June 30, 2009 / 5:49 AM / 10 years ago

Urban hunters kill, grill shrimp in Taipei

TAIPEI (Reuters Life!) - America’s Wild West motto of “you kill it, we grill it” has come to life in the densely populated east Asian capital of Taiwan. The prey? Shrimp.

Owner Tsai Yao-cheng holds a shrimp at the Chuan Chia Le shrimp fishing restaurant in Taipei June 25, 2009. Picture taken June 25, 2009. REUTERS/Nicky Loh

About 50 largely indoor fishing ranges in and around Taipei give customers rods and bait to catch live shrimp that is bred in shallow pools, and then roasted on site, often with beers.

Fishing is a pastime many aspire to, but few have time for, in fast-paced Taipei, which makes these city ranges very convenient for wannabe fishermen — or hunters.

There is also a website dedicated to this sort of shrimp fishing, fish.esheng.com.tw/, which has logged nearly 2 million visits mainly from people asking for hunting buddies.

The tradition began in fishing-intensive southern Taiwan more than 20 years ago, and worked its way indoors, with shrimp replacing harder-to-get fish to satisfy time-poor urbanites.

“It’s cheap, there’s some fun and something to eat. It’s nicer than a roadside restaurant,” said Liu Wen-chung, 41, who runs an advertising firm and takes some of his clients shrimp hunting at a poolside in central Taipei.

“You don’t have to go out and get sun-burned,” he said.

And even though its contrived, hunters like Liu can still experience the thrill of the chase: although shrimp carpet the pool bottom, they can’t always see bait, so the line must be jostled periodically to get their attention.

When the bob suddenly sinks, it means a shrimp has bitten, and some claw back with the strength of a small fish.

Shrimp farms usually charge the equivalent of $6 to $9 per hour, and it’s all-you-can catch. Grills are provided for free at the dingy but spacious grounds, some of which have outdoor areas, and most stay open till 2 a.m. — if they close at all.

Some Taiwanese say shrimp hunting peaked five years ago and call it a low-class sport associated with excessive drinking. But it remains popular, with several farms seeing good business.

At Chuan Chia Leh, a 19-year-old downtown Taipei shrimp range, owner Tsai Yao-cheng said all kinds of people have come through to try their luck.

“Taiwanese people like to fish, but it can be problem to go to the coast for fishing,” Tsai said. The coast is an hour away.

The Bamboo Shoot Shrimp Farm outside Taipei sees a few dozen customers per day, mostly younger people just off work, said a manager surnamed Lin. “The coast is more remote,” she said.

Editing by Miral Fahmy

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