Thursday, August 24, 2017

Delectable sheets of soy

Tofu and soy sauce are common and quintessentially Taiwanese foods, and a great deal of the feed given to Taiwan's livestock is soy-based. This commodity is now as important to the country's food system as rice – yet almost all of the soy consumed in Taiwan (whether by humans or livestock) is imported from the US, Canada, Brazil, and Argentina.
Uncooked, unprocessed soybeans are a light yellow. Good quality water is essential for the production of soy foods, and one reason why Daxi in Taoyuan has become synonymous with dried bean-curd, also known as dòugān (豆干). A lot of the beans imported into Taiwan are, of course, turned into soy sauce:
East Taiwan has far fewer people and far less industry than the western half of the island, so it's reasonable to assume the groundwater in Hualien and Taitung counties is pretty good.

One business making the most of East Taiwan's advantages is Dah Chi Bean Curd Sheet. There's an English sign outside the premises at 39-2 Dapu Road, Dapu Village, Chishang Township. If you need to ask a local for directions, show him/her the Chinese name 大池豆皮店, pronounced in Mandarin Dàchí dòupí diàn.

Travellers who read Chinese will likely guess Dah Chi ('big pond') takes its name from a nearby geographical feature. As the crow flies, Dapo Pond is less than 500m away.
The production process is, on the face of it, quite simple. Nevertheless, considerable skill and patience are required. When soy milk is boiled in an open pan, a film forms on the surface (if you've ordered piping hot soy milk at a Taiwanese breakfast shop, you'll have noticed how quickly the film appears). Some people just stir the film into the liquid, but tofu skin artisans like the staff at Dah Chi collect the yellowish film and hang it up for to dry.

The boss rises at four each morning to grind soybeans and begin boiling the milk.
Visitors don't come here merely to witness soy-sheet production. In addition to selling the sheets to households and restaurants in the area (many people use it to wrap rice when making sushi), Dah Chi sells deliciously fresh fried soy sheets (NT$65 per serving), sweetened and unsweetened soy milk, and bean-curd pudding.
Business hours are 6.30 in the morning until 6 in the evening, or earlier if they sell out. This kind of food is usually eaten for breakfast, so it makes sense to come here before you begin your day's sightseeing. At first glance, the fried soy sheets (above and below) could be mistaken for another Taiwanese favorite, the scallion pancake (蔥油餅).
Bean-curd pudding, sometimes called tofu pudding (pictured below) is known as dòuhuā (豆花) in Mandarin. It's often flavored with unsalted peanuts, honey, adzuki beans, or syrup. It makes for a tasty breakfast or dessert.
Some Taiwanese consumers avoid genetically-modified organisms, so many food producers (among them Dah Chi) highlight the fact they use non-GMO produce.
One soy-based delicacy that isn't available at Dah Chi, but which you must try at some point during your stay in Taiwan, is stinky tofu (chòu dòufu, 臭豆腐). If you'd like to try it while in Chishang, see this Chinese-language blog entry for directions to a stinky-tofu eatery near Dah Chi. In night markets throughout Taiwan, stinky tofu often comes served with some spicy sauce and pickled cabbage, like this:
All but the first, second and last of the photos accompanying this blog post were taken by Cheryl Robbins, a leading authority on tourism in Taiwan's indigenous areas. The post was sponsored by the East Rift Valley National Scenic Area Administration.

No comments:

Post a Comment