Where is Ivory Coast in Africa? Which place in the Wizard of Oz is Kansas City? Don't waste any more time struggling with these geography questions. You can eat the local food of these places right here in Hualien. Such diverse and authentic flavours are rare to find even in Taipei. You can enjoy a generous helping of barbecue from the American Midwest served with barbecue sauces from different states. Forget about crisp Taiwanese crepes and instead enjoy authentic French crepes that melt in your mouth. Ivory Coast stew with peanut butter and ginger is warmth and comfort in a bowl. If you see people queuing on the streets of Hualien, just join them! All steamed buns and dumplings are freshly prepared to order, and are deliciously sweet as well as cheap. "Wonton", a typical Hualien snack, is a traditional flavour that was loved even by President Chiang Ching-kuo. The most popular indigenous dishes are all made from natural ingredients. Hualien is a paradise for foodies, offering both local snacks and exotic foods.


    Mumin Homemade

    Come to Hualien for authentic flavour. Mumin Homemade is located near Qixing Lake and features tribal-style decor on its exterior as well as inside the restaurant. The chef is a local Amis who has inherited the tradition of showcasing the natural and original flavour of ingredients and gives freedom to your appetite through the form of no-choice restaurant. The restaurant's most popular dish is the salt-grilled fresh fish, which is coated with coarse salt and slowly grilled over charcoal. The charcoal aroma hits you the moment the fish is served to your table. The fish is deliciously tender, and just a drizzle of lemon juice will enhance its fresh, sweet flavour. Enjoy the hearty and delicious flavours of plump, firm salted pork dipped in sweet and sour kumquat mousse. Abai, the Amis foxtail millet dumpling, is made from two leaves wrapped around a filling of foxtail millet and wild boar meat, where the fat is blended with the foxtail millet. This starchy temptation is virtually impossible to resist. Reservation is essential due to the high popularity of this restaurant.

    Location: No. 23, Ln. 10, Mingtan St., Xincheng Township, Hualien County, Taiwan 971

    Open: Daily from 11 am to 2.30 pm and from 5.30 pm to 9 pm


    Dos Tacos

    Come and have some hardcore food before setting off on your adventures to the cliffs and rift valleys. DOS TACOS is nestled in an alleyway in Hualien City. If you love spicy food, you'll find this an ideal place to enjoy Mexican specialities such as burritos, chimichangas and tacos, all perfect with a cold beer. The quesadillas are a big hit with diners. The crispy shell filled with fried beef is topped with salsa, guacamole and other condiments, plus some jalapenos to give it an exciting kick. DOS TACOS's signature dish is its deep-fried ice-cream, which requires a certain amount of culinary skill to make. The vanilla ice-cream coated with icing sugar is frozen for 4 hours and then fried until crispy. The frying temperature must be precisely controlled, and you have fry it for exactly the right amount of time. The ice-cream is sweet, but not greasy. Stir it into the coffee and milk at the bottom of the glass for yet another taste sensation. 5, 4, 3, 2... The small blackboard at door will tell you how many fried ice-creams are left. Don't miss out!

    Location: No. 92, Fuxing St., Hualien City, Hualien County, Taiwan 970

    Open: From 11.30 am to 2.30 pm and from 6 pm to 9.30 pm (closed on Mondays and Tuesdays)


    Africa Ivory Coast Small Kitchen

    Africa Ivory Coast Small Kitchen is the only African restaurant in Hualien. Bony, the owner from Ivory Coast, will show you the special skill required to create his authentic sauce based on a recipe he inherited from his grandma. Tomatoes, gingers, onions, green beans and carrots are cooked together for 8-10 minutes. This can then be used as a base for a variety of dishes by combining it with other ingredients and spices. The unique flavour of the peanut sauce makes it a firm favourite among customers. The combination of vegetable sauce and peanut butter may sound strange, but tastes amazing. The addition of peanut butter to the vegetable sauce thickens it and gives it a fantastic aroma. Served with North African millet or French bread, it makes a hearty and delicious meal. Ginger is an indispensable ingredient in Ivory Coast. Refresh yourself with a special ginger lemon juice or sip a cup of ginger coffee after dinner. The must-try dessert here consists of diced fruit with milk and coconut cream. The creamy coconut envelops the diced fruit in a dish that's a bit like a thickened and upgraded version of coconut milk sago. The indescribable taste makes a visit here well worthwhile.

