Dageeli Tribe Restaurant

A Woman’s Dream for a Truku Tribe Showcase Made True

Text: Rick Charette
Photos:Chen Cheng-kuo

Good food tastes even better when you have high mountains as backdrop and rolling ocean as your foreground.

You’ll find this restaurant right beside the East Coast highway that stretches from the town of Su’ao in the north to the city of Hualien in the south – the Suhua Highway (Prov. Hwy 9). The restaurant is to the west of the highway, hidden amongst trees on a gentle slope down a short lane. The south end of the magnificent Qingshui Cliff is not far north from the restaurant; the Liwu River and the also magnificent Taroko Gorge, carved by said river over misty eons, are just a kilometer or so south. The often not-so-pacific blue Pacific is just a few hundred meters east, beyond farm greenery. A large sign with the Chinese characters for “Dageeli” marks the entrance to the little lane that leads to the rambling wood-and-thatch complex.
Time spent here is time spent nourishing and replenishing mind and body – a breezy place in which a prominent construction material is driftwood that has been washed up by the Pacific or washed down the numerous area gorges by rivers that trickle along in the typhoon off-season and roar along during the high-season for tropical storms.
The open-air dining area is rustic, with giant driftwood slabs used as tabletops and lesser slabs as bench-seat tops, said slabs resting on thick circular disks cut from tree trunks. Large wood-sculpture works with indigenous themes adorn the perimeter. Even the blades of the large fans overhead (much appreciated on a summer’s day) are crafted from wood.

Mother Guo’s Story, and Her Dream
Owner Peng Xiu-lan, a member of the Truku Tribe, grew up on this very spot. You’ll also see her two very friendly younger sisters busily at work around the restaurant. You can’t but help take an instant liking to “Mother Guo” (“Guo” is her co-owner husband’s family name), now 70 years young, whose gentle and peaceful softness seems to reach out and wrap you up in a soothing blanket of calm. As I chatted with her I became aware that I had a persistent smile, and eventually realized I was one moment interacting with her and the next with someone who could have been her twin sister, Sister Eileen Ward, perhaps my favorite teacher way back when and the person (allow me a little aside here) who introduced me to the beauty of Japanese haiku, which I still compose silently out of habit whenever I come across a scene or especial loveliness and/or meaning. Try it – I promise, as good as meditation, and more fulfilling. I’ve found over the years that Hualien provides a steady stream of haiku-inspiration moments.
Like many indigenous youth, Mother Guo moved and spent many years away from home, missing it terribly and, at last, returned. Seeing the area’s ever-growing tourist numbers, and realizing visitors were gaining only the shallowest exposure to and understanding of her mother culture, she decided to open a Truku-cuisine restaurant. “Dageeli” is the name of the local Truku-tribe sub-group, and their settlement. She started with just two tables, 15 years ago. After eight “desert years,” things finally began to pick up. Today she can seat well over a hundred, and offers an on-site art gallery featuring her husband’s work, a Truku-crafts workshop/sales outlet with bright, beautiful traditional Truku apparel and other items, and a café/teahouse (this last space is enclosed and air-conditioned; open weekends/holidays). She also frequently schedules indigenous song-and-dance performances for weekends and holidays.

The Food
Though her goal is to introduce her people’s culture, Mother Guo has a taste for tweaking tradition. “Available ingredients have always changed with the seasons and changing circumstances,” she says, “so necessity has always meant recipe changes for classic Truku foods. I make the changes simply to entertain the palate. But all my ingredients are ‘true’ Truku.” They’re sourced from local indigenous farmers, gardeners, and gatherers, “and especially from elders, to bring them some extra cash.”
My list of best-liked dishes from our notably inexpensive banquet-style feast – just NT$300 per head – is long. The delectable roast boar knuckles, very meaty and tender, are soaked in a sauce made with Oolong tea oil and a mountain plant with leaves that taste like cinnamon. The pork sausage is made with zesty shan hujiao or “mountain pepper” (May Chang) sourced in local hills above 800m. The staff shows diners how to open their bamboo-tube rice by bashing it over one of the strategically placed rocks in the dining area, which splits it wide open for scooping. Oolong tea is served in a large fresh papaya shell, the inner flesh adding light fruity sweetness; mountain-sourced ci cong (Alianthus prickly ash) leaves, which have a unique taste akin to lemon-with-black-pepper, are added.
We had no money when young,” Mother Guo says, “so our ‘pop drink’ treat was fresh mountain water with ci cong leaves.” Finally, and No. 1 to my mind, was a salad of fresh garden produce with one of the most dreamy and creamy dressings I’ve had in a long time, starring tart/sweet creamed roselle. As I sat pondering its perfection, I thought if she could mass-produce it the “Mother Guo” brand would conquer the world.

