九份 Jiu Fen (or sometimes scripted as “Jiou Fen“) is a small township perched on the hilly terrains of north-eastern Taiwan. Together with 金瓜石 Jin Gua Shi, 十分 Shi Fen, 瑞芳 Rui Fang and 金山 Jin Shan, Jiu Fen was an important gold mining area more than a century ago. But as the yield decreased over time, the mining activity dwindled and eventually came to a halt. The town quieten down and became mostly forgotten for more than a decade, until 《悲情城市》, a movie set in Jiu Fen by renowned Taiwanese director 侯孝贤 Hou Hsiao-Hsien brought to it the curious crowd from Taipei and other parts of the island state. Even then, more than 20 years has since passed and even 《悲情城市》 too has become forgotten. But the movie left behind for Jiu Fen a tourism legacy. Till today, the small town is packed with local visitors and foreign tourists every weekend. Folks flock here for the fresh mountain air, the scenie view of Keelung Fishery Port and of course, a wide selection of local delights which Jiu Fen is well known for, including草仔粿 mugwort glutinous rice cakes from 阿蘭草仔粿, 鳳梨酥 pineapple cakes from 李儀餅店 and of course the infamous 九份芋圓 Jiu Fen Taro Balls.
Taro is part and parcel of Taiwanese cuisine, as it is made into a wide range of popular dishes. There is the traditional savory snacks like 芋粿，芋粿巧，百草芋羹 and 芋丸 to the sweet 九份芋圆，芋头酥. But one of the simplest yet not-short-of-delicious way of enjoying taro is simply making it into candied taro. This is a really traditional dessert not only in Taiwan, but much of the Min-speaking diaspora. It is used largely as an accompanying condiment in both hot and cold desserts like 牛奶冰 and 烧仙草. But it is otherwise very good to be eaten on its own!