need to communicate with people, interact and learn.” He believes that it’s through these human interactions that we can then create foods that are more delicious, more memorable. 

“Our collaboration with Hakka TV started from the planning and filming in 2019 and continued smoothly through post-production and broadcast in 2023.” Ted said, ‘In these four years, we went from uncertainty and fear of working with strangers to trusting one another completely and giving ourselves entirely to the process. This wasn’t easy for a novice host like me.” In these 8 episodes, Ted packaged the spirit of Hakka culture into each dish and used food to let migrants express themselves with words and stories they would never discuss. Every journey sees the beauty of people and cuisine.

“The changes brought about by the epidemic in recent years have not only affected our lifestyle and mobility but also our identities and roles. Some have become parents, teachers, or wives.” Ted said, “Through Monsoon, I turned travel into one dish after another during these 2 years that have been somewhat lost in memory. But I’m grateful for the time, which has hopefully made us better people, and grateful to myself and others for never giving up on our efforts.”

As for future plans, Ted shared ‘We plan to publish an interesting and fun Hakka recipe book and extend Monsoon’s “food experience” to “living,” allowing everyone to experience our Hakka life for longer periods.”

Photos : Phil Han, Monsoon and XinMedia