Meinong Colored Bantiao

No one who visits Meinong in Kaohsiung City will leave without trying the most distinctive local specialty of traditional Hakka cuisine—bantiao, or rice noodles.  In addition to the old bantiao shops that have passed down their old-timey recipe for decades, there are many other flavors in the memories of gourmands. Among them are Chung Fu-yuan and Chung Ching-ting, a married couple who left city life to move back to the countryside. To set their bantiao apart from the ordinary, they experimented constantly to come up with handmade noodles in gorgeous natural colors like macarons, bringing new vitality to this traditional dish.

(Photo: 軒味屋彩色粄條)

Traditionally, bantiao are white. These eye-catching Hakka colored bantiao on the other hand are the result of the tireless work by the couple, who insist on bringing out by hand the natural colors of carefully selected fruits and vegetables. They tested out different varieties of fruits and vegetables, such as sweet potato leaves, dragon fruit and beetroot, putting considerable effort into their colored bantiao.

Chung Ching-ting, who has experience of Cantonese cuisine, returned from the city to Meinong and opened a restaurant. She said that despite having eaten bantiao for 20 years, she didn’t know how bantiao are made or even what kind of rice they are made with. So she spent some time researching and combining the food she grew herself, like sweet potato leaves and cherry tomatoes, boldly breaking with the traditions of Hakka cuisine to create her unique colored bantiao.

(Photo: 軒味屋彩色粄條)

Just like many returning Meinong young people, full of expectations and ideals for their home, Chung Ching-ting takes part in the activities of groups like the Meinong People’s Association and the Fairy Pitta (Eight-Colored Bird) Association. And visiting smallholder farmers, studying local food and helping with agricultural marketing have given her restaurant dream a deeper connection to Meinong. Treating the land well and using organic, pesticide-free local fruit and vegetables, she has given customers Meinong gourmet food with an old taste and a new look, which has gradually become her restaurant’s specialty.

In addition to their attractive colored bantiao, the Chungs have also combined rice, soybean and white jade radish for their handmade turnip cake, pickled radish and bean curd served in earthen jars. The couple know that most of their customers may not be aware of the deeper significance behind the bantiao they are eating, but they are regardless committed to the principle of serving their customers safe and local food. Rooted in the flavors of the land and the comfort of handmade dishes, this young married couple’s business dream has a future full of color, just like their colorful bantiao.