Miaoli Red Date Festival
By Niang Chen Translated by Ann Lee
Miaoli County offers a host of Hakka cultural activities and fresh agricultural products that are hard to find elsewhere in Taiwan. Now is the ideal time to make a trip there, as your visit will coincide with the county's annual Red Date Festival, which runs from July 26 to August 17 this year.
Miaoli County's Gongguan Township is renowned for its red dates and persimmons. The township has the island's largest acreage－ 60 hectares－devoted to the cultivation of red dates.
Visitors from all over Taiwan are invited to pick red dates from the farms and taste the goodness of the fresh fruit.
Red dates are considered lucky and have numerous health benefits. Although best when consumed fresh, red dates are equally delicious when steamed, boiled, or drunk as a tea. Visitors to the farms can buy both fresh dates (NT$120/600 grams) and dried dates (NT$150/300 grams). To sample tasty red-date cuisine, dine at the Chinese Jujube Restaurant, where you will find innovative dishes such as Red Date Shrimp Balls (NT$360).
With its fertile soil and ideal temperatures, Gongguan is also Taiwan's leading source for pickled leaf mustard, known as "fucai" in Chinese. Located in the northern part of Miaoli, Gongguan served as a bridge for Hakka migration to the rich farmlands of the Holong River plain. The Hakka people have a long heritage of preserving food, and are especially skilled at pickling.
To learn more, visit Miaoli's Pickle Museum and Kuo House Agriculture Product. Owner Mr. Guo stresses that the company's pickles are prepared using a natural fermentation process, rather than preservatives, to retain natural flavors. The company's specialty is fucai, or Finest Fermented Mustard (NT$300). It also sells five types of preserved tofu in flavors such as spicy Mala and Red Yeast Rice Tofu Cheese (NT$500).
Apart from having conditions well-suited to agriculture, Miaoli has clay that produces high-quality ceramics. At Wugu Cultural Village's ceramic factory, visitors are guided through the process of making ceramics and offered the opportunity to try fun and educational DIY activities.
Ceramic pieces and products like Precision Ceramic Knives (NT$600) are available for purchase. The village also promotes agricultural produce such as Red Date Wine (NT$400).
For more insight into Hakka culture, visit Tao Zhi Xiang Ceramics and Hakka Lei Tea. Owner Ye Guo-ting is a renowned ceramic artist who specializes in Dharma sculptures. His wife, Qiu Gui-zhi, is a traditional Hakka Lei Tea (NT$320/box) expert.
Visit www.3go.com.tw for more information about Miaoli.
Chinese Jujube Restaurant
45, Village 3, Fu Village, Gongguan Township, Miaoli County
Kuo House Agriculture Product/Pickle Museum
214-2, FuXing Village, Gongguan Township, Miaoli County
Wugu Cultural Village
117-5, YuGu Village, Gongguan Township, Miaoli County
(03) 723-4805 or (03) 722-1416
Tao Zhi Xiang Ceramics and Hakka Lei Tea
278, Fusing Village, Gongguan Township, Miaoli County
Hours: 9 am-6 pm