December 9, 2009

Taiwan Oyster Land

An eye-catching wall painting can tell you everything about living in Longshan village (龍山村), Cigu (七股) Township, Tainan County (台南縣). Oyster farming is the life of this small and artistic village. Growing up in the city and having been eating oyster omelets all the time, I had no ideas how oysters grow until we volunteered ourselves to help and got on Mr. Huang’s bamboo raft full with oysters.

Friendly oyster famer Mr. Huang was tying at least 14 heavy buckets full of oysters on the nylon strings to the bamboo frame in the roadside salt marsh; we stopped the car and volunteered ourselves to help. He did not hesitate to our offer. We were on the raft. From there, I started to understand the process of how oysters were farmed and appreciating all oyster farmers' hard work!

The soil in Cigu lagoon contains a high concentration of salt which made it impossible to grow crops. However, raising oysters and fish were successfully developed in this type of environment. They have become the main economic sources for this village. Nearly 1/3 of the residents here are in the oyster farming industry.

After removing the oyster from the shell, the shell can be re-used and placed in the ocean as the bedding for the baby oysters to attach and grow. Oyster farmers dry the larger oyster shells in the sun and drill hole on each shell. 10 of the shells are hung together on one nylon string.

A young child in the village was gladly showing us how to drill hole with the machine.

Each shell can grow many baby oysters in the ocean. The ones that submerge in the water grow faster than the one above the water due to the high and low tide. Mr. Huang said that after 6 months to 1 year, he moved them to salt marsh to have them grow “fat”, which may take one month or so.

These oysters were just captured from the ocean. Mr. Huang was working on tying all of them on the bamboo frame when we came.

Each string was as heavy as the weight of the oyster shells. The shells were very sharp as well, so a pair of gloves were needed. Of course, we all ended up with minor cuts on the fingers. We learned to hold the beginning and end of the string instead of the middle to prevent cuts on the fingers.

After one hour of working, we helped to hand over all the oyster shells to Mr. Huang. He was so glad that we made his day shorter. We were so glad that we did not screw up too!

He opened a few ready to eat oysters for us. Both Kristen and Lishan tasted the fresh oysters, and they were so fresh, a bit salty, and no sand at all.

Oyster is a very popular dish especially in southern Taiwan. They are the ingredients for oyster omelet, oyster thin noodle soup, oyster roll, and fries oysters…etc. Strolling through the village, you can taste all these local cuisines on the street vendors, or in small restaurants.

Oyster farmers in Longshan village have also shown their artistic skills. The exterior walls have become artistic walls painted with their daily lifestyle. Some oyster shells became unique handcraft and wall decorations. The leftover oyster shells were also smashed and mixed into the soil to keep the balance of acidity. Streets are so clean and pleasant, giving us a relaxing atmosphere.

“Oyster, Milkfish, and Wu-Guo fish” are the three treasures in Longshan village. Dry milkfish hanging outside the houses also became a unique scene in the village.

Black-faced spoonbill can also be seen in the reservation area near Cigu Lagoon (七股潟湖). We did not go there; however, lots of black-faced spoonbill paintings were found on the walls.

Villagers were picking up the oyster meat from the shell and making them ready for the market.

Although we experienced the oyster farm ourselves, Longshan village offers an educational and ecological 90 minute raft tour to see the mangrove conservation area, fixed fishnet area, and oyster farm area.

It is time to return to the city. A grateful heart is still with all the oyster farmers in Longshan village! Read More


misomoo said...

damn cant wait till March when i go back to taiwan for a short trip. on the to-eat list is, everything found in a night market, which of course the oyster omelett is included.

Todd said...

Absolutely beautiful, I'll have to check Longshan Village out next time I'm in the south!

micki and kristen said...

Hi, Misomoo
Thanks! an article about all kinds of Tainan street food will be posting soon, wish you will enjoy that one too!

micki and kristen said...

Thanks, Todd. We also want to thank you for linking us to your weekly link!

Fili said...

Gorgeous photos. I need to check that out sometime.

Catherine Shu said...

Hi Micki and Kirsten,
What a wonderful post! I love oysters and this reminds me of 蚵女 :-). I also loved your posts on the hakka paper umbrellas and Rixing Typography... every you post is so detailed and your photos are gorgeous.

micki and kristen said...

Hi Fili, Thanks for your compliment!

micki and kristen said...