The Friendly, Welcoming Ambience
The Dageeli atmosphere is very relaxed, with Mother Guo and her sisters spending a good deal of time interacting with customers. The sister who served us – who modestly requested anonymity – sat down for quick chats repeatedly. If feeling relaxed, Taiwan native folk often reveal personal details through sly humor. I asked what she did before working at the restaurant. “A honey-tongued lad swept me away to Indonesia.” I asked what she did while there. “I was a door watcher.” My reply: “??????” Her reply: “He was a Casanova, and I spent my days guarding the door.” I asked why she was back in Taiwan. Her reply: “Us Taiwan girls lose another one to China!” He had thrown her over for a gold-digger from mainland China. Chuckling, she said she’d just recently returned because her sisters “needed a hug.”
During our goodbyes, Mother Guo closed with this: “We make enough to get by, and that’s enough for me. I just want to keep busy, and for everyone to learn about my culture and be happy.” Humble words from a lady whose restaurant was invited to participate in the prestigious Taiwan Culinary Exhibition in 2009, and was an Aboriginal Ten Best Culinary Offerings winner in 2010.

Booking and Ordering
It’s best to book ahead, by phone or online, because food is only bought for the day and in finite quantity. The restaurant generally serves groups banquet-style, but also welcomes couples and smaller groups. Let staff know how many people are in your party, what you want to pay, and any special requests. With NT$300 per person the default target, staff tells you the prices of different dishes available that day, and helps you arrange your meal. For groups, meaning 8-12 people, unless you specifically order out of the norm the price per table will be NT$3,000 to $4,000. Our group of 4 hit NT$1,200 exactly – we arrived hungry, two of the four (me one of the two) have hearty appetites, yet we were obliged to leave food on the table.

Indigenous foods are often quite salty, especially meats and grains. The daily routine in days of old required far more physical exertion than is needed by most people today, and salty foods helped replenish the body. Often available in only limited supply, whenever possible salt was added liberally to cooked foods. Today, of course, salt is an inexpensive commodity, but traditions persist. Health-conscious Dageeli reduces the amount of salt in its dishes, but if you have special concerns, just let them know when you place your order. I myself do – I have high blood pressure – but only found the salted boar slices, surprise, somewhat salty.

Truku Tribe
The Truku, distinct from, but associated with Taiwan’s second-largest tribe, the Atayal, moved into the Taroko Gorge area from the Wushe region in today’s Nantou County a few hundred years back, displacing the Amis, Taiwan’s largest tribe, who inhabit the eastern plains of Hualien and Taitung counties. It’s believed that strife within the Atayal orbit engendered by population growth obliged them to move, and that “Truku” or “Taroko” was the name of their original central-mountain settlement/area. They followed old hunting trails to the gorge. Their traditional customs are similar to the Atayal – notably preference for mountain-living, skill at hunting and weaving, facial tattooing indicating social status, and limited cultivation – but the two tribes do not share a common language, and cannot communicate directly.


English and Chinese

Aboriginal Ten Best Culinary Offerings原住民嚴選十大獻禮
ci cong刺蔥
Mother Guo郭媽媽
Peng Xiu-lan彭秀蘭
Qingshui Cliff清水斷崖
shan hujiao山胡椒
Suhua Highway蘇花公路
Taiwan Culinary Exhibition台灣美食展


Dageeli Tribe Restaurant (達基力風味餐)
Add:96 Chongde Village, Xiulin Township, Hualien County (花蓮縣秀林鄉崇德村96號); at the 180.5km mark on Prov. Hwy9
Tel:(038) 621-033
Hours:Daily 11:30~17:00


Dageeli Tribe Restaurant

Coastal Hualien

Ximending (West Gate District)

Bunun Hunters Restaurant

Hello Hualien!

