A trip to Le Moût – Lanshu Chen’s acclaimed restaurant – could make you forget where you are for a moment. Based in Taichung, a bustling city on the west coast of Taiwan, it is an homage to everything Parisian. Antique French furniture, chandeliers, decorative mirrors and touches of gold throughout mean it’s certainly a change from the traditional interiors of Asia.
However, it’s this contrast between classical French cookery and the flavours of Taiwan that has made Lanshu one of the most exciting chefs around. She learnt her craft in Paris, gaining a diploma in pastry from Le Cordon Bleu and working at some of the city’s best restaurants, before an internship at Thomas Keller’s legendary French Laundry in California inspired her to open her own restaurant back home. This year, Lanshu was invited to cook her unique food at Nigel Haworth’s Obsession festival. ‘I had heard of Obsession long ago but this is the first time I’ve visited Northcote and this part of England,’ she tells us. ‘I feel very moved by both the landscape and history around me.’
Lanshu has mastered French cooking techniques, but still views food in a Taiwanese way. ‘I would use the Chinese word jong to describe my cooking style, which means a fusing or meeting in harmony of flavours and textures,’ explains Lanshu. ‘I’m always seeking the perfect balance in my dishes. In Chinese culinary culture, there is a sixth flavour in addition to sweet, salty, bitter, acidic and spicy, which is more of a warming sensation – a slight heat at the back of your palate – and I love including this in my cooking. Texture is also very important to me, as it can change the way we feel about certain ingredients and how long a taste lingers in one’s mouth. By playing around with the textures and different flavours, I can create top, middle and base notes in a dish. Bringing all these together in perfect harmony is what I try to achieve.’