Zuoying's Culinary Diversity
【◎English translation: Hou Ya-ting
◎Photo by Pao Chung-hui
◎Photos courtesy of CHSG Studio】
Zuoying District has a diverse population, including people from the Chinese mainland, who have enriched the local cuisine. The area's delicacies are influenced by and derive from traditional dishes in the residents' hometowns.
Zuoying's postwar history has shaped the city's landscape, culture and even common dishes. Back in 1949, the ROC government withdrew from the Chinese mainland to Taiwan. A huge number of soldiers and other people accompanied the government. Military personnel and their dependents from every corner of China relocated to Taiwan. To house these people, the ROC government constructed military dependents' village.
Within Zuoying there is a major naval base, so the district ended up with more military dependents' villages than anywhere else on the island. This created a unique culture in Zuoying. Longing for their hometowns and familiar flavors, the servicemen and their dependents introduced hometown dishes to their dining tables inside the military villages. These dishes reflect regional specialties, and have been praised as humble and ordinary, yet extraordinarily tasty. They have gained recognition far beyond the communities where they were first cooked.
※Pork with Pickled Cabbage Hot Pot
When visiting Zuoying, those in the know highly recommend the pork with pickled cabbage hot pot, served in a steel hot pot with a chimney-like contraption. Charcoal is placed inside the chimney while slices of pork belly with pickled-cabbage broth are placed around it. Soon, the pork and broth are boiling and giving off puffs of steam. The sensational sour smell makes one's mouth water.
The third-generation proprietor of Liou's Pork with Pickled Cabbage Hot Pot, Mr. Wang Meng-siang, says that he and his father make pickled cabbage the traditional way. To achieve their sophisticated favor, Mr. Wang meticulously ferments marinated sliced cabbages. After three days of fermentation, the pickled cabbage gives off a flavor that is sour flavor yet also mildly sweet. Adding pickled cabbage to a hot pot makes for a perfect balance with the main ingredient, sliced pork belly, and the other ingredients, which include enoki mushrooms and frozen bean curd.
Military personnel and their dependents had to be careful with their money, so they utilized simple ingredients to create a rather distinctive dish: Stir-fried Vegetable Omelet. To make this, sliced cloud-ear fungus, carrots, pork and bean sprouts are stir-fried, then covered with an unfolded omelet.
Within military dependents' villages, the dishes on each family's dinner table reflected their foodways and the specialties back in their hometowns on the mainland. Pasta products in particular demonstrate the strength of culinary skills within military communities. In the past, the government provided rations of soybeans, salt, cooking oil, and flour to every serviceman and his family. Working with these materials, village residents created a wide variety of beloved flour-based dishes, such as scallion pancakes, meat enchiladas, beef noodles, handmade noodles, and wontons. Nowadays, these flavorful and richly-textured flour-based dishes delight gourmands visiting Zuoying.
Cooks who grew up in military dependents' village take pride in manipulating pasta dishes. Zuoying boasts many popular pasta eateries, including First Homemade Noodles on Haigong Road, the award-winning Liou's Beef Noodles, Han's Shanghai Wonton (which is inside a traditional market), and Fenyang Wonton. The last of these has been in business for more than 60 years and is found on Zuoying Avenue. Wonton can be enjoyed either “dry” or in a soup. Some like dry wonton accompanied by a bowl of egg and seaweed soup. Others prefer wonton soup, saying the minced-pork-and-shrimp filling boasts an unparalleled aroma and taste.
Culture vultures will enjoy exploring Guomao New Residential Quarter. This was originally part of a military dependents' village that was demolished and replaced by 15-story apartment buildings back in 1981. Even now, in Guomao New Residential Quarter one can hear a variety of Chinese dialects as local residents chat to each other.
Visitors hoping to taste regional cuisines may head toward Meihong Soy Milk, Mother Wu's Dumpling, Kuan Lai Shun Breakfast Shop, or Haicing Wang's Clay Oven Rolls. The last of these is now on Zuoying Avenue, previously being adjacent to Kaohsiung Municipal Haicing Vocational High School of Technology and Commerce. Regulars recommend Kuan Lai Shun Breakfast Shop's signature dish: a clay-oven roll with an egg omelet and a generous amount of pickled cabbage. Haicing Wang's Clay Oven Rolls is known for its hearty fillings which go well with various side dishes. Zuoying's regional cuisines epitomize its synthesis of distinct cultural backgrounds, and the experience is amplified by warmhearted local residents.
Where to taste local delicacies:
▲Orignal Shop of Liou's Pork with Pickled Cabbage Hot Pot
No.9, Jieshou Rd., Zuoying Dist., Kaohsiung City
Tel: (07) 581-6633
Open: 11:00-22:30 daily
▲Kuan Lai Shun Breakfast Shop
No.5-14, Jhonghua 1st Rd., Zuoying Dist., Kaohsiung City
Tel: (07) 583-0408
Open: 04:30-13:00 daily
▲First Homemade Noodles
No.611-1, Zuoying Avenue, Zuoying Dist., Kaohsiung City
Tel: (07) 582-3683
Open: 10:45-14:00 & 16:45-20:00 (closed Mondays)
▲Han's Shanghai Wonton
No.22, Ln. 47, Guofong St., Zuoying Dist., Kaohsiung City
Tel: (07) 588-6898
Open: 07:00- 12:00 (closed Mondays and Tuesdays)