Hakka food and farming in Hualien County’s Luoshan Recreation Area
By Cheryl Robbins
The Luoshan Recreation Area is situated in Luoshan Village of Fuli Township in Hualien County, within the East Rift Valley. About 80% of this village’s population is Hakka. The ancestors of today’s Hakka people were from southern China, but their origins may have been in that country’s central or northern areas. They arrived about 150 years after the first wave of Han Chinese immigrants from Fujian Province, referred to as the Minnan (southern Chinese), some 400 years ago. The Hakka speak a different language and have a different culture from the Minnan. There are also differences in cuisines.
Wen Mama Mud Volcano Tofu Restaurant is located within this recreation area. This is a Tian Mama (Farm Mother) eatery. Tian Mama refers to a government initiative to encourage restaurant owners in agricultural areas to develop dishes based on local ingredients. Here, you can sample a variety of Hakka dishes. On the menu are mud volcano tofu prepared in various ways, boiled chicken, stir-fried bamboo shoots, turnip omelet and traditional Hakka stir-fried dishes that include pork, dried squid and vegetables. Many of the ingredients are grown locally and organically as Luoshan is a dedicated organic farming village.
Moreover, you can experience some Hakka tradition, as this restaurant is located in an old Hakka brick residential compound. There is an outdoor covered area with tables for outdoor dining. Indoor seating is also available. Outside is a small pond and short bamboo-lined path. Tel: (038) 882-1873
By now, you may be asking what is mud volcano tofu? One of the most popular attractions in the Luoshan Recreation Area is its mud volcanoes. Although they sound impressive, they are actually small pools of mud bubbling up from underground. The mud that is produced is rich in minerals. Water from these mud pools is collected and filtered and used to make tofu. This not only creates a richer taste, but also a firmer texture.
Just up the road from the Hakka restaurant is the home of the Lin family where visitors can learn how to make mud volcano tofu. This process starts with collecting mud volcano water and harvesting and soaking the soybeans for around six hours. These steps are done before visitors arrive. The soybeans are from the Lin family farm and are non-GMO.
After a brief introduction to soybean growing and the process of making tofu, visitors grind soybeans until soymilk is produced using a traditional, manual grinder. The soymilk is then cooked, requiring constant stirring, until it curdles.
This is followed by filtering through cloth. Then, mud volcano water is added and the mixture is cooked further until it begins to solidify. It is poured into a wooden mold. The mold is pressed manually to eliminate water and to shape the final product.
It is now time to enjoy the freshly made tofu. Try adding wasabi, chili sauce or soy sauce. It takes about 40 minutes for both the briefing and the tofu making. Cost is NT$250 per person with a four-person minimum. Reservations should be made at least one day in advance. Tel: 038-882-1352