Wed, Feb 12, 2014 - Page 5 News List

Tofu maker turns environmentalist

MISSION:It is because of his handmade tofu that Chang Chih-chung is passionate about protecting the marine ecology in Pingtung’s Houwan from development

By Tsai Tsung-hsien  /  Staff reporter

Tofu maker Chang Chih-chung collects seawater bittern from a tide pool in the Houwan coastal area of Pingtung County in an undated handout photograph.

Photo: Tsai Tsung-hsien, Taipei Times, courtesy of Chang Chih-chung

Chang Chih-chung (張志中), a tofu maker from Miaoli, has urged the government to protect the natural seawater extract found in Houwan (後灣) in Pingtung County, which makes — he says — the smoothest of sweet tofu puddings.

Chang wants the area’s rich marine ecology including land crabs and sea slugs protected, and says that the bittern — the solution left from seawater after the salts have crystallized — from Houwan’s coast has become more popular as awareness of food safety increases.

After sampling the bitterns of western Taiwan, Chang said Houwan’s is the best, producing a tofu with “a delicate texture, small pores and sweet aftertaste.” He even brought 4 liters of the bittern back to Miaoli.

Chang said he learned of Houwan’s natural seawater bittern from a local environmental protection volunteer, Yang Mei-yun (楊美雲), and was persuaded to head south.

“Seawater bittern usually takes two to three months to form, but because of the unique combination of sunshine and downslope wind at Houwan, it only takes three days there,” he said, adding that the creaminess of the tofu is a result of Houwan bittern having no impurities from pollutants.

Chang said he worries that if financial groups build hotel resorts in the area, Taiwan’s best natural seawater bittern may disappear.

Last month, a proposal for a new hotel in Houwan was discussed at the county government’s Environmental Impact Assessment ad hoc meeting, and although it was not approved, the plan is to be discussed again at the general assembly meeting.

Some local residents worry that commercial interests will push the development forward.

Meanwhile, the site of the planned hotel has been named an important habitat for land crabs, and environmentalists are striving to protect the area.

After visiting Houwan, Chang said he understands the fears of local residents, and is now committed to spreading the message of saving Houwan through his popular tofu.

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