Heritage and the Politics of Culture
Rice had long been the main staple food in Taiwan as well as in other regions of East Asia, but the preferred rice varieties in Taiwan, cooking methods of rice, and the types of rice-based products have gone through significant transformations in the 20th century. The preferred rice varieties in Taiwan have changed from Indica rice (long grain) to Japonica rice (short/medium grain); Japanese rice-cookers substituted stoves as the main utensils of rice-cooking, and many traditional Taiwanese rice snacks made of Indica rice became less popular. Since the successful development of new Taiwanese Japonica rice by Japanese scholars in 1926, the new variety was regarded as ‘good’ rice in taste and texture, and has gradually become the mainstream in Taiwan. The changing preferences of rice by Taiwanese could not be simply explained by the colonial rule of Japan. Focusing on the transformations of rice-breeding policies, cooking technology, and sensory evaluation methods in modern Taiwan, this paper aims to explore how the historical process how Japonica rice of Japanese varieties, particularly Koshihikari, was established as a ‘good’ variety, and how “Taiwanese Koshihikari” was developed as a famous variety in Taiwan in recent decades. Through the examination of changing ways of “sensory evaluation” in taste, flavor and texture of rice in official rice competitions as well as the trends of Taiwanese rice market, this paper will further explore the interplay of food choices, technology and cultural identity.