A Bite of History (and Wonton Perfection)

Hualien has much to love about it with its small town charm, cute night market, and the main tourism draw, Toroko Gorge. But my favorite attraction was a simple, yet perfect, wonton soup.

On our first night in this eastern mountainous coastal town, we found Dai Ji’s dumplings through a bit of googling. When we read that this place has been making the same bowl of soup for 80 years, we figured it was worth checking out.

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We found the tiny, no frills shop easily off of the main street that runs through town. Two tables and a counter offer about 14 seats, that are often full of reverential slurpers, and does a steady take-away service. Many diners are single diners, enjoying a bowl of soup after a long day of work. If we had this soup spot in New York, I’d be a regular too.

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We ordered a bowl each, a hearty portion of wispy pork packets that float like Betta fish, billowing within the broth. The broth itself is delicious in its simplicity, but a tray of condiments let’s you jazz up your soup to your taste.

My mouth enjoys spicy and sour things, so I took my broth in that direction. A dollop of oily chili paste, a few tips of the vinegar bottle, a dash of soy, and a finisher of white pepper. The broth comes already anointed with fried garlic and green onion bits, fresh scallion and scatterings of Asian celery. As is, it’s a great bowl of soup. With a bit of orchestral condiment play, you can take the soup to level: Superior.

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The actual wontons make any wonton I’ve ever had in the States taste like lead. These juicy pillows of pork are draped in silky wisps of wrapper. Each bite is perfection. So perfect, we ate at Dai Ji’s three times in two days… And I don’t feel regretful that I missed out on another Hualien delicacy. This soup was too delicious to even think of choosing a stodgy pork bun instead.

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I toast this restaurant and hope it thrives for another 80 years and their wonton legacy lives on. Everyone deserves to eat a bowl of this beautiful wonton soup.

No. 120, Zhonghua Rd., Hualien City, Hualien, Taiwan

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