Providing natural beauty within short drives all around the city’s center, Hualien is a gem on the east coast that stands head and shoulders above most other tourist destinations in Taiwan.
Not only do visitors from around the world take joy in the variety so conveniently presented by Hualien, but it is also referred to as the place where the Taiwanese want to go for a timeout. In addition to offering the largest night market on the east coast, “Dong Da Men,” the relaxing downtown shopping, nearby clear-water rivers, vast ocean views, well-maintained biking trails and parks, and the towering mountains surrounding the city offer all forms of pleasurable diversions within easy reach.
On the flip side, there are elements of Hualien that few visitors ever learn about, yet they are fundamental to the lifestyles of the locals who are so warm and receptive to the tourists. One such topic is: Seafood.
Seafood in Hualien is unmistakably fresher and more flavorful than much of what can be found elsewhere in Taiwan. Due to Hualien Harbor being home to a Pacific Ocean fishing fleet of independent fishermen with their boats that daily ply the waters nearby the coast, a broad selection of seafood can be easily purchased fresh from the boats as they return to the harbor areas three times per day with their bounties aboard.
With such a large variety, ranging from squid and eels to sunfish and sharks, it pays to know how to select the right item of seafood that is laid out before you by a fishmonger. Once understood, the skill of discernment can offer up the tastiest of home-style seafood cooking, as provided by a convenient local Mom & Pop type restaurant that can cook up your treasure for a very economical fee.
Hualien abounds with great restaurants providing flavors from around the world. However, there is nothing quite like getting right down to the basics in accomplishing an adventurous treasure hunt.
There are three fish market venues at which such treasures can be easily discovered: the northernmost is close to parking lot #2 at QiXingTan; the mid-point is a distribution center near the TTL brewery; and the other is on the Oceanside of Hualien Harbor.
Naturally, catches are seasonal, and it is important to know what you are looking for in the way of seafood at that particular time, while remaining adaptable to what is available. Do you want some BBQ’d squid for your breakfast or succulent and boneless mahi-mahi (dolphin-fish) for lunch, or a whole swordfish offering fantastic sashimi as an appetizer when creating a large dinner party?
My personal tastes lean towards boneless white-meat fish and shellfish, such as the Mahi-mahi (Ghost Head Knife), the Leatherjacket (Peel Skin Fish), and live lobster or crab. As a means to focus on those, photos are provided herein to assist in identifying them, in addition to a map showing the three locations to buy fresh.
Come find and enjoy the secret side of Hualien! Tell them a little seagull sent you.
The picture shows a local fisherman Ted Huang (黃品澄) is posing for a photo with a ghost head fish caught along the coast of Hualien. (Image courtesy of William O. Bryant)
Leatherjacket - Peel Skin Fish (Image courtesy of William O. Bryant)
(Image courtesy of William O. Bryant)