Like all Taiwanese cities, Hualien has a few night markets. I got a recommendation to go to Ziqiang Night Market, located in the middle of the city on Ziqiang Street. It's relatively small, but has a few lanes of densely packed food vendors.
As I was coming from the long bike ride, I was really thirsty and wanted something hydrating. Thankfully there are three or four highly affordable fruit juice vendors in the market. I asked for a fresh carrot juice with nothing else added. I saw the man juicing up five enormous carrots just for one small cup of sweet juice. It was only 40 TWD, a little more than $1 USD.
There were some other interesting stands, such as this one selling marshmallow toast. We also saw a pizza place with a real brick oven!
The market is most famous for its BBQ, and there are numerous stalls selling the same product. A variety of foods (chicken, beef, tofu, vegetables) are all skewered on long sticks. You pick what you want, and then put it into a container to take to the checkout. Then all the food gets grilled in the back, and smothered in a thick and sweet sauce. The wait time is incredible - up to two hours, I've heard, for the most popular stall. We had to wait forty minutes. Fortunately, there is an updated queue sign which flashes the number of the order when it is ready.
Sorry for the terrible lighting in these photos! There was a bright red glow over the food from the lights overhead. As you can see, all the prices are clearly marked on each food. I got a stick of beef strips wrapped around green onion, and a skewer of green bell peppers. The sauce was way too thick and sweet - I don't think it's worth it to wait for so long!
Hualien is also famous for its wontons. We went to one of the oldest and most famous establishments called Ye Xiang Dumplings, open for sixty years. Like many restaurants that are famous for one thing, they only serve one item on the menu, and they are fast and efficient.
You order at the front counter, right across from where the experts wrap up the wontons. It's an easy process to order - there is no choice. The only menu item is a bowl of pork wontons. You specify how many bowls you want, and each bowl is $65 TWD (about $2 USD). Then you wait until the server brings it over to your table.
There were plenty of locals and tourists at this restaurant! These people were probably wondering why I was taking a photo of them. Even though a lot of people come here, the turnover rate is so fast that there seemed to be plenty of seating on a weekend lunch.
The wontons arrive in a matter of minutes. My bowl had nine plump wontons. They are so delicious! The meat is tender and flavorful, and lacks those fatty and chewy bits that some dumplings have. The wonton skin is smooth, silky, and really thin. Ye Xiang really has perfected their process over six decades.
We wanted to try their competitor shop, but unfortunately we ran out of time on this trip. Next time! I am still thinking about those wontons. You must try them if you go to Hualien.