Taiwan Eat: Food Trail in Houpu Town, Kinmen (金门后浦小镇)
Travel Date: January 2013
Kinmen Islands (or Jinmen, 金门), under the administration of Taiwan, is very close to Fujian Province of China than to Taiwan main island. Kinmen's cultures are largely influenced by Minnan (闽南) cultures, especially the food.
After arriving on Kinmen by ferry from Xiamen (厦门), I took a travel brochure from a shelf in Shuitou Pier and noted some recommended snacks and food to look for in Houpu Town (后浦小镇). That little guide served as a reference for my food trail on Kinmen Island.
"Houpu Town" is the old name of Jincheng Township (金城镇), located to the southwest of Kinmen Island. It is the most populous town on Kinmen and the nearest to the ferry terminal. It was also where I stayed for the few days when I was on the small island.
Don't worry about the prints in Traditional Chinese, I will go through the list in English. Despite having only 6 items on the list, it took me 4 meals over 3 days to complete it. Two of them were snacks, so I tried them for "afternoon tea". I also added three other local food to my list here.
1. Minnan-style Pastry (闽式烧饼)
There are several shops in Jincheng Town, especially along the old street, that make their own versions of the Minnan-style pastries, so visitors can try and choose whichever that suits their tastes.
There are two types of pastries typically. The long-oval-shaped ones are usually sweet with maltose (malt sugar) fillings — suitable for vegetarians as no animal oils are used. The round ones are usually salty and contain minced pork, spring onions and radish.
These pastries are convenient to pack along for day trips when exploring the Kinmen islands. Many Chinese travellers and Taiwanese locals will buy several boxes as to bring home.
2. Kinmen Fried Dumplings (金门锅贴)
Fried dumplings are very common in Eastern Asia, especially in China, Taiwan and Japan. The dumplings are usually stuffed with minced pork and spring onions or chives, other greens. Before serving, the dumplings are fried with oil on a shallow pan on one side only to make them slightly crispy without being too oily. The fried skin also adds extra flavour to the dumplings.
3. Guangdong Congee (广东粥)
Guangdong congee, as the name implies, originates from Guangdong and is consumed by locals in Guangdong and Fujian provinces in China as breakfast. Having similar cultures, Kinmen locals have these congee for breakfast too. It is usually sold as breakfast only but some shops will sell it till lunch time.
A bowl of congee is usually added with minced pork, meat balls, egg and topped with chopped spring onions but other variants are also available. Sprinkle some powdered pepper on it and it will taste wonderful. The usual way is to eat the congee with some fried dough stick (油条).
A unique characteristic in Kinmen is that the rice are usually cooked until they are ultra-fine, like eating "powered-rice soup".
4. Oyster Vermicelli (蚵仔面线)
Oyster vermicelli is a very popular dish in Taiwan. On Kinmen Island, the abundance of fresh oysters make the dish much sough-after. Apart from locally-harvested oysters and locally-produced vermicelli, the dish is also added with pig intestines and pig blood cubes. It is a big bowl of goodness and yet cheaper than on Taiwan main island.
5. Fried Instant Noodle (炒泡面)
To most people, instant noodle will never be an item on a list of specialty food to try when travelling, but in Kinmen, it is. The island used to have a strong military presence to safeguard it from possible China invasion, and instant noodle was one of the Taiwanese soldiers' main staples. To ex-soldiers, who had stationed on Kinmen before, visiting the island again and eating fried instant noodle is nostalgic.
Well, it is still instant noodle with a little sentimental value. Any of the eating houses can prepare the instant noodle as fried or soup-based with some ingredients. I ordered off a menu without knowing it was soup-based. Anyway, it was good to try.
6. Fried Oyster Puff (炸蚵爹)
One of the popular snacks in Kinmen is the fried oyster puff which is made with flour, for its skin, and stuffed with oysters, chives and other ingredients. Add some sauce and it becomes a hot savoury snack.
The popular stall, called "蚵嗲之家", which sold fried oyster puffs can be found near to Qiu Liang-Gong's Mother Chastity Arch (邱良功母節孝坊) in Jincheng Town.
7. Sorghum-Fermented Egg (酒酿蛋)
There should only be one place on Kinmen Island that sells the "sorghum-fermented" eggs and that place — called "葉氏酒釀蛋" (叶氏酒酿蛋) — is near to Wentai Tower (文台宝塔), not very far from Jincheng Town.
Unlike Chinese tea eggs (茶叶蛋), which use tea leaves to boil the eggs, "sorghum-fermented" eggs are mainly boiled with fermented sorghum grains (高粱米酿) with other ingredients like fermented wheat, barley, maize, etc. The fermented grains will induce a special fragrance on the eggs.
* Sorghum is a kind of flowering plant belonging to a type of grass family. It is widely planted on Kinmen Island and in China, especially in Fujian Province, to make alcoholic beverages.
8. Beef Noodle (牛肉面)
Taiwanese beef noodle is another hot favourite in Taiwan and is also available on Kinmen. For travellers who are visiting Kinmen but not the main island of Taiwan, this is definitely a must-try. The bowl of hot noodle soup is added with slices of tender beef shanks and pickled vegetables. Beef noodle is one of my must-eats whenever I was in Taiwan.
9. Soya Beancurd
There were several shops selling the common Chinese dessert known as soya beancurd on Kinmen Island. And I tried one at Ah Gong's Beancurd (阿公ㄟ豆花) along Mofan Street (金門模範街). A bowl of beancurd can be added with any ingredients and is really cheap.
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