24 April 2014

Street Food tour of Taiwan ~ Let's Dulan!

Dulan on the east coast of Taiwan is a small town known for it's arts cafe, surfing and custard apples. Warning: this post contains a record number of dog and cat photos.

One of the ways to get from Hualien to Dulan is on the train via Taitung. You can also catch a bus direct which goes along the coastal highway, but after one too many bad bus trips we chose the train. When you arrive at the train station at Taitung it appears to sell just one fruit - custard apples. Buy them you must.

Custard apples are a sweet squishy fruit with a custard like interior and big black seeds. They are so soft you would almost think they are starting to rotten and be overripe, which in some ways they are. They are said to resemble the shape of the head of the Buddha and so have a special reverence. We didn't hold back and squaffed a couple before we got on the coach to Dulan. Just as well, they doubled in price when we hit the smaller town.

There is a small coach that does a lap around the sites of Taitung via Dulan. You can buy a tourist hop on hop off pass or use it for a public transport option. On the way it makes stops at interesting sites, and after about 15 mins out of Taitung stops at this windswept park by the sea for a sight seeing toilet break.

You can also pick up a CD from Taiwan's Kenny G.

Dulan is a 'blink or you will miss it' town along the main highway that skirts along the east coast of Taiwan. It's been slowly picking up a name as a surf town and for the live music on Saturday nights at the Dulan Cafe.

There was an endless amount of friendly locals out to greet us on arrival.

Even the back roads had welcome parties.

Some even dressed up a little.

A tidy town advocate.

Perhaps some might have been sleeping on the job but there's not really a lot to do here.

We didn't have any accommodation booked beforehand and the one place that got all the good reviews was booked out for one of the two nights we were staying. The first place we decided on turned out to be bunk beds in a dorm but there had to be something better. This guy knew somewhere else we could stay.

An intriguing sign led us down a pathway that we thought might have gone down to the beach front. It turned out to be a guest house run by local indigenous Taiwanese. We didn't quite catch the name (it wasn't written anywhere except here) but it might have been Biswasi, or Eastern Sunrise in the local dialect. It is at the far end of the town near the bridge.

This guesthouse reminded us of our friends' house in Bellingen. The owner had built all the little cabins and had piles of wood, driftwood and a big shed where he crafted wooden sculptures. (Captain Slinger, you would have loved it). The main house served as a meeting point and a fire was put on for the guests to enjoy.

The most interesting bathroom we have ever encountered. It was all hand made from driftwood and discarded buoys.

The guest house also had two resident dogs who liked to sleep in the piles of leaves the owner swept up.

Sunny was an old timer who liked nothing more than a pat, especially around the fire.

While we waited for our room to be ready we snacked on some 7 Eleven Oden. A mix of noodles tied together in a bundle, little sausages, mushrooms, blood cake, cabbage wrapped meat and a meatball. Pick and choose goodness for $117. We think the shop assistant just made the price up.

The warthog or wild pig fire place at the guesthouse. Our mate Steve would have loved this too.

Some fire water for sitting around the fire. Will we never learn? It gets the thumbs up from the guy on the front!

The dogs snuggled in when the fire got going.

We had to leave the dogs and go out and get something to eat. This town was really quiet on a Friday night, there weren't a lot of options.

The steam and action invited us in to this place. Turns out to be a ramen noodle shop, done Taiwan style.

A fine broth and good noodles with slices of pork and vegetables. Unexpectedly good.

Our first real hit of stinky tofu. We fell in love with the crunchy outside texture and the soft inside. This version wasn't as smelly as we expected, the pickled cabbage on the side was a salty and sour contrast.

The next day is still overcast and we have to leave the dog lovin' behind to go out and explore the countryside.

We walk around the whole town. Well, that took up about half and hour. We also scoffed custard apple for breakfast, our local stand was doing roaring business just from us.

With not much else to do we jumped on the hop on hop off bus than ran about once an hour. There's a few surf spots along the east coast and a lot of good hiking. The cold and wet weather put most of this on hold for us. Check out the blog Love Travelling Taiwan some Dulan hiking inspiration.

What we could do is go to the famous Donghe Steam Buns store. This is like Fredo's pies up the north coast of NSW,whether it is the best is probably debatable, but it certainly is the only place to stop and is popular with the tourists.

Steam bun scavengers lurk waiting for a taste.

It's a simple operation selling nothing else but steam buns and soy milk.

The menu has English translation so we can know what we have ordered rather than our usual point and pray method.

We end up with four buns and a warm soy milk and a milk tea.

Bamboo shoot, peanut, pork and sour vegetable buns. The vegetable ones contained meat so not really a good choice for vegetarians.

This scavenger didn't care what was in them.

There were more steam bun places around the town, a few good ones were on the street parallel to the main highway. They were cheaper too, and the place was packed.

DIY dried mustard greens.

Back in Dulan we explored the old sugar factory. This has been left in a glorious decrepit condition and is used for art displays and concerts.

Most of the old machinery is still in place. A workplace health and safety nightmare, you could wander around and stick your head and hands in most of it. Watch out for the holes in the floor.

There was a set up happening for an art exhibit later that night.

Some art show visitors brought along some furry family.

Maybe they are a singing troupe.

So, back in town and we need some lunch.

Places are closed and the choices are limited.

This really is a quiet place.

We recognise these symbols - beef soup!

You would almost think the place was closed, but Dulan isn't at it's most pumping on a cold Saturday afternoon.

Our bowls arrive and they are beef soup inspirational, a meaty broth not too clarified and a little messy. We ordered these by trial and error, in the end the owner helped us order by placing her fingers above her head like cows horns. Whatever gets you your food.

We love a simple kitchen set up.

We knew there was music on at the Dulan Cafe later on that night so waited around before we went in. At 8.00pm it was a little quiet so we had a beer at the 7 Eleven 'happy club' (the tables out the front) and then ordered at this roadside street stall.

Dinner in Dulan. Coldish sweet potato chips in spicy pepper plum sauce, deep fried chicken and deep fried chicken feet. The feet were very more-ish. Two cans of Taiwan Beer, not the best drop in the country but one we were getting used to.

When we got back to cafe the place was pumping, this local band were a killer and we were sorry we were late. It cost about $200 each to get in and included a drink. The beers weren't super cheap but we were happy to have brimming mugs of San Miguel draft.

Here's a little fillum of the band:

and let's have another song!

and perhaps another beer.

Next up was another local blues guy whose singing was knobbled by an out of tune guitar.

Didn't stop the dancing though.

The last act of the night was a Taiwanese singer with a reputation whose name we couldn't find out. People were encouraged to sing and dance around him. Alison had a go. There are no photos or recordings that captured this which is better for all involved.

Off into the Dulan night.

This wonky photo and a crumpled receipt is the only evidence that we stumbled into the 7 Eleven for a feed. Shame.

The next day we had to head off for the bus to get out of town. It's still cold. Warmth is sought wherever it can be found.

A final farewell from a Dulan citizen.

Bye bye Dulan, we're off to Kaoshiung.

We love Taiwan.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the great post! It's really useful as I am going to Taiwan this year to browse fresh food markets for my blog - www.freshmarketfood.com


Thanks for your comment joy - please keep your musings happy - if you want to complain about a restaurant please do it on a restaurant review site (or your own blog) - we're all about celebrating cultural diversity and the great eats that come along with it :-)

Our ethics: We pay for all our own meals and travel (though sometimes Mum shouts us).