What you need to know
Xiwei Peninsula opened its doors midsummer this year. It’s a small shop that can satisfy the stomachs of hungry travelers, along with offering imported and local goods for sale.
By Kate Lin
Several days out of the week, they’d get up during the wee hours to shop from the vegetable market. When they return to the restaurant, they’d check the mussels fishermen have caught before deciding how the dishes would be cooked. After cleaning, they’d prepare to open the shop at around 10 a.m. and keep themselves busy until late evening.
This is a typical day at Xiwei Peninsula, a new shop and restaurant on the Matsu Islands.
Xiwei Peninsula opened its doors midsummer this year. It’s a small shop that can satisfy the stomachs of hungry travelers, along with offering imported and local goods for sale. Located in the westernmost point of Nangan Township, Xiwei Peninsula is named after how the archipelago looks on a map: a rhino’s tail.
The small house that Xiwei Peninsula occupies used to be the command center of Lin Yi-he, an infamous pirate. The Hibiscus Australia port (芙蓉澳) at Matsu was a large transportation hub for ships to trade, as well as a strategic spot for pirates.
As a former pirate base, the house remains hidden. It’s difficult to navigate even with the help of Google Maps. The owner, Pei Pei, said people have thought that she simply doesn’t want the shop to be found. But its somewhat inaccessible location also removes the restaurant from busy streets and regular tourists. Locals also visit here to seek refuge from crowds.
Xiwei Peninsula invites guest chefs to station at the restaurant to design unique menus with local ingredients and spices. Guest chefs usually stay for at least two weeks, and the current resident chef is from France.
The signature dish, though, is the Xiwei curry. According to Pei Pei, curry is a dish originating from the Age of Discovery when spices were scouted from different ports and cities. It fits with the imagination of a pirate story.
As for mussels, they’re a central part of the archipelago’s economy and local cuisine. The visiting chefs take advantage of the fresh mussels on the island.
Cocktails are not always on the menu, because the bartender at Xiwei Peninsula is only there occasionally.
In Matsu, most people have two to three professions, Pei Pei said. This might be due to having a small population and a weak labor market.
“For example, the fisherman who picks out mussels for us would turn into a driving instructor in the afternoon,” she said. “If he’s free, he’d run a real estate investment side hustle in Fujian.”
Relaxation doesn’t seem to be within the dictionary of the Matsu islanders. Many of them say that taking a small break is a waste of time.
“Opening a shop here is like picking up a language with the locals,” Pei Pei said, adding that she wants to use Xiwei as a space for the next generation to consider coming back.
Xiwei Peninsula is just the sort of place that can both draw visitors and provide younger generations a reason to stay. Perhaps consider visiting the Matsu islands for a few days this fall to empty your mind and catch a sunset. From the second floor of Xiwei’s house, with a sweeping view of the Hibiscus Australia port, you’d be able to experience what residents call “magic hours.”
TNL Editor: Daphne K. Lee, Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)
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