Kenting Local Food: Kenting's Ancient Culture of Dried Betel Nut

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Kenting Local Food: Kenting's Ancient Culture of Dried Betel Nut

Taiwanese culture of betel nuts… so much has been written about this, so many blue truck drivers you have seen chewing them. 

And of course Taiwanese Betel Nut girls – this is a separate part of the culture itself, and there are so many blogs making secret and not so secret photos of them – this post here offers pretty good insight on how betel nut girls look like. 

There are many ways to eat betel nut, for example, “leaf wrapping”, “jingzai”, “twins”, and other flavors.

Betel nut is a fresh fruit, but only in Hengchun Peninsula, and so in Kenting since ancient times some people will first dry it into dried betel nut, and then eat “dried betel nut”

kenting resident drying betel nuts

Local Kenting Ayi is preparing to dry betel nuts.

Cane or pod leaves are the supporting roles eaten with betel nuts, they are specially planted by people all over Taiwan, in the original forest of Hengchun Peninsula, there are wild canes everywhere. People who work on the mountain can take some back home at any time, and some families even plant one or two trees in front of their homes!

betel nut palms in kenting

In Kenting homes, it may be candy, snack, or fruits on the coffee table in the living room of general family.

For most people in Hengchun Peninsula, there are only betel nuts, canes, and white ash on the coffee table. Neighbors visit each other, and they eat themselves.

betel nuts server for a guest

How much do people in Hengchun Peninsula love to eat betel nuts?

There is a local proverb about
matchmaking, “Either success or no success, the betel nut smoke goes ahead at the front.”

“Hengchun County Chronicle” also states that, “There are many people who produce it which is shaped like black dates; it is wrapped in leaves or lime, and both men and women are happy to taste it endlessly.

For marriage events and usual guest arrival, betel nuts are used as gifts” (Tu Jishan 屠繼善 1960).

Early days in Hengchun area where men and women of all ages like to eat betel nuts and betel nut eating method is different from the general leaf or the boxed betel nut which is cut into half.

What the local people like to eat is fresh green betel nut green (commonly known as green betel nut), in addition to the cooked and dried betel nut (commonly known as dry betel nut).

Based on the local word of mouth, the food that Seqaro most like to eat is dry betel nut

early betelnut palms in hengchun circa 1945 - 1965

This picture taken around 1945 or later, shows neatly planted betelnut palms in the Hengchun area. Source of the photo

This kind of exposure to sun drying will appear in Hengchun area.

Unique dried betel nut is born in response to the geographical conditions of Kenting and climate.

Hengchun Peninsula is located in the tropics. 

Betel nut production is abundant, but it is affected by the downhill wind and the production period is seriously limited.

Therefore, there is an excessive production period, when it comes to the downhill wind period, there is no production of betel nut. People want to eat a few bites to resist the cold wind, but because they miss the production period and hence there is no betel nut to eat. Foreign traffic prohibition in the early days, make betel nut not easy to be carried in.

Therefore, people boil excessive betel nut green till soft and then dry them. It can then be stored for 2 or 3 years, and the flavor is better for consumption. 

Although the officials has been always advocated that eating betel nut may cause oral cancer, people in Hengchun regard it as a traditional culture. Even young women also cannot avoid eating one or two bites of betel nut.

This is just like what Hu Zheng wrote in Taiwan literature “Hengchun Zhu-Zhi Chi”, “A braid of green silk on the pan head, and not laughing at the makeup which is not fitted with timeliness; chew the betel nut till the mouth thoroughly red, thus do not have to buy rouge for lips” (Tu Jishan 1960).

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