Miaoli County grandmother encourages students with traditional red bean cakes

By Chang Hsun-teng and Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Sat, Jan 26, 2013 - Page 3

Despite the rising cost of ingredients, a grandmother in Miaoli County’s Tongsiao Township (通霄) has refused to raise the price of a traditional Taiwanese dessert that she has been selling for the past eight years. In addition, she is determined to continue encouraging children to get good grades in school by giving it to achievers for free.

The 65-year-old street vendor, Lin Hsiu-feng, sells red bean cakes (紅豆餅), a fist-sized pastry that is filled with a sweet red bean paste.

“The economy is bad at the moment and it’s been tough to keep my business profitable, but I am determined to continue giving kids who get full marks on their monthly school exam a red bean cake as reward,” she said. “I wish to see the kids increase their efforts at school.”

Lin said that when she was young, her family was poor and had received assistance from others.

She has been running a pastry store at a market on Zihciang Road (自強路) in Tongsiao since 2005.

Since starting her business, she has sold red bean cakes for NT$10 each.

To encourage local elementary-school kids to study harder, she put up a sign on her stall that reads: “One free red bean cake for every full-mark test result on the monthly school exam.”

Lin said that once an elderly man brought his grandson to get a free red bean cake, and then he secretly gave her a NT$500 bill, saying that he hoped Lin would continue what she was doing so kids would stay motivated to improve their test results.

“After the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister paper) ran a story on me, my business has gotten better by about 10 percent. However, the number of students coming to get their reward has declined,” she said, adding that some parents might have told their kids not to come to her for free cakes, considering that the economy is tough and that it is hard for street vendors to make a profit.

Lin said she plans to continue encouraging students who are from poor families and who have not obtained full marks in their exams.

“If their teachers can issue a letter stating that the students are making good progress, they can come to me for their free red bean cake,” she said. “I hope that they will become more encouraged to make progress in school.”