The Sun Moon Lake National Scenic Area

Tianwei Highway Garden

Prowlin’ in Maolin

Strawberry Town

The Maolin National Scenic Area

Stairways to the Sky

Pedaling Along

Daluan Restaurant

Around the Northern Tip

Hats and Mats

Orange Country

Travel Taiwan, Film Taiwan!

A Place to Relax

Through the Grapevine

The Tatami of Dongshi


Lion’s Head Mountain and Beipu

Exploring the Valley of the Glowing Sky

Fruit of the Angels

Its Cake Culture

The Amazing Bamboo

Yilan’s Kumquats

Lovely Nanzhuang

The Sea of Flowers in Xinshe Festival

Healthful Eating and Delicious Flavors

The Black King Kong of Yuanchang

From Art Brush to Beauty Brush

A Strange Fruit

The Sound of Drums

Zuoying Wannian Folklore Festival

The Hot Springs of Beitou

Simakusi (Smangus)


Water Frolics

Overnighting on the Northeast Coast

Giant Buddha, Old Temples, and Glass Art

Mt. Beidawu

The Most Joyous Thing in the World is Music

Taiwan Fun on the Tropic of Cancer

FUN WITH CHINESE - Men in the Fields during Rain

NK 101 Tea @ Style

Taitung Backpack Bus Trip

The Life of Pi

Taipei’s East District Where the Art of Shopping Is Serious Business

Spring Onion Country Yilan's Sanxing Township Offers Ideal Conditions for Cultivating Scallions

Sandy Beaches, Rocky Coastline, Quiet Country A Whirlwind Tour Round Hengchun Peninsula

What Happened at Wushe

Confucius Day

Keeping It in the Family: I Wan Jan Puppet Theater

Taiwan Has a Unique Culture

Welcoming the Year of the Rabbit and the ROC's 100 Years

All the Flowers You Can Dream Of

Music from the Marshland

Pristine Scenes

Fierce Faces

Following the Tide

A Wonderful World Out There

Off to the Beach and the Rocks

Taiwan’s Easy Rider Goes Into the Wild


Taipei Int'l Flora Expo




Taiwan's Ultra Man Going Beyond Extreme

Rice by Any Other Name

Taiwan is Beautiful!


Slate Houses and Mud Rivers

From Fir Formosa

Touring Kaohsiung by KMART


Taoyuan HSR Station

Taking Taiwan's Slow Train

Bus Trip to Central Taiwan

Establishing a Beautiful Taiwan

High Mountain Ecology

Exploring High Mountain HighsTaiwan at Her Peaks

Cultural Tourism in Taiwan:What's in It for You?

Getting to Know Taiwan's Indigenous Cultures

Leaving Stress Behind

Taiwan! "Feel Good" Country

Exploring Taiwan's Rural Side

Aboriginal Tribes & Festivals

The Famous Lantern Festival in Taiwan

Night Markets in Taiwan

Great Arts, Culinary Exhibitions and Events in Taiwan's National Palace Museum and Other Places

Mountains in Taiwan

Water Fun in Taiwan

Taiwanese Arts, Arts Festivals and Interesting Artifacts

"Taiwan's Ghost Festival and Other Religious Events"

Dragon Boat Festival

City: The Tallest Building Taipei 101 & Kaohsiung's Love River

National Scenic Area (IV)-Dapeng Bay National Scenic Area, Penghu National Scenic Area, Matsu National Scenic Area

National Scenic Area (III)-East Rift Valley National Scenic Area, East Coast National Scenic Area, Maolin National Scenic Area

National Scenic Area (II)-Sun Moon Lake National Scenic Area, Alishan National Scenic Area, Southwest Coast National Scenic Area

National Scenic Area (I)-North Coast & Guanyinshan National Scenic Area, Northeast Coast National Scenic Area, Tri-Mountain National Scenic Area

Offshore Islands- Penghu、Kinmen National Park、Matzu、Green Island(Lyudao)、Orchid Island(Lanyu)

Eastern Taiwan- Taroko National Park、East Rift Valley、Rueisuei & Hongye、Jhihben

Southern Taiwan- Alishan、Tainan、Kaohsiung、Dapeng Bay & Little Liouciou、Kenting National Park

Central Taiwan- Miaoli、Taichung、Changhua、Nantou、Yushan National Park

Northern Taiwan -Taipei City、Yangmingshan & Beitou、Danshuei、Wulai、Jioufen & Jinguashih、Yilan、Taoyuan & Hsinchu