Indigenous food at the night market of Hualien

Hualien is one of those charming interstitial cities, a place we visited not for its own sake, but as a means to reach Taiwan’s famous Taroko National Park.

hualienmotercylces

Hualien, a mid-sized city in Eastern Taiwan, doesn’t have any jaw dropping tourist attractions, but this ended up being the city that solidified my growing envy of the Taiwanese way of life.

hualiendog2

hualiendog3   hualiendog1

Hualien does not mess around with boring dog advertisements.

hualiendrumlesson

Hualien has a handsome cultural center where we caught a drumming show by Ten Drum.  While I appreciated the skill of the drummers and that they performed original compositions, their stagecraft leaned more towards a 1980’s metal band aesthetic than I can tolerate.  After the hair-thrashing and fog-machine laden show was over we took a drumming lesson from the performers that was lots of fun.  HOB, who went to music school (shhhhhh he hates when I tell people that), did much better at the lesson than me.

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The most endearing thing about Hualien is how it respects and promotes its indigenous people and their culture.

planter

Even the planters on the city streets have carvings of native dancers.

hualienmenu

Our guide from Taroko National Park encouraged us to try the food from local tribes and wrote us a handy list which we brought to the Hualien Night Market.

This was our first night market experience in Taiwan.

OH MY GODS AND GODESSES NIGHT MARKETS!

Is not enough that Taiwan has a superb public transportation system, abundant clean public toilets and delightful religious culture?  Oh no, they had to slay me with jealousy of their night markets.

A Taiwanese night market is my social dream: a place of endless delicious affordable snacking opportunities and a scene that is not focused on drinking.  I don’t care if people drink alcohol, just that the focus on getting drunk that is the heart of so many American social events is tedious to me.

Hualien’s night market has an old timey fun-fair vibe, plus a child-friendly lantern display and a stage where local indigenous bands play for the snacking and strolling crowd.

hualienfoodchooser

We had no idea what we were doing, of course.  We clutched our handwritten list of indigenous foods and tried to figure out which of the dozens of food vendors might carry them.  I found a likely booth and pointed to the phrase for “Bird’s Nest fern” and got an affirmative nod from the lady in front.  HOB and I just stood there waiting for her to bring it to us.  Oops—we were meant to go behind the booth, where tables were spread about under a tent, crammed with happy, chewing Taiwanese.  With the lady’s help, we checked off our selection on a menu.

hualienfern

Our order of Bird’s Nest Fern was perfectly prepared and one of the best dishes I’ve eaten in my life.  I suppose the closest flavor I’ve had is tender asparagus, but this was unique and I can see why the fern is beloved by the tribal communities of Hualien.

hualienbamboorice

We wandered about until we found another booth selling bamboo rice.  This turned out to be rice grilled inside a bamboo stick.  It was sticky and yummy.

hualienboar

The friendly people who sold us the bamboo rice brought us a free dish of food—just because we were tourists I guess—isn’t that the sweetest thing?  I think the dish was wild boar and though I’m not sure what the accompanying vegetable was I sure did enjoy its mild nutty flavor.

 

How we got to Hualien: train from Taitung.

Where we slept: The Fantasy Apartment.  Price: €45 for a double. Recommended: yes

 

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13 comments

  1. Oh my gosh. This sounds amazing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, when I got back from the trip I had my yearly wellness exam and my doctor saw my blood test results and said “Um, your blood sugar is abnormally high—have you been eating a lot of starch?” and I’m hanging my head saying “You know, I went a little crazy eating in Taiwan….”

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Like the look of the ‘Birds Nest Fern” and love the idea a friendly night market……it wouldn’t work here either, shame really, I think a lot would be ok, but there is always that element that have to spoil things.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The people of Taiwan seem to have mastered the art of having fun without being hooligans. We stayed in a hostel in Taipei and had an early morning conversation with some young men who were coming home at the same time we were getting up. They weren’t drunk or rowdy: they just stayed up all night going to night markets and karaoke and everything else that’s proper for 20 year olds.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I wonder if it is how they are bought up, respectful maybe.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. You should have smelled the place!

      Like

  3. Yummy and fun! So the night market must be a place that the locals frequent and keep going? Way cool!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are night markets in all the big towns—Taipei has several—they much bigger than I would have imagined and jammed with people. In my next life…..

      Like

  4. I take it that the night market wasn’t a bore, wild or otherwise.

    Bamboo rice is fantastic. That vegetable in the last photo wouldn’t be soya, would it?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha Ha!

      Where did you have bamboo rice? We’ll I’ve had plenty of edamame, if that’s what you mean and the vegetable wasn’t that but it did have a similar texture.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There’s a version of bamboo rice called puttu in Kerala. The version I had in China was different. I like both.

        Liked by 1 person

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