    Location: No. 54, Datong St., Hualien City, Hualien County, Taiwan 970

    Open: From 11.30 am to 2.30 pm and from 6 pm to 11 pm (closed on Mondays)


    photo by Aboukam (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified


    Salt Lick

    The high mountains and vast plains in Hualien make people here always want to take mouthfuls of meat! Salt Lick is a popular restaurant in Hualien that specialises in American barbecue. The giant locomotive at the front of the restaurant not only serves as decoration, but is also a barbecue smoker. The restaurant's American chef is a master at cooking meat. He can successfully recreate the unique smoked and grilled dishes of each state based on what he saw and learned during his travels in the US Midwest. The signature dish is Kansas baby back pork ribs. The ribs are first marinated in tomato and garlic sauce and then rubbed with a special blend of spices before grilling. After a few hours of cooking, they are topped with a thick layer of sweet Kansas barbecue sauce. The skin is crispy and the meat inside is tender and juicy. Under a slight pull, the meat easily slides off the bones. The Carolina pulled pork is made from lean pork shoulder, marinated with 16 kinds of spices. The meat is smoked at a low temperature, making it firm but still tender. It's served with a dinner roll and sweet and tangy North Carolina barbecue sauce. The restaurateur has a great sense of humour, and the restaurant hosts weekly Ladies' Night, Teachers' Night and Students' Night parties. Present your ID to the restaurant for a fun night out.

    Location: No. 151, Zhongshan Rd., Hualien City, Hualien County, Taiwan 970

    Open: Daily from 11.30 am to 2.30 pm and from 5 pm to 9.30 pm



    iOven is a small bakery with a wood-fired oven. Feeling nostalgic for traditional bread, the Austrian owner took a special trip back to his hometown to learn from the master how to build a bread oven. He's very strict when it comes to his ingredients. For example, the bread must be made from German flour, while Italian flour must be used for making pizza. The fermentation time, temperature and humidity must be carefully calculated. From kneading to baking, he likes to finish each step on his own. People may laugh at the lengths that he goes to, but only such persistence can produce the authentic taste of European bread. At 3.30 pm, the bread comes out of the oven and the wonderful aroma of freshly baked bread immediately fills the small shop. Unlike soft Taiwanese bread, the bread here is dense and firm, with no added flavours or preservatives. The natural flavour and aroma of the wheat come alive in your mouth as you chew. The pizza made here has simple flavours, such as Sicilian capers or Margherita, but is incredibly delicious and reasonably priced. iOven is only open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. If you love European bread, this is definitely not one to miss.

    Location: No. 45, Ln. 315, Linsen Rd., Hualien City, Hualien County, Taiwan 970

    Open: Friday to Sunday: 3 pm to 9 pm


    Dai Ji Wonton

    When it comes to Hualien snacks, the first thing that comes to mind is wonton. Dai Ji Wonton, which has been around for three generations, is a must-go place for wonton in Hualien. There's always a long queue here, even outside regular mealtimes. Dai Ji Wonton soup is a refreshing bone broth flavoured with chopped celery, spring onion and fried onion. The wonton has a thin and transparent skin that won't break during cooking. The fresh, sweet flavour of the filling makes the wontons deliciously moreish. The wontons are always freshly made. The chopsticks used by veteran chef to add the filling are constantly on the go. It's said that the proprietor can make 52 wontons in one minute. Whenever President Chiang Ching-kuo visited Hualien, he would come here for wonton soup. There are black and white photos of the restaurant proprietor boiling wonton for him when she was young. Many years have since passed, but the wonton soup is still as delicious and fragrant as ever.