Thanks, Catherine! I have not seen "蚵女" yet, but I know that is a wonderful movie. I just watched a part of it on Youtube, and I will rent the movie soon! We would like to thank you again for your comments.

case-in-point said...

what a wonderful post! reminds me of my father's home town, which i don't visit often now that I live overseas. I'm glad I found you through The Daily Bubble Tea.

micki and kristen said...

Thanks for finding us! Glad to hear that you found this post interesting and might have brought you some childhood memories.
Sydney is such a beautiful city!

shloke said...

Oyster omelet is my favorite!

First time seeing oyster farming. LOVE your pictures and straight forward descriptions. They are insightful and easy to grasp.

I'm really surprised to know that oyster shell can be recycled for more babies. That's AWESOME!!! Do they clean and scrub the shells before immersing it back into the water? I noticed the shells were pretty white (Picture 7). How many times can it be recycled?

Like the wall paintings. At first I thought those buildings were kindergartens. LOL!

I've been to many fishing village. Looking forward to discover an oyster village in Malaysia.


micki and kristen said...

To Mylo- I am curious how the oyster omelet is prepared in Malaysia; would it be the same as Taiwan’s?
The first and second pictures on the right show how the omelet is prepared in Taiwan. Would Malaysia’s be similar to Singapore’s? - The third picture on the right.
They do clean the shells before the shells be put back in the water.
“How many times can it be recycled?” I don’t quiet remember but I think Mr. Huang did share this with us... Let me get back to you about this after I check with Kristen! :)
Look forward to reading Malaysia’s oyster village!

micki and kristen said...

Hi, Mylo We both don't know how many times the shells can be used. This is a great question! When we go to the farm next time, we will definitely find out the answer for you~~

shloke said...

More or less the same. Oysters with egg batter. But our oysters are smaller in size. So, loads of eggs and a bit of oyster here and there.

Interesting to know that the shells are cleaned. Thanks for your extra info!!! Do update me on the recycle shells :)

I hope to find one (oyster village) in Malaysia. I've seen people harvesting oyster in some swampy areas. It's a small scale individuals jobs. Have not seen any real oyster village in Malaysia...yet.

Alex Loke

micki and kristen said...

To Mylo- Sounds like Malaysia’s oyster omelet looks similar to the picture of Singapore’s as smaller in size. Thanks for the info!

Trixi said...

I'm going there in July, any idea how I can get to this oyster place by train? I won't have a car or drive or cycle... so the only way is train and feet :p Do you guys live in Taiwan? Very wonderful blog, I'm using this as a guide to plan my 2 weeks trip!

micki and kristen said...

Hi, Trixi, Thanks! It would be difficult to get to Long Shan Village (Oyster place) without a car. It seems like there is no bus to get there as well. We went there by car. The Oyster experience that we had was on the road to Cigu. We offered our helps to an oyster farmer.
However, there is a 90 minute raft tour offering in Cigu Lagoon to the visitors. Here is the info in English.
The contact person and phone number (Mr. Lin) are listed in this post. You may ask to see if there is transportation for you to go there from Tainan Train Station.
If you would like to visit Tainan, there are lots of interesting places near Tainan Train Station. You can receive maps from the Visitor Center once you exit the train station, and is on your right hand side. All are in walking distances. You may also take a bus to Anping from the Train Station. Anping is another place has lots to see and to discover..

Anonymous said...

Hi, i'm very interest to visit an oyster farm in Taiwan in 2011. Any recommendation of how I should go there from Singapore?

:o) wen

micki and kristen said...

Hi, Wen, There is a 90 minute raft tour in Cigu, you can find the contact information in the below article:

If you will not have a car in Taiwan, you can take the train from Taipei to Tainan, and take a taxi to Cigu from Tainan. However, please do contact to the contact person that is listed in this article, perhaps they will have better arrangement or suggestion for your transportaion.
Enjoy your upcoming trip in Taiwan!

Indonesia Travel Experiences said...

How interesting! I never knew anything about oyster farming. Those shells strung up on a string sound practical, but I'm more fascinated by how beautiful they look! I would totally use them as deocration ;)

micki and kristen said...

Thanks! :)

Travel to Thailand said...

Beautiful wall paintings, so colorful... I would love to live in a fishing village for sometime, not only for the sake of sea food, but also for the lifestyle and atmosphere. Plus people are really really nice.

Unknown said...

Going to Taiwan in Nov. Is it a good time to visit the oyster farm in Tainan? Thanks

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