The new and old flavors of Jinmen's Jincheng

By Lishea Cheng
Translated by Yvonne Chen

       Seven years ago, when I visited Jinmen, soldiers were everywhere. Today, a reduced military presence and growing trade has made it into a popular tourist destination for sightseeing and eating.

       Jincheng's Model Street is a traditional pleasure for both the eyes and the palate. Located 50 meters behind Jincheng Bus Station, this old-fashion street has a bricked arch gate and many unique shops and restaurants, such Lien-Lien Red House, Bazaar Bar, Old Street Tea Shop, Town Gate Shop, and many more.

       Lien-Lien Red House recalls Jinmen of the 1940s with abacuses, baskets, saddles, carts, and a sewing machine. Upstairs, the cross-strait political tug of war is reflected by flags, military uniforms and other items. Its signature dish is the fresh, smooth Oyster Stir-Fried Noodles (NT$150), which comes with soup and beverage. The Cola Pig's Knuckle, with its appetizing aroma of Kaoliang liquor, is another wonder. Kaoliang cocktails, like the poular ¡§Sentimental Jinmen¡¨ and ¡§Jinmen Commander¡¨, are NT$150 each.

       Next door is an older establishment, Bazaar Bar. Once a favorite with foreigners working on de-mining projects around Jinmen's coast. They would unwind here with a beer and snack and this place is now popular with tourists and locals. Lien-Lien's new neighbor is the Town Gate Shop. Opened early this year, it carries crafts from China, such as beeswax candles; 3D bamboo or wood carvings are available for around NT$1,000. The Old Street Tea Shop features 80 hot and cold beverages, such as a 500cc red or green tea (NT$15) or Mint Egg Honey (NT$40).

       The market near Model Street is full of cultural artifacts and the Jinmen spirit. Shou Chi Cantonese Porridge, by the Guanyin Temple on Chu Kong Road, features mushy slowly-simmered porridge (NT$50) served with seafood, meat and raw egg and available every morning 6 o¡¦clock to 12:30 p.m. Return to Chu Kong Road by the Mother Chu Chastity Monument for a taste of old-fashion crispy Jinmen egg roll (NT$30 small, NT$50 large), available until noon and from 3:30 to 7 p.m. Chi Yu Trade (35, Chu Kong Rd., sec. 1) serves large-portion Pig's Knuckle Rice and Deep-fried Chicken Rice for only NT$30 each, plus two side dishes.

       Jinmen dishes are flavorful, generous and inexpensive. Every visitor to the archipelago should make time for a stroll through Jincheng's traditional market to appreciate this island¡¦s unique cuisine.