Just how attractive are the local delicacies in Tainan? As soon as the Office of English as the Second Official Language of Tainan City Government (OEASOL) released information about the Secret Diner event, Lisa Dawson, a Thai-American celebrity on Instagram, snatched the first spot to visit Tainan and be a secret diner at her own expense. On June 11th, staff in OEASOL took Dawson and three other secret diners to the popular Du Xiao Yue Dan Zai Noodles, which is also one of the government-certified English-friendly restaurants. The owner of the restaurant welcomed his foreign guests with not only authentic local dishes but also bilingual menus in attempt to promote Tainan’s signature snacks to the international audience with the influence of foreign celebrities.
Tainan City Government Deputy Secretary-general and OEASOL Director Lee Hsien-wei expressed that by hosting the Secret Diner event, the city government hopes to achieve two goals: to demonstrate to foreigners the government’s effort in ameliorating the English-learning environment and to emphasize the need to speak English among local restaurants. Deputy Director of OEASOL, Tien Ling-Hu, added that the office was delighted to have Dawson at Tainan for a 9-day food adventure. Dawson currently has 45,000 followers on Instagram and -- if that is not impressive enough -- is actually a famous cook in Thailand, having been invited to various hotels and restaurants to be a guest chef and placed second overall in a local cooking reality show. Seeing that Dawson’s fans are mostly gourmets, OEASOL hopes that the popularity of local food reaches Thailand through Dawson’s reviews. Interestingly, this event echoes the “new southward policy” that government has been actively pushing in recent years.
The Secret Diner event is open to all foreigners, to whom the city government hopes to give a positive impression with regard to the English-speaking environment among the local community. All participants have to provide their feedbacks on the bilingual menus to OEASOL and upload photos of their enjoying local delicacies on social media. The ultimate objective of this event is to spread the word about the English-Friendly Emblems Program and in turn advertising local shops, restaurants, and souvenir shops on a greater scale. OEASOL also encourages local businesses to participate in the Tainan City English-Friendly Emblems Program and learn English.
Dawson indicated in an interview that Tainan’s reputation of exquisite cuisine is evident, as she has heard a lot about it from her friends who visited Taiwan. The introduction of bilingual menus makes the process of ordering easier for foreigners, who are finally able to explore local snacks with less confusion. Dawson also said that she could not wait to be inspired by delicacies in Tainan and looks forward to integrating the local flavor with her own recipe.
Owner of Du Xiao Yue Dan Zai Noodles stated that the Secret Diner event reminds him of the Michelin Guide, which makes it all the more exciting and interesting; Dawson’s visit also surprised him. Other participating shops also expressed that the Secret Diner event prompts restaurants to make good use of their bilingual menus and their employees practice speaking English, which all contribute to building a better image of Tainan.
According to OEASOL, a total of 100 foreigners will be recruited as secret diners, who would plan their own food adventures according to the map of English-friendly shops on the official OEASOL website, visit 8 local shops, evaluate the usage of English in local restaurants, and upload their photos on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Participants who successfully accomplish all of them will be awarded with 2000 NT. If you or your friends are interested, please visit here for more information.