A popular food in Taiwan is called rouyuan 肉圓, but most people call it by its Taiwanese name, which is transliterated roughly as bmawan. It is a glutinous, chewy, transparent, doughy substance with some meat (pork) and other goodies packed inside. It is about the size of a CD in circumference, and fits nicely in a cereal bowl. In downtown Changhua there is a famous store that specializes in this dish. It is a must-stop destination when visiting this town. They pair this dish with a bitter melon pork chop soup—super delicious.
After the bmawan I went to get some more shaved ice. But this time I went to one of the best spots in the whole country for mango shaved ice. Near Eight Hexagrams Mountain there is a spot in a nondescript corner of the main street of the town. They use a frozen milk mixture, as opposed to simple blocks of ice, to make the base for the dessert. They call it xuemianbing 雪綿冰, “snow floss shaved ice.” This is easily the best shaved ice you will ever eat. The ice is light like snowflakes and turns into a light, fresh cream when you eat it. Summer time is mango season in Taiwan and the fruit is very, very sweet. This shop doesn’t use any extra sweeteners for the dessert and so what you get is a natural tasting treat. Way good! We got one with mango and another of the more traditional Taiwan style—covered with pieces of pineapple, tapioca, taro, and other Taiwanese candies.
Next stop was Lukang and Mazu’s Temple 媽祖廟天后宮. Mazu is a local god worshipped for protection when crossing the Taiwan Strait. Lukang is one of the oldest coastal towns on the west coast Taiwan. When travelers would cross from China they would pray to Mazu, the goddess of the sea, for protection. When they crossed safely, they built this temple. Generations who came afterward would make special pilgrimages to this temple to honor the goddess. It is one of the most important Daoist temples in Taiwan and is the center of activity for Daoist rituals and ceremonies at several times throughout the year.
The temple is still very active and worshipers come to pay respect to Mazu daily.
The temple complex is not especially big, but it is magnificently well kept. This is the koi fountain in the back courtyard.
To the left of Mazu’s shrine is a shrine to Wenchang 文昌, the god of letters. Students pray to Wenchang for help with testing and school. They light sticks of incense and bow to the god with the sticks clasped in both hands raised to the forehead. They then stick the incense in the ashes and let in burn out.
One of the treasures of Lukang is the well-preserved historic street that runs just off the main road of the town. The road and the houses and shops that line it recall life in Taiwan during the Qing Dynasty. Many houses on this street are still owned and lived in as if there has been very little change over the past two hundred years. Lots of then, however, have been transformed into shops selling anything from standard tourist-trap items to very expensive traditional Chinese goods, like clothing, shoes, paintings, calligraphy, etc.
There is a famous shop in Lukang called Azhen roubao 阿振肉包that sells roubao 肉包, which is basically a steamed bun filled with meat (pork) and mushrooms. This is, I think, the best roubao that one can buy on the planet. I know I run the risk of sounding disingenuous with this statement, but I am no stranger to this food. Indeed, I have tried probably nearly 50-60 different kinds throughout Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China, and I still think that this shop’s is the gold standard.
For dinner we stopped at a shop in Xihu 溪湖 that sells 切仔乾麵, traditional Chinese dry (no soup) noodles. It’s a very simple dish that is covered with a sauce of ground pork and garlic paste. There was also meatball soup 宮丸湯 and another soup with goose meat chopped in thick slices.