    Location: No. 120, Zhonghua Rd., Hualien City, Hualien County, Taiwan 970

    Open: From 11 am to 8.30 pm (closed on Wednesdays)


    Mr. Goose

    Geese raised in Hualien are well fed thanks to the lush mountains and rivers. If you fancy the idea of dining on goose, Mr. Goose is well worth a visit. The restaurant selects geese that are fed on a mixture of plants and grass. The meat of these geese is dense, yet tender, without being gamey. The front part of the goose is lean and the back part has streaks of fat and lean, both of which are tender and plump. You can choose whichever meat you prefer. The meat is expertly carved, with meat and bones intact and no bits of broken bone. Each slice of meat is about 0.4 inches (1 cm) wide, which is just about the perfect mouthful and the best way to get a good taste of both the fat and lean meat. The goose organs are delicious, but are not available every day. The brined gizzards and hearts are crispy and chewy. The glutinous rice goose blood cake is made of local high-quality glutinous rice from Hualien. It has a chewy texture, and you can dip it in a special basil and soy sauce for an even more unforgettable flavour. Although rows of cooked geese are displayed at the entrance to the restaurant, making it seem well-stocked, you still need to move fast to get your share before they're sold out.

    Location: No. 259, Zhongshan Rd., Hualien City, Hualien County, Taiwan 970

    Open: From 11 am to 8.30 pm (closed on Thursdays)


    photo by Wei-Te Wong (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified


    Oh La La Creperie

    The French often say "Oh La La", which means "My Goodness" in English. It perfectly explains the French surprise delivered by this small restaurant. The French sweet pancake that is the source of this excitement tastes soft and chewy, exuding the warm aroma of custard. A simple sprinkle of icing sugar makes it super delicious. French savoury buckwheat crepes are made of buckwheat flour and are more glutinous than the sweet type. The aroma of buckwheat becomes more intense as you chew. Buckwheat crepes are traditionally served with ham, cheese and soft-boiled eggs. In a nod to the French owner’s culinary heritage, the restaurant serves beef slow-cooked in red wine. After sauteing bacon until fragrant, vegetables, red wine and beef are added and left to cook for 2 hours. The tender beef and thick sauce is then served with Hualien's pure white rice in a perfect fusion of Taiwanese and French cuisine. The French usually have savoury crepes as a main course, followed by sweet crepes for dessert. Crepes and cider make an excellent pairing. Come to Oh La La for an authentic French dining experience.

    Location: No. 611, Zhongshan Rd., Hualien City, Hualien County, Taiwan 970

    Open: From 11 am to 2.30 pm and from 5.30 pm to 9 pm (closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays)


    photo by Omniscia6 (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified


    Gongzheng Baozi

    Gongzheng Baozi in downtown Hualien is a time-honoured and popular restaurant, and a great place to start in your quest for delicious snacks. The restaurant serves generously sized xiaolongbao, also known as soup dumplings. The mountain of plump white buns at the door and the steamers piled high are extremely enticing, making customers waiting patiently in the queue anxious to taste the delicious buns. Each steamer contains 10 buns. You can also order à la carte. "Be careful! Hot!" After a long wait, the freshly steamed buns are finally put on the table in front of you. You can hardly wait to take your first bite, even though the buns are too hot to hold in your hand. The filling is made of salty pork with a moderate amount of fat, and the fluffy skin absorbs some of the liquid, becoming soft and moist. The restaurant also serves steamed dumplings, meat soup, black tea and other dishes. All are good value for money. Eat your fill, but don't forget to save some room for the next stall.

    Location: No. 199-2, Zhongshan Rd., Hualien City, Hualien County, Taiwan 970  

    Open: Daily from 6 am to 9 pm


    Zhoujia Steamed Dumpling

    Zhoujia Steamed Dumplings, next to Gongzheng Baozi, is just as popular as its neighbour. The two stalls sell similar items, yet each has its own loyal customers. At Zhoujia Steamed Dumplings, each steamer contains 10 steamed buns, just enough for a single serving. The handmade skin is fairly thick, and develops a pleasantly chewy texture and aroma after steaming. Don't forget to dip your buns into the homemade salty and sweet garlic soy sauce to enhance their flavour. The best partner for steamed buns is a bowl of hot and sour soup, which contains tofu, mushroom, pig's blood and many other ingredients. A sip of the slightly sour soup and a bite of the steamed bun are so irresistible that you'll want to keep eating even when you're already full. The meat soup is made using strips of lean meat without flour and a generous helping of bamboo shoots. Many locals enjoy a bowl for afternoon tea. Zhoujia Steamed Dumpling is always full of diners. It's open 24 hours, offering everything from breakfast to midnight snacks.

    Location: No. 4-20, Gongzheng St., Hualien City, Hualien County, Taiwan 970

    Open: Open 24 hours


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