A Happy Market: Exploring Kaohsiung, Taiwan's Local Food
January 6, 2020
There are four women with wide smiles sitting behind a table. Fingers bulge with muscle memories from doing one thing, and doing it well; making delicious homemade dumplings. “We are called Happy Dumplings (快樂的餃子),” Gao Xiao Jie said laughing. Almost every day for the past four years, these happy ladies have been dishing out the savory bites of Taiwan’s local food at Gu Shan Third Public City Market.
The Dumpling Ladies
Their stand blends in under the shaded part of the market in an alleyway between buildings covered with green awnings and big beachy umbrellas. Inside but outside amongst the rest of the vendors, people begin to gather around their table. Johan and I have learned something while living in Taiwan; if there in a line for food, get in it. It’s going to be good.
“We don’t mind. We like to show people how we make them. Look.” She placed a precut dumpling shell in front of her. With a fork placed in a dollop of filling, neatly folded the shell and placed it amongst a dozen others. “See? A Happy Dumpling.”
Experience Gushan Day Market
Hi Shan Third Public City Market is located at Jiurou 4th street in Gushan District of Kaohsiung Taiwan and is open 3:00-6:00 every day. Yes, every day. It’s a place where you can get freshly grown food at better values than the grocery plus it’s a great way to support local Taiwanese farmers. Not to mention your eyes will thank you after you take a visit.
Tables burst with color with pyramids of pink and green and orange. Vendors begin to prep Taiwan’s local food while trucks full of fish leave trails of water as they move up and down the streets. We even spotted a man stacking green beans ever so carefully one by one.
We take refuge on top of the market building in a sleepy Buddhist temple. We read the images of stories carved into wood and stone. Saw the communal dishes neatly stacked next to the sink and watched the market unravel from above. There are sounds of sweeping, people talking, pots and pans clanging. A little calm before the storm. Then at 3:00, the scooters and bicycles begin to line the street as the rest of the traffic havics to move past. Vendors hurry to stack and shine their colorful fruit, lay out their meats, and stir their spiced meals. Still want to ride your scooter through the market amongst shouldering people? Sure. Why not.
Soon, the air turns into flavor depending on where you find yourself. Fruit sellers happily give out samples proving that theirs is the sweetest, the most flavorful. Just down the alley, the Happy Dumpling ladies set up their table and take a seat.
Taste it Yourself
They met at a Taiwan toy packaging factory. “We didn’t really like it there. The days were long. We looked forward to the weekends with friends and family.” Every Sunday they would get together to talk, play card games, and eat traditional Taiwanese spreads. “The eating was a big part of it.” Amongst all of Taiwan’s local food that was cooked and brought, the dumplings were always the first to go. Chen Xiao Jie made them with her mom when she lived in China as a child. She moved here in the 1950’s and lucky for us, brought the family recipe with her. “I didn’t know exact measurements for everything,” she said with a big smile. “Some of this, some of that, but we all learned very quickly how to do it together.”
Around 6:00, the streets begin to clear. The sounds return of sweeping, talking, clanging pots and pans. With bellies full, or soon to be, the market closes down.
“We like what we do now. None of us have to think about the motion of our hands anymore. So we talk. We laugh. We all take care of each other here.” She pointed at the dumplings, now almost all gone from the days sales. “See? Happy Dumplings.”