“A-tu’s cat’s ear” and “Squid cooked in Mazu Temple red rice wine” are examples of traditional Yilan snacks. Yilan municipal library and the city’s Chungshan Elementary School have cooperated on a food map called “Really tasty.” Head librarian Chen Chun-jen said all the eateries on the food map are traditional places that have been open for at least 30 years and bring back memories of grandma’s and grandpa’s day.
In an activity called “Reading Yilan, a walk through the old city” organized by the library, students “read” the city by visiting ruins, temples and eateries on foot. Chen said that with the help of a teacher named Chuang Wen-sheng, students from Chungshan Elementary School visited well known eateries on foot and art students completed the publication of the food map.
Chen said the food map includes 35 eateries that have been open for more than 30 years, such as the Chengmen Kong Italian noodles, the Shiliu Kan lemon aiyu — a kind of fig, like a creeping fig or climbing fig — A-mao rice noodle soup, and dabingyuan fish crisp soup. These places offer tastes and bring out memories in everyone in Yilan from grandma and grandpa up to today’s generation. Bringing in young students in the production of the map and showing them around the old city is also intended to pass on the cultural experience.
The creation of these snacks is also connected to the history of Yilan.
Chen said that during the Qing dynasty, goods were transported to Yilan City on the Yilan River after arriving in the port of Wushi in Toucheng. The city’s Ximen— the Western Gate — area was a distribution center and many people gathered there with the result that the snacks and eateries were very developed in the area. The Ximen area was close to present day Wenchang Rd. There is a smattering of food stalls selling meat soup, hongroufan — pork slowly cooked in soy sauce, sugar and spices with rice — and other snacks. From Ximen, goods were transported to Beimen — the Northern Gate — for sale, and more snacks were developed — Italian noodles and garlic meat soup are particularly famous.
Chen said the frequent rain and the humidity in Yilan also affected the production of snacks, and soups and noodles that must be consumed instantly were most common, while dry foods were more rare because they are more difficult to store.
Chen also said there was a curfew during the Qing dynasty during which the city gates were closed. However, the Chengmen Kong — or city gate opening — by the northern gate was open to assist people who wanted a snack, making these snacks a part of the historical memories. The food map completed by the library does not include new restaurants, but it is filled with small eateries laden with emotion and memories. The map can be obtained at the library, or by calling 03-935 5604.
(LIBERTY TIMES, TRANSLATED BY PERRY SVENSSON)