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Taiwan chefs go back to island's roots

Foraged and indigenous cuisine moves up the menu

Local chefs are helping raise awareness -- and the popularity -- of indigenous Taiwanese cuisine. (Nikkei montage/Source photos by Embers Restaurant, Bulaubulau, John Krich)

TAIPEI -- At first glance, Wamaki looks like any other sushi bar in Taipei: a single wooden counter with several booths draped in cloth screens, decorated with splashes of calligraphy. But there is a catch. The usual cuts of fish, raw or seared briefly on glowing charcoal, are accompanied here by tiny garnishes such as maqaw -- also known as litsea and lemon pepper -- aromatic prickly ash, sumac seed, and a ground algae known as "God's tears" because it appears only after rain.

These ingredients -- and there are many more -- are foraged from mountain forests by the Ami, the largest of Taiwan's 16 indigenous Austronesian tribes.

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