Updated: Aug 17, 2020
Kinmen Islands, or Kinmen County of Taiwan, consist of several islands but only the larger Kinmen Island and Little Kinmen Island (小金门烈屿乡) are populated. The two islands produce some high-quality agricultural produces that are used to make local specialty products that are worthy for travellers. It will be a pity to travel to Kinmen without knowing the "gems" of the islands.
The well-known "Three Treasures of Kinmen" (金门三宝) are:
bombshell cleavers (炮弹菜刀)
Kaoliang or sorghum wine (高粱酒)
peanut crisp (贡糖)
But, there are more specialty products from Kinmen than just the above three. We added two more to the list but stopped short of including all agricultural produces that can be found on the islands.
1. Bombshell Cleavers (炮弹菜刀)
This is the only specialty product of Kinmen — in this post — that is not edible. And it is interesting to note that bombshell cleavers are part of Kinmen's history.
During the Taiwan Strait Crisis from 1958 to 1979, the People's Liberation Army of People's Republic of China (China) fired over hundreds of thousands of artillery shells on the Nationalist forces of the Republic of China (Taiwan) in Kinmen. The abundance in metallic parts lying around the islands over the 20 years of conflict resulted in the bombshells being salvaged by Kinmen's blacksmiths and made into cleavers.
The high-grade bombshell steel cleavers are of unique origin, has historical values and also more durable than normal stainless steel cleavers — and they make practical souvenirs too.
2. Kaoliang (or Sorghum) Wine (高粱酒)
From summer to late autumn, fields of sorghum plants can be seen near villages on the Kinmen islands. Kinmen County alone harvested some 20 million kilograms of sorghum per year.
The sorghum grains are fermented and made into the well-known sorghum wine or, more commonly known as, "Kaoliang" wine. The award-winning wine has a really nice fragrance. However, the popular and widely available range of Kaoliang wine have alcohol content of 58° and 38° (or percent), which are too high for drinking without dilution.
The 58° liquor is usually used in cooking. It will add a unique fragrance to the dishes — like the Kaoliang-flavour beef jerky (see item 5.) and Kinmen's specialty eggs fermented with Kaoliang wine (see the article on Kinmen food trail). The lower-alcohol 38° Kinmen Kaoliang Wedding Liquor, as its name implies, is intended for special events like weddings — however, it's still better to drink after dilution.
3. Peanut Crisp (贡糖)
Peanut crisp (gong tang) is sort-of a candy that originates from Minnan (闽南) and Kinmen Island is one of the few places that are famous for it. With availability of high-quality, locally-produced peanuts, Kinmen's peanut crisp is well-known worldwide — same as its Kaoliang wine.
Peanut crisps are available in most local products shops on Kinmen Island. And on Little Kinmen, the best peanut crisps are those that are wrapped with bamboo leaves (竹叶贡糖), which induced its light fragrance on the peanut crisps.
4. Root of Moghania (一条根)
The Moghania root (or yi tiao gen) is an endemic medicinal herb on Kinmen. Moghania is a flowering plant from the legume family (peas, beans, peanuts, etc) and has a single root that can grow up to 50cm. It takes years for a Moghania root to grow to considerable length — 3 years minimum. The herb is used to alleviate pain and soreness from arthritis and improve blood circulation. It is also expensive due to its scarcity.
Other than being sold as medicinal herb, the Moghania root can be found in some cuisines, such as a herbal steamboat on Kinmen, where a shorter segment of the root is used in the soup. This is one of the ways to try the Moghania root without buying a whole root — and much cheaper.
Note: If you are not familiar with this herb (root), make sure to get from reputable sources only.
5. Liangjin Kaoliang Beef Jerky (良金高粱牛肉干)
On Kinmen Island, sorghum is fermented at the distillers to make Kaoliang wine and large amount of sorghum by-products are produced every day. Instead of dumping these by-products into the sea which causes pollution, they are fed to cows in Liangjin Farm (良金牧場). The beef from Liangjin Farm are then used to make the specialty Kaoliang beef jerky.
Dried beef jerky are popular products in China and Taiwan and are readily available in most supermarkets. Liangjin's beef jerky stands out among the range of beef jerky products in Taiwan. The tasteful beef jerky have the additional fragrance of fermented sorghum which made it unique and special.