Wednesday, 31 May 2017

delicious hualien eats and pretty sanzhan village

A betel nut shop in Hualien (花蓮).

In my previous post, I told of our time at Taroko Gorge, which is a huge attraction in Taiwan, and I'm sure it is the main reason why many tourists include Hualien city in their itinerary. However, Hualien is not just a convenient base that one can use as a jumping-off point to visit Taroko - it is also an excellent destination in its own right.

After all, where else would you get egg-bomb spring onion pancakes?

Laopai egg-bomb spring onion pancake stall in Hualien (花蓮老牌炸蛋蔥油餅).

This is basically a deep-fried spring onion pancake roll with a half-cooked egg encased within. Bite into it and the creamy, gooey orange yolk bursts into action, so eat with care! You can also request for a fully-cooked egg if you wish, but I don't think that would be as awesome. This egg-bomb spring onion pancake costs 30 NTD, very affordable. You can get just a plain spring onion pancake without the egg for 20 NTD - but again, I don't think that would be as awesome. The spring onion isn't actually that prominent here, so the star of the show is really the egg.

So here's what the pancake looks like before the egg explosion... sorry, no post-explosion pics! It can get a bit messy, and I was too busy trying not to get egg all over myself!

Egg-bomb spring onion pancake (炸蛋蔥油餅), a fun, dramatic snack.

Another popular shop here is Gongzheng Baozi. Here, you can get a variety of things, including buns, dumplings, soup, noodles, soy milk, and tea, all for nice cheap prices. And it's open 24 hours so you can get your fix any time!

Gongzhengbaozi shop in Hualien (花蓮公正包子).

I think it was here that I first discovered that xiaolongbao in Taiwan typically refers to a special type of mini pork bun, and not the soup dumplings that I was accustomed to. I was disappointed at first, but these buns are actually not bad! The Taiwanese xiaolongbao bun has a thinner skin than your usual pork bun, so the meat-to-dough ratio is splendid.

Taiwanese xiaolongbao (小籠包) - these are like mini pork buns, not soup dumplings.

A shop I really liked in Hualien is this wonton shop, called Yexiang Bianshi. Apparently it has been in business for more than 70 years at this point.

Yexiangbianshi wonton shop in Hualien (花蓮液香扁食店).

My goodness, I adored the wonton soup here. Look how silky and perfect their wontons are! Along with the scrumptious broth, they went down like a dream. I think it cost something like 65 NTD per bowl.

Wonton soup (扁食湯 / 雲吞/ 餛飩湯).

We also lined up for the famous oyster omelette from Haipu. I enjoyed seeing them cook the oyster omelettes while we were waiting in line - it's done in a large, flat pan, and it's quite entertaining to watch!

Haipu Oyster Omelette Shop in Hualien (花蓮海埔蚵仔煎).

As it turns out, though, I don't think the Taiwanese oyster omelette is my thing... the liberal use of starch in the recipe makes for a glutinous quality that I wasn't particularly fond of. The sauce was also quite sweet. After tasting this, I have to say I prefer the Malaysian oyster omelette, which is more eggy and savoury. But clearly, there are many people who are big fans of the Taiwanese style, and the Haipu shop is extremely reputable, so if you're in the area, it's probably a good idea to try it for yourself!

Haipu oyster omelette (海埔蚵仔煎), around 50 NTD per serve.

We also sampled coffin bread, or coffin toast, or coffin sandwich, at the night market in Hualien. Similar to a bread bowl, this involves toasted or fried bread with a variety of enticing fillings such as hot pepper beef, smoked honey chicken, satay pork, and pumpkin seafood.

Jiangjia coffin bread stall in Hualien (蔣家花蓮創意官財板).

You can see how coffin toast got its name - the fillings are placed in the hollowed-out centre of a thick slice of bread, and then covered again on top with a cut-out piece of bread, so it resembles a coffin with a lid. An interesting snack to try if you get the opportunity!

Coffin toast (官財板).

We also stumbled upon a fabulous gelato shop in Hualien called Houshan Gelato. Made with fresh natural ingredients, the gelati here is seriously delectable. The selection is dominated by fruit flavours, and they're so so good. A bit pricey by Taiwanese standards at 60 NTD for one scoop and 100 NTD for two scoops, but it's quality stuff.

Delicious gelati in a waffle cone from Houshan gelato shop in Hualien (花蓮後山手工冰淇淋).

Additionally, here's a picture of a dog on a scooter, a classic scene in Taiwan. This doglet is so sweet and timid! We wanted to pat it, but it looked so scared and worried... and then it completely lit up with relief and happiness when the owner came back! Awwwww.

Little scooter dog!

Speaking of scooters, as mentioned in my Taroko Gorge blog post, we hired one for our stay in Hualien. It cost us 400 NTD per day, and fuel was about 150 NTD over the course of three days.

So we checked out the well-known Qixingtan beach, which is held in high regard for its pebble beach and blue waters.

Qixingtan beach (七星潭).

And I guess it is quite attractive, but to be honest, Simon and I were sort of like okay, it's a beach, now what do we do? So we ventured to the other direction, and there was some kind of a fish market going on. I've always been partial to fish markets, there's something about them that feels raw and right to me.

Qixingtan fish market (七星潭魚市場).

This kitty cat was probably the highlight of our trip to Qixingtan, haha! We were patting it outside someone's shop house like the crazy cat weirdos we are. This amused the locals and led to casual conversation related to the cat.

A nice cat near the fish market at Qixingtan.

On our way back to the main city area, we took a different route and discovered the Zuocang Cemetery. I took a photo as I thought it was quite a charming cemetery.

Hualien Zuocang Cemetery (花蓮市佐倉公墓).

There was also a cheerful statue of the Chinese Earth God, smiling beatifically as he ruled over his land.

Tudigong, Lord of the Soil and the Ground (土地公).

On another day, we headed off to Sanzhan (sometimes spelled Sanjhan and also known as Pratan), a little aboriginal village that was recommended to us by our enthusiastic Airbnb host, who showed us the pictures he took on his phone and the place looked pretty so we thought, why not?

We took the Hai'an Road route there and gosh, it's gorgeous. Such a great ride.

Beautiful views from Hualien City's Hai'an Road (花蓮海岸路).

Yep, the journey there alone was already making my heart sing.

Seaside views along Hai'an Road.

And then we got to Sanzhan village, and we probably should have done more research, because we weren't quite sure what we could do. If we'd looked it up more, we would have found out about river tracing here. We could have followed the water into a more secluded spot, taken a dip in a pool, and ventured into a river valley in the Taroko National Park!

Sanzhan River (三棧溪) - the teal waters are truly captivating.

As it is, we just wandered around randomly, and admired the views. With exquisite blue-green waters and a mountainous backdrop, this village sure is pleasing to the eyes.

Sanzhan village views (三棧村).

We got to the main village area, and found a shop where we could grab some breakfast!

I saw that they did blood cube soup, which isn't usually my thing, but that day, for some reason, it sounded fantastically appealing to me. An unusual craving for me, and I'm really glad I ordered it! The broth was generous with spring onions, and the pork blood curds were so smooth, the taste so subtle, it was almost like having tofu. This is simple, satisfying, rustic comfort food. I felt utterly nourished.

 Pig's blood soup (豬血湯) at Sanzhan village.

After our breakfast, we walked around some more, and met quite a few cats in the village, much to our sheer delight.

Cats at Sanzhan village.

Doesn't this cool cat look like it has superpowers? I mean, it looks like it could be a badass character from Dragon Ball Z or Rurouni Kenshin, or something.

A cool calico or tortoiseshell cat in Sanzhan village.

So even though we didn't do all the things we could've done at Sanzhan, we ended up having a lovely time there. Funny how things work out!

In conclusion, I'll just say that there is so much to explore in Hualien County, especially if you have your own transport. With a vibrant food scene in the city area, and beautiful scenery in the countryside, it definitely gets a thumbs-up from me!


  1. I love a spring onion pancake, but deepfrying it with a runny egg inside sounds like the best idea ever!

    1. Indeed, eating it was literally quite a sensational experience, hehe